2021 Student Voice Australia Symposium
Building better partnerships: representation, engagement, and sustainability.

The second national SVA Student Voice Australia Symposium brought together Australian higher education institutions to share their experiences of partnering with students for governance and decision-making. The fully online symposium offered a range of formats, including showcases, panel discussions, interactive group sessions and plenary presentations. Two International speakers featured, discussing the symposium themes including diversity and sustainability.

Below you can access links to the recordings of the sessions via our YouTube Channel.


Symposium Program and Recordings

Day 1 – Tuesday 25 May 2021 

1:30pmJoint welcome by Professor Phil Levy,  Pro Vice-Chancellor – Student Learning,
University of Adelaide, and Student MC Carmine Buss from The University of the Sunshine Coast, including Welcome to Country with Isaac Hannam
Watch recording on YouTube
2:00pmCase Studies presented by Curtin University and Holmesglen Institute, (TAFE)
Curtin University “Students as Partners at Curtin University” presented by Bridge Truell & Kathryn Clements
Holmesglen Institute (TAFE) “Student Voice at TAFE” presented by Michaela Hosking
Watch recording on YouTube

Interactive breakout session: Connect with your Community.

Staff & Students learning from each other.
Staff feedback session presented by Alison Jaquet (USC), Kate Walsh (Flinders U) & Alisa Percy (UTS).  Student feedback presented by Alexander De Corso (USC)

Watch recording on YouTube
4:05pmKeynote Speaker: Oisin Hassan, Programme Manager, National Student
Engagement Programme (NStEP), Ireland
Watch recording on YouTube
 4:55pmHighlights of the Day and Closing

Day 2 – Thursday 27 May 2021

1:30pmJoint welcome by Professor Phil Levy,  Pro Vice-Chancellor – Student Learning,
University of Adelaide, and Student MC Carmine Buss from The University of the Sunshine Coast.
1:35pmThe view from New Zealand by Professor Sally Varnham – Student Voice to Partnership in Aotearoa New Zealand: Whiria nga rau and onwards.  The presentation will also feature Alice Mander, President of the New Zealand Disabled Students Association, Andrew Lessells, President of New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations and Jaistone Finau, President of Tauira Pacifika.Watch recording on YouTube

Learning from First Nations Students.  A Student Panel Discussion featuring
Keenan Smith, NUS First Nations Officer, Mamaeroa Merita, past Co-President of Te Mana Akonga and Sharlene Leroy-Dyer, Associate PRME Director (Indigenous Engagement), School of Business, University of Queensland, immediate Past President, NATSIPA.

Panel Facilitated by Heather McGregor, Director, First Nations Student Success, Charles Sturt University.

Watch recording on YouTube

Showcase Presentations from a range of Australian institutions. Click the title of the session to watch the recording on YouTube.

3:00pm Sessions

  1. Student Leadership Plan: Students as Partners – UTS
    Presenter: Kurt Cheng.
  2. Sustainable approach to continuity of student governance at USC
    Presenters: Belinda Brear, Melissa Geltch, Alexander DeCorso.
  3. Students as Partners at VU
    Presenters: Alice Growden, Farriz Roslan, Naomi Dempsey, Leon Kerr.

3:25 pm Sessions

  1. Be Here, Be Heard: Enabling and Representing Student Voice and Agency – University of Melbourne
    Presenters: Nira Rahman, Campbell Rider and Wajeehah Aayeshah
  2. From Partnership to Governance: reconceptualising squeaky wheels and the ‘teach in’ for genuine student contribution at Flinders University
    Presenter: Aidan Cornelius-Bell.
  3. Partnership in the VET sector – Not recorded, chatham house rule
    Facilitator: Stephen Manson.
4:00pmKeynote Speaker: Maisha Islam, Student Engagement Research and Projects Officer, Centre for Student Engagement, University of WinchesterWatch recording on YouTube
4:30pmQ & A
 4:50pmHighlights of the Symposium and Closing
 5:00pm Symposium Close

We were thrilled that the symposium was live scribed by Rachel Dight at Swivel Creative


Keynote biographies & information

Keynote Speaker: Oisín Hassan is the Programme Manager of the National Student Engagement Programme, known as NStEP, in Ireland. NStEP is a partnership of the Higher Education Authority (HEA), Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), which seeks to strengthen and enhance student engagement in decision-making and foster cultures of student-staff partnership. NStEP has strong links with both sparqs in Scotland and with Student Voice Australia. Oisín was previously a students’ union officer in his alma mater, Queen’s University Belfast, with responsibility for equality and diversity, and then for education policy. He was subsequently elected Vice President for Academic Affairs at USI, the national students’ union in Ireland which works cross border between north and south, before taking up the post at NStEP. Oisín is a current international board member on the Quality Board for Icelandic Higher Education, as well as a former board member of both the QQI and Ireland’s National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning. He is also current MSc student in public policy at Dublin City University.


