New Dean’s Awards celebrate equity, diversity and inclusion champions in the Faculty of IT

13 September 2021

The inaugural Dean’s Awards for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion recognise professional and academic staff who have contributed significantly to a fairer, more accessible world.

New in 2021, the awards focus on impact across Education, Environment and Culture, Research and Community.

For Interim Dean of the Faculty of IT, Professor Ann Nicholson, this new category is a welcome and necessary addition.

‘We have Dean’s Awards that recognise excellence by graduate researchers, academics, supervisors, professional staff – but equity, diversity and inclusion also play a pivotal role in our success as a collective. These new awards shine a well-deserved spotlight on the amazing work our colleagues are doing in these important areas.’

From research projects and community partnerships to staff development programs, recipients were recognised for a variety of meaningful contributions that foster inclusion and reflect the Faculty’s mission ‘IT for Social Good’.

The awards were established by the Interim Dean and the Faculty’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee – who convened a selection panel chaired by the Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Associate Professor Yolande Strengers.

‘It’s energising to see the projects and initiatives our colleagues are leading to support equity, diversity and inclusion in the faculty, curriculum and community. The winners are doing incredible work to support children with disabilities, improve gender and cultural diversity, and provide mental health support for our staff and students. They’re also conducting research to support cultural and linguistically diverse communities, and algorithmic fairness in machine learning models.’

This year three individuals and two teams received a Dean’s Awards for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion:

Dr Kirsten Ellis and Ms Hashini Senaratne

Making STEM engagement activities more accessible, specifically for people living with physical and cognitive disabilities. 

During 2020 National Science Week, Dr Ellis and Ms Senaratne developed ‘maker kits’ that were tailored to people with physical and cognitive disabilities, contained all required materials and provided an online tutorial. These were distributed through community organisations in Victoria, and activities ranged from TapeBlocks for circuit making to light-up boxes for illuminating laser cuts.


Dr Amin Sakzad

Actively supporting equity, diversity and inclusion through mental health support, event coordination and inclusive teaching recruitment. 

Dr Sakzad is one of the Faculty of IT’s extensively-trained mental health first aiders and an academic who ensures that at least 50% of his teaching team are women tutors – requiring regular, intensive recruitment and training processes. He has also contributed greatly to improving access to, and awareness of IT activities, ensuring inclusive promotions, prizes specifically for minority groups and close planning with diverse cohorts.


Phillip Abramson

Building staff understanding and enhancing resilience and responses to bias.

Mr Abramson and the Respectful Communities team at Monash developed a prototype program to drive cultural change in the Faculty of IT and the University. Running at least three times with 50 staff per intake so far, and garnering interest from other faculties, the initiative aims to enhance the capabilities of new sessional staff to better support peers and students – with plans to make this available more widely.


Dr Guanliang Chen

Applying state-of-the-art language technologies to create more fair and inclusive learning environments while supporting disadvantaged students. 

Dr Chen is dedicated to conducting research that addresses fairness, accountability and transparency issues in education. During his PhD, he connected online education with online work, so students with financial constraints could earn an income while learning. More recently, he published a study that investigated the algorithmic fairness of Machine Learning models in building automatic classifiers for educational forum posts, which revealed that most of the classifiers favoured English-as-first-language students over English-as-second-language ones.


Delvin Varghese, Joshua Seguin, Meriem Tebourbi, Tom Bartindale and Professor Patrick Olivier

Addressing challenges around inclusion in mainstream research and institutional support faced by young people in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities. 

The ‘Social media playbook’ project involved five Victorian organisations to digitally engage and empower young people and personnel in the Filipino, Myanmar, Maori-Pasifika, Vietnamese and Sudanese communities, as well as youth from marginalised backgrounds. The team adopted a more flexible Research through Design approach which enabled them to reduce invasive practices such as interviews, and rely more on their strong partnerships with cultural insiders.