Women’s Forum highlights opportunities and achievements

Hosted by PLC Armidale on 20 September, the North West Sub Branch women’s forum continued upon the success of other IEU regional women’s gatherings held this year in Kiama, Bathurst, Newcastle and Coffs Harbour.

With a focus on women’s opportunities and achievements, the Armidale forum featured two outstanding academics from the University of New England, Dr Mary McMillan and Associate Professor Penelope (Pep) Serow.

Dr Mary McMillan is a Lecturer in Biomedical Science at the University of New England who works with the Brain Behaviour Research Group to investigate mental health disorders, focusing mostly on depression. Her research aims to identify genetic and other biological markers which can be used to better diagnose and treat these disorders and improve health outcomes for millions of Australians. She greatly enjoys teaching physiology, genetics and human development, and supervising and mentoring research students.

At the Armidale forum, Mary spoke about her expedition to Antarctica earlier this year on a project for women leaders and of the importance of exploring opportunities for engagement and leadership. At UNE, Mary has co-ordinated a program to provide avenues to university study for students who don’t have a traditional Science background. She has also been active in outreach programs such as HSC booster days and the CSIRO’s Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools program.

Associate Professor Pep Serow has over 25 years of experience in the education sector, with a PhD in Mathematics education and teaching qualifications in primary and secondary contexts. In addition to 12 years of experience in teaching and school leadership, Pep has over 13 years of experience in teacher education and educational research with the University of New England. She is well known to the IEU, having previously spoken at a Women’s Conference and a Mid North Coast women’s forum.

In her role as Project Leader of UNE’s Pacific Education and Development initiatives, Pep provided an update to the Armidale forum on the Nauru Teacher Education Project with which UNE and she have been involved for the past eight years. The most recent initiative in Nauru is the implementation of inclusive education policy and practice in Nauru’s schools.

Appreciation is expressed to IEU Executive member Helen Templeton and her school for hosting the forum, to IEU President Chris Wilkinson and Executive member Denise McHugh for their presence and input, and to IEU North West organiser Peter Bishop for his support.

In the words of a forum participant “The two guest speakers were engaging, informative and inspiring. It is wonderful to see women so actively involved in Science and Mathematics and who are also clearly committed to equity and inclusion in the wider community.”