Keynote Speaker: Maisha Islam is the Student Engagement Research and Projects Officer at the University of Winchester (UK), whilst also studying for a professional doctorate in Education. Maisha’s main research interests lie in the area of Black, Asian and minority ethnic, and Muslim student experience in Higher Education, where she has written and published on these topics. Maisha is heavily invested in the area of racial equality in Higher Education. For example, she is a member of the university’s Race Equality Action Group and has sat on a Universities UK staff panel which developed guidance for tackling racial harassment in universities. Maisha is also involved in work with the Office for Students, the regulator of the English higher education, by sitting on their Student Panel.

Presenter biographies & information

Student Voice to Partnership in Aotearoa New Zealand: Whiria nga rau and onwards

Professor Sally Varnham has recently retired from the University of Technology, Sydney, where she was Professor of Law.   A National Senior Teaching Fellow, she published Creating a Framework for Student Partnership in University Decision-Making and Governance and similar papers for Student Voice Australia, a collaboration between ten tertiary education institutions to build and implement practices to facilitate authentic student engagement through partnership in institutional decision making and governance. Chair of the University Academic Board and a member of the UTS Council. Her recent research concentrates on the role of student voice in tertiary institution decision-making and governance.

Andrew Lessells is the National President of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations. His entry into student politics was through the Eastern Institute of Technology’s Students’ Association, ‘Younited’, where he served as President in 2019 and 2020. He is passionate about education, and creating transformative change that improves the lives of students in tertiary institutes in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Alice is the inaugural President of the National Disabled Students’ Association in Aotearoa. The association was established in 2021, and aims to address the lack of disabled student voice in the tertiary space. NDSA represents disabled tauira and the collective barriers they face at a national level, and hopes to build disabled student voices locally where it does not already exist. They work closely alongside other student associations, Government, and disabled persons’ organisations. While physically disabled herself, NDSA represents students with varying disabilities and impairments including physical and learning disabilities, sensory disabilities, neurodiversity, chronic illness, mental health conditions, and the Deaf community. Alice is also a fourth year Law and Arts Student. She is studying at Victoria University of Wellington where she has been involved in the Victoria University of Wellington Disabled Students Association. Motivated by the important work of this group, and exacerbated by the issues posed by COVID19, she decided to establish the National group representing students with disabilities in 2020. 

Whiria ngā rau rōpū

Jaistone Finau is the National President of Tauira Pasifika, the National Student Association that advocates on behalf of Pacific Tertiary Students in Aotearoa New Zealand. His entry into student Advocacy began at Victoria University of Wellington Te Herenga Waka whilst serving as the Vice President of the Pan-Pacific Association there. From this position he took on the newly established role of Central-Hub Vice President of Tauira Pasifika which eventually led him to become the National President of Tauira Pasifika. Jaistone is currently in his final year of his Bachelor of Arts and continues to study whilst still advocating for the Pacific diaspora in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Learning from First Nations Students

He uri tēnei nō Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue me Ngāti Awa. Mamaeroa Merito started her journey into advocacy for Tauira Māori as a Bachelor of Health Science student when she was elected Tumuaki of Ngā Tauira Māori (Co-President of The University of Auckland Māori Students’ Association) in 2018. The following year she was elected sole Tumuaki of Te Mana Ākonga (President of The National Māori Tertiary Students’ Association) and in 2020, re-elected to Te Mana Ākonga as a Tumuaki Takirua (Co-President). In these roles Mamaeroa gained experience in advocating for and representing Tauira Māori in Tertiary Education at both a local and National level. 

Mamaeroa is no longer a student president but is currently a member of Te Taumata Aronui – a ministerial advisory board providing advice and recommendations to ministers and officials on how tertiary education can better respond to the needs of Māori Learners and communities. 

She is also employed by her Iwi at Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Pikiao (a Māori health provider) as a Kia Piki te Ora Coordinator in a role focused on suicide prevention. 

Dr Sharlene Leroy-Dyer.  Sharlene is a Saltwater woman, with family ties to the Darug, Awabakal, Garigal and Wiradyuri nations.  Sharlene is the Immediate Past President of NATSIPA the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Postgraduate Association and past executive member and board member of CAPA the Council of Australian Postgraduates Association.

 has a PhD in the Management at the University of Newcastle, a Bachelor of Business (Hons) from University of Newcastle and a Graduate Certificate in Indigenous Research and Leadership from University of Melbourne. Sharlene is currently enrolled in a Master of Tertiary Education (Management) through the University of Melbourne.

