EDI Grant Recipients - 2019

EDI Grants aim to encourage initiatives that enrich UNSW’s culture of equity, diversity and inclusivity.

In 2019, students and staff were given the opportunity to apply for a $5,000 EDI grant.The five EDI grants were awarded to the projects that best championed the Division’s strategic areas: Divisional Leadership, Widening Access, Staff Equity, Evolving EDI Culture, and Engagement and Collaboration.

When Luke Steller, Bonnie Teece and Georgia Soares, PhD candidates in Astrobiology at UNSW, attended academic conferences, they noticed something troubling: the conferences only catered to a certain type of demographic, potentially leaving others feeling excluded. Along with Alex Pham and Mahbube Mousavifard, they started developing a website that would help people from all backgrounds easily navigate an academic conference.  

“Many conference organisers are unaware of how their actions can limit certain groups from attending, resulting in a loss for everyone involved,” Luke said.  

Conferences sometimes don’t account for people with different mobility requirements – with maps not showcasing accurate access pathways. To address this, the team is building interactive maps that display campus infrastructure for people who require accessible routes. The app will also encompass an extensive information database that includes locations of disabled and unisex bathrooms, Queer and Woman’s Safe Spaces, public transport/parking options around campus and restaurants that cater towards specific dietary requirements. Among other features, Access App is also implementing a way for attendees who might feel isolated or unsafe to contact organisers discreetly. 

Dr Lauren Kark, a Senior Lecturer at the UNSW Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering, believes that technological developments often leave the needs of people with disabilities behind. The functions embedded within many technology platforms are often difficult for people with disabilities to navigate. Lauren identified that the problem was rooted in many developers never having met a person with disability and therefore not understanding how to design technology that aligned with their needs.  

“Most UNSW graduates will go on to have careers designing technology intended to improve quality of life but have unfortunately never encountered someone with a disability,” Lauren says.  

That is why she decided to create the pilot program, ConnectEquip. ConnectEquip connects people with disability to students who can provide tangible solutions that facilitate participation in chosen sporting, leisure and/or lifestyle activities. By increasing students' exposure to people with disabilities, she hopes ConnectEquip  will build a new generation of engineers who truly design for everyone. 

Melissa Pappas founded a community called “Emerging Creatives of Science”, harnessing the power of art to communicate progress within science. Melissa is currently completing her PhD in Marine Science and recently led a team of 7 women to develop a photo exhibition featuring 20 female scientists. Women have traditionally not had the same opportunities or recognition in STEM fields as men. The exhibition firmly rebuts this tired stereotype by bringing to light the scientific achievements of women. 

The EDI grant enabled her to expand the photo exhibition to include a seminar. The complementary seminar detailed how the speakers navigated obstacles to achieve success - encouraging people to persevere in the face of setbacks. The project aims to dismantle the stereotype that feminism is a movement centred around special treatment for women.  “It’s about putting us on equal standing, not above men,” Melissa says. 

With the rapid rise of social media and digital technology in the university sector, Scientia Professor Louise Chappell noticed a significant gap in existing research to prevent online harms in Australian universities. Louise believes it is imperative to embrace the benefits of cyber space in the university sector, but also to address the potential and actual harms. As a result, Louise is developing an interdisciplinary workshop to unite a community of academics and practitioners, with the goal of investigating cyber-bullying in universities and how this contributes to sexual harassment.  

“This in-depth research will lead to a greater understanding of the boundaries and limits of universities’ responsibilities in addressing these harms,” Louise says.  The workshop will also identify any areas in existing frameworks that need to be updated. Participants include key researchers, government and industry experts and staff and student representatives. The workshop will be held on November 13th. 

Using the power of film, Adjunct Associate Professor Eileen Pittaway and Dr Linda Bartolomei have successfully influenced international and national polices around refugees. They have invested the $5,000 EDI grant to produce three short films on refugee women and girls. These films unearth the hidden struggles they endure – from sexual and gender-based violence, to the lack of accessibility to education and health services, as well as employment and leadership opportunities.  

The team will broadcast the short films at the Global Refugee Forum at UNHCR Geneva, in December 2019. They hope through film, we can shed light on the devastating circumstances many refugee women face. "We hope to inspire policy makers to enact changes that will support these women," Linda says.  

These short films are part of a larger project: Refugee Women and Girls: Key to the Global Compact - a multi-year, million-dollar project across 4 countries in Asia. They conduct fieldwork and consultations to enhance the effectiveness of services to refugee women. 

Lauren Kark, an Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering, received a grant in 2019 for the ConnectEquip project. ConnectEquip gave students the opportunity to connect with people living with disability and co-design a tailored device that enhances their quality of life and participation in society.

Image courtesy of UNSW Science. 'Women in STEAM' photographic exhibition, one outcome of 2019 EDI Grant recipient Melissa Pappas.