VC urges students to “influence up” to transform communities

Published:06 August 2019

CQUni VC Prof Nick Klomp (right) participated in the UNSDGs panel session with Lara Carton, UNAA's Lachlan Hunter, and SRC chair Rhianna Wood.

Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Nick Klomp has encouraged students to “bang on his door” if they’ve got ideas about improving sustainability and social impact at CQUniversity.

The Vice-Chancellor made the challenge during a panel discussion on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; the international framework for achieving a more equal, responsible and prosperous world by 2030.

The discussion, moderated by Director of Social Innovation Lara Carton, also featured United Nations Association of Australia Executive Director Lachlan Hunter, and Student Representative Council Chair Rhianna Wood. It was hosted at CQUni Rockhampton North and streamed live across 10 campuses.

Professor Klomp enthusiastically described every individual’s potential for driving change, and the initiatives he’d already seen around campuses – but admitted he’d like to see more.

“I was surprised I haven’t seen burning effigies of the Vice-Chancellor (as students demand change),” he joked, adding “I’m not encouraging that!”

“I’m just saying, I’m a bit surprised I haven’t had more people banging on my door saying hey, there’s things we can do.”

In response to a student-led initiative to make CQUniversity free from single-use plastics, Professor Klomp said change was about saying “dammit, we’re going to do it!”

“Getting rid of single use plastic, can we do that as a university, of course we can do that! Are there problems, are there other retailers on campus, of course - and you could use any of those problems to say we won’t do it,” he explained.

But just showing leadership has huge potential for transformative change, Prof Klomp said.

“Sometimes it might feel like we’re only doing a tiny little thing, but A, that influences others, and B, don’t underestimate how you can influence up, by telling the Vice-Chancellor!”

Professor Klomp agreed with Mr Hunter that organisations wanted employees that could prove their credentials with driving change.

“Even organisations that might not be in that (social innovation) space still want to know, and appoint people who have that experience,” he said.

Professor Klomp said CQUni had committed to embed social innovation education across the curriculum within the new Strategic Plan 2019-2023.

Mr Hunter commended CQUni for its attention to the UNSDGs, and said he was working to grow awareness of their importance nationally.

“There’s a perception that the goals don’t apply to Australia because we’re not a developing country, and also that we’re doing quite well responding to the goals – and that’s just not true,” he said.

“The SDGs are the largest consultation undertaken in the history of the world, and they’re by all countries, and for all countries.”

Mr Hunter said while Australia was on track for a few key goals including no poverty by 2030, there was considerable room for improvement.

“Generally, we’re still not on track to achieve 14 of the 17 goals, so we are increasing our efforts to educate about why it’s important.”

The UNSDGs panel discussion was held as part of CQUniversity’s Festival of Change, which is three days of events celebrating and invigorating social innovation across its national footprint.

The annual initiative is coordinated by the Office of Social Innovation, as part of CQUniversity’s role as Australia’s only Ashoka U Changemaker Campus, and member of the global organisation committed to social impact through education.