Sharlene is a fulltime academic in at the University of Queensland where she is a lecturer in employment relations and Associate Director of Indigenous Engagement for the Faculty of Business, Economics and Law.  As an Aboriginal activist, student leader and unionist, Sharlene is passionate about improving the standard of education at Universities, for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander students.

Showcase presenters

Student Leadership Plan: Students as Partners.  Presenter: Kurt Cheng, University of Technology Sydney.
Kurt Cheng

Kurt Cheng is a third-year undergraduate student undertaking a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Communications (Social and Political Sciences) at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).  He is currently a member of the Academic Board at UTS and various senior governance committees.  He is also a member of the Faculty Board in Law, which governs the strategic and academic direction of the Faculty of Law. Kurt is currently developing a two-year special project under the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education & Students) Division which aims to increase student leadership and co-curricular participation at UTS. 

Students as Partners, Student Services and Engagement. Presenters: Belinda Brear, Melissa Geltch, Alexander DeCorso.
Belinda Brear

Belinda Brear is the Student Partnerships Officer at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) and is responsible for USC’s co-curricular recognition program, peer-led learning support and student representation framework. With over 8 years’ experience in Higher Education and student engagement, she is passionate about working in partnership with students to help enhance their employability.



Melissa Geltch

Melissa Geltch

Melissa is a currently studying Law/Arts at the University of the Sunshine Coast, is co-chair of the USC Student Senate, and a student member of the USC Council. Melissa is a passionate student, interested in creating an inclusive USC community where everyone rises and shines.



Alex DeCorso

Alex DeCorso

Alex is a Masters of Business Administration student at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Alex has a background in the hospitality and tourism industry, and is a current student representative on USC’s Postgraduate Student Association (PSA).


Students as Partners at Victoria University. Presenters: Farriz Roslan and Alice Growden.
Farriz Roslan

My name is Farriz Roslan and I am an international student from Singapore. I am currently in my second year of undertaking a Bachelor of Laws.

My experience as a student representative at VU includes my past position as Vice-President in VU Student Law Society (Dictum Society). I am the current Director of Communication/Public relation at VU’s International Student Association. I have assisted, advocated and represented on behalf of VU’s law students and international students to advocate change within VU and the surrounding community. Students as Partners is an initiative which I consider a huge step forward for student voice. I am excited to work alongside our student leaders and staff members to continue this unique journey.


Alice Growden

My name is Alice Growden and I’m a domestic student from Melbourne, in my fourth year of a Laws/Commerce (Applied Finance) degree.

My experience in Student as Staff roles includes Senior Student Ambassador, Student Mentor, Student Assistant at Student Services, board-committee member and Clinical Learning Officer. I have been appointed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as New Colombo Plan Alumni Ambassador, a role which supports students to study in the Asia Pacific. I am excited to coordinate Students as Partners and ensure every voice is heard and valued across the University.


Be Here, Be Heard: Enabling and Representing Student Voice and Agency. Presenter: Nira Rahman, University of Melbourne.
Nira Rahman

Nira Rahman

Dr Nira Rahman’s pedagogical approach grows out of three interlinking strands: student-centred approach, collaboration skills and cooperation aptitudes. As a student-focused academic in Arts Teaching Innovation at the Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne, she works towards a more inclusive, applicable, transformative and internationalised Arts and Humanities Education. Her specific interests lie in co-creation in higher education; student voice and agency; Student Employability and Articulating Transferable Skills; intercultural communication and competencies in inclusive diverse classrooms. 

Campbell Rider

Campbell Rider recently completed his honours thesis on the philosophy of spatial perception at the University of Melbourne, and is continuing his involvement with the Arts Faculty’s student partnership project before beginning his graduate study.

Wajeehah Aayeshah

Dr Wajeehah Aayeshah is a Lecturer in Curriculum Design (ATI) at the University of Melbourne. She designs and evaluates curriculum and creates innovative learning and teaching spaces. She works closely with students to develop their voice and agency, and co-create their Arts learning journey. In addition to higher education, she researches representations of Muslims in media, serious games, and creative narratives. She likes to drink tea and collect stories from all around the world.

From Partnership to Governance: reconceptualising squeaky wheels and the ‘teach in’ for genuine student contribution at Flinders University.  Presenter: Aidan Cornelius-Bell.
Aidan Cornelius-Bell

Aidan is a scholar of higher education. His research work sits between educational sociology and study of political philosophy. He is undertaking a PhD with Flinders University. Aidan’s PhD is titled ‘Student Activism in Higher Education: the politics of students’ role in hegemonic university change’. This political work focusses on, through empirical ethnographic work, student activism, student identity, governance, hegemony, power, protestand partnership at Flinders University. It draws on historical and contemporary context to provide a rich analysis of power and politics. Aidan has been the president of the Postgraduate Student Association at Flinders and is currently the postgraduate student member for the University Council and Academic Senate.