UNE welcomes its new Equal Opportunity Advisers

Published 07 August 2008

fredyv.jpgThe University of New England has welcomed 11 new members to its Equal Opportunity Adviser team after their completion of an extensive training program.

At a function earlier this week to celebrate the work of the team and to introduce its new members, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alan Pettigrew, spoke about their “crucial role in resolving differences quickly and fairly”. “Yours is a very human activity,” he said.

The organiser of the function – Bernice O’Mahoney, Project and Administrative Officer for UNE Employment Equity and Diversity – explained that the team comprised members of staff and postgraduate students from across the campus who volunteered their time to support the work of EE&D staff.

Ms O’Mahoney herself is one of the 11 new team members, who bring the University’s total number of EO Advisers to 29.

EO Advisers are a point of first contact for staff or students who have concerns they wish to discuss. They are able to provide advice on issues such as harassment and discrimination, and to act as mediators.

Professor Eilis Magner, Chair of UNE’s Academic Board and a former UNE Ombudsman and Senior Ombudsman, emphasised the ethical basis of the EO Advisers’ role in supporting UNE’s commitment to principles of equal opportunity in work and study. “In a number of ways,” she said, “the team can make a strong contribution to the health of our institution.”

Associate Professor Jeanne Madison, a long-serving member of the EO Adviser team, welcomed the new members and thanked the continuing members, saying: “It’s a privilege to work with you.” She spoke about the EO Advisers’ important role in dispute resolution, emphasising the need to recognise and address elements of bullying that can often lie at the heart of workplace disputes.

One of the new team members is Dr Fredy Valenzuela (pictured here), a lecturer in the School of Business, Economics and Public Policy who, having come to UNE as an overseas student, has some insight into difficulties faced by students from abroad. “I like to be involved,” said Dr Valenzuela, who is a former President of the International Students’ Association.

He said the training workshops for the new EO Advisers – covering legislative and ethical issues, communication skills, problem solving, and conflict resolution and mediation – had been very useful preparation for a role that required an “amazing” variety of knowledge.

Lyn Tucker, the Employment Equity and Diversity Officer who retired from UNE earlier this year after organising and monitoring the training of the new EO Advisers, returned for this week’s function.