CQUni enhances student access and participation with second ConnectAbility event

Published:04 October 2019

2018 ConnectAbility participants, Sarina State High School student Blaise Newman (left) and Mirani State High School student Kaileb Leippien pictured taking part in an Engineering virtual-reality session.

Engineering, environmental science, hospitality, trades and creative industries – these are just some of the many CQUniversity disciplines that Mackay students of all abilities will learn about during the region’s second ConnectAbility event.

Hosted on the Mackay Ooralea campus from 9.30 am to 2.30 pm on 16 October, the free event aims to connect year 11 and 12 students with a disability to support services and training and education pathways available at CQUniversity.

Event organiser, CQUniversity Accessibility and Engagement Project Leader, Nat Vonthien says this year’s event agenda is jam-packed with activities set to entice students to explore the opportunities available to them.

“Participating students will partake in interactive career-focused sessions, be given a tour of the university campus, and listen in on a student-specific panel discussion, in order to help them make an informed decision about their preferred study journey,” Ms Vonthien explains.

“Some of the services we will emphasise are our Inclusion and Accessibility Service, which provides a broad range of tailored reasonable adjustments such as assistive technology and exam accommodations, and our scholarships program, which provides students with financial assistance and financial literacy support.

“As part of the panel discussion, prospective students will hear from current students, who will share openly with them their CQUni study experiences and how they themselves have found value in the support services on offer.”

2019 ConnectAbility panelist, CQUniversity Cert III in Information, Digital Media and Technology student, Abbey Van Tongeren said she looked forward to sharing her study experience and encouraging prospective students to find their true potential.

"I attended the 2018 ConnectAbility event, where I learned about all of the support services and training available to me. This information, paired with my love for technology, led me to complete both my Cert I and II in Information, Digital Media and Technology," she said.

"This year, I decided to further my skills with the Cert III. The thing I love most about the course is learning how much depth there is when it comes to the functionalities of a computer. This includes how it processes data and complete the tasks that we, as users, request it to complete.

"At this year's ConnectAbility event, I will make clear to prospective students that every choice they make in life should be backed by energy, effort, and passion. They should always remember that there is never a right or wrong decision and that each choice will help them discover their true potential."

The idea to develop ConnectAbility began in 2017 following a transition expo for young people with disabilities, organised by local high schools, where it became apparent high school leavers needed more clarity about post-school options in training and education.

As a result of this event, CQUniversity Mackay experienced an increase in enrolments from students with a disability and determined that further guidance was needed to ensure students had access to appropriate supports, upon enrolment.

Given the University’s commitment to welcoming students of all abilities and backgrounds, the event was organised and offered locally in Mackay to encourage young people to experience university life on campus and meet current students and staff.

Natalie Vonthien says that given the event’s success last year, and the continued support from local high schools, it’s evident that this is a valued initiative.

“In addition to Northern Beaches, Mackay, North Mackay, Sarina and Mirani State High Schools, this year’s event will also welcome Mackay North and Moranbah State High Schools,” she says.

“Here at CQUniversity, we are proud to welcome students of all disabilities and backgrounds. ConnectAbility is yet another way in which we strive to offer the best possible educational experience for students.”

ConnectAbility is being delivered by CQUni Mackay, in partnership with Mackay Regional Transition Network and the National Disability Coordination Officer Program.

Schools interested in taking part in future ConnectAbility events at CQUniversity are encouraged to email or phone 07 4930 9456.