Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Award for Silver ASA Pleiades AwardIn the Department of Physics and Astronomy it is our goal to be an equitable, inclusive and diverse place to work, research or study. We actively seek and support approaches that will advance the engagement of all people at all levels of work and education, both within our walls and in our community.

We are committed to removing conscious and unconscious biases and to establishing sustainable practices that create measurable, positive change. In 2017 the Department of Physics and Astronomy adopted a Workplace Culture statement that underlines our commitment to best practice and an ongoing culture of improvement, measurement and reflection. The full statement is published just below.

We are proud as a Department to hold the Silver Pleiades Award, recognising our workplace as being one that shows an active and sustained commitment to building an equitable, inclusive and diverse workplace at all levels of study and employment through implementation of EDI-aware practices. Our key performance indicators in gender equity are captured in the Performance section, and the activities and initiatives that the Department has engaged in since 2016 are listed below by year.

Neither workplace bullying nor harassment of any kind are tolerated within the Department of Physics and Astronomy, or indeed at Macquarie University. The University maintains staff and student support services for any member of its community who has experienced or witnessed bullying or harassment. Formal channels for reporting these experiences and other issues of misconduct also exist. Any staff member or student who has experienced behaviour that they consider to be unacceptable and would like to report this through an informal channel is encouraged to contact the senior leadership of the Department or any member of our Equity and Diversity committee or the Ally Network - jump to the Contacts section.

Workplace Culture statement

Our Workplace Culture statement was formally adopted by the department in late 2017. The statement and the commitments that accompany it are copied below.

The Department of Physics and Astronomy pays respect to the original custodians of the land on which Macquarie University resides and to indigenous staff and students who study and work among us.

We embrace Macquarie University's commitment to principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion. We recognise these principles as core to our mission of fostering excellence and increasing impact in our research, teaching and community engagement.

We aim to be welcoming and supportive of all staff and students regardless of gender and sexual identity, ethnic and cultural background, disability, age, family/carer responsibilities, political affiliation, and religious belief. This commitment underlies our approach to recruitment, mentoring, promotion and celebration of success, and extends to all Department members: academic staff, professional staff, students and visitors.

We commit to an ongoing culture of improvement, measuring and reflecting on our progress, active pursuit of internal feedback and external assessment, and promotion of these values within our Department, to the University and in our wider academic community.

Following from this statement we make the following commitments:

  • The Department will take reports of workplace concerns and misbehaviour seriously and will support individuals in dealing with the University's equity and complaint processes.
  • We will institute training resources for staff and postgraduate students in unconscious bias and positive workplace environments.
  • We will develop a Person of Contact system for reporting concerns.
  • We will develop a statement of mutual expectations for our undergraduate students.
  • We will monitor our web pages, social media and seminar series for gender balance and diversity.
  • We will remain informed about best practice in equity and diversity from physical sciences schools and institutions around the world and evolve our processes in response.

Department Equity Diversity and Inclusion Documents

MQ Your Say Survey 2019 summary of results for Physics and Astronomy >pdf document
Physics and Astronomy Equity Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan 2019-2022 >pdf document
Equity Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan progress update Dec 2019 >pdf document
Silver Pleiades Award application 2018 >pdf document
Bronze Pleiades Award application 2016 >pdf document

Our Department actively reflects upon its profile and actions, aiming to make continued steps forward in improving our culture, for our staff and students alike. Our applications to the Bronze and Silver ASA Pleiades Awards detail our self-assessment and commitments to improve in equity diversity and inclusiveness, and our 2019-2022 Strategic Plan provides the framework and planned actions in these same areas. These documents were collated by the Physics and Astronomy Equity and Diversity Committee on behalf of the Department, and each was released following a period of consultation across the Department and relevant MQ offices including OWED. We invite you to read them and encourage you to forward any comments, queries or suggestions about the documents or their content to any member of the Committee. See further down this page for contact information.

Our Equity and Diversity committee

The Department of Physics and Astronomy maintains an active gender-balanced Equity and Diversity committee with representation from all academic levels, professional staff and research students. In September 2018 the committee welcomed its first undergraduate student member. Our committee was established in 2016 to support a determination within the department to increase awareness around diversity, inclusion and equity and to engage with initiatives that will help us to meet our goals in these areas.

The Resources and Support section below can direct you to many avenues of support for staff and students, can point you to training opportunities and includes further reading on topics like gender equity and LGBTIQ+ inclusivity in the workplace. We encourage you to take a look, and don't hesitate to contact the Equity and Diversity committee Chair for Physics and Astronomy (Emma Hastings) if you would like to see anything added to the available resources.

Do you want to get involved? Great! In 2020 the department will be calling for volunteers to join working groups to establish a Student Culture statement, codes of conduct for casual academics, and 'good work practice' posters for our labs. MQ often holds events to support its diverse community, and the Ally Network is always looking for new members. There is so much more you could take part in too so feel free to contact anyone listed in the Contacts section below, or try the MQ Workplace Equity and Diversity Unit.

2020: Manawari + Pleiades Award application


Preparations commence for our application to the ASA Pleiades Awards, with the aim to retain our Silver Award status.
A summary of the results of the Your Say Survey 2019 have been collated and form a background for additional actions and pathways for continuous improvement within the Department. A copy of the document is accessible above.

February + March

Many of our academic and professional staff joined Uncle Phil Duncan for the face-to-face component of the Manawari Respect, Reciprocity and Relationships training - an exciting and essential step towards building our scope of diversity and inclusion. The Department will work on its' own Manawari Action Plan and Connected Curriculum.


We have released an update on the progress made to date on the actions and objectives detailed in our Physics and Astronomy Equity Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan 2019-2022. Both the Strategic Plan and the update can be found above.

Congratulations to Associate Professor Dan Zucker who has been selected as part of the inaugural membership of the Faculty of Science and Engineering Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee (FEDIC).

2019: Culture survey actions + Strategic Plan


We have established a statement of welcome and acknowledgement of country for the refreshed Macquarie University Astronomical Observatory; a unique silicon print presenting the statement will be on permanent display in the new operations facility on site. It was both a privilege and delight to have Aunty Julie Janson present a Welcome to Country during the official re-launch event for the Observatory in early December.


We have finalised a Strategic Plan in Equity Diversity and Inclusion that will provide us with a framework for the improvements we intend to drive in our Department. The initial strategy will take us through to 2022, with an annual Action Plan in place to keep us moving. The Strategic Plan and Action Plan are available here >pdf document

We got Silver! A huge thank you to all members of the Department committee for their efforts in carrying forward our activities in the equity, diversity and inclusion space. The Astronomical Society of Australia has accepted our application for the Silver Pleiades Award, recognising our consistent and continued efforts to improve our workplace and practices.


Much work has gone into establishing a multi-year Strategic Plan for equity, diversity and inclusion actions within the Department, which will help us to continue to drive forward our great work in this space, and meet our commitments to the Pleiades Award scheme.
Our Department doesn't tolerate harassment or bullying, and to provide staff with skills to tackle this matter head-on or to feel comfortable starting a conversation about unwelcome behaviour, many of our staff have this month completed a workshop with Workplace Coach, Rachael Brady.


Plans are underway to run a program of workshops throughout 2019 that will provide opportunity for staff to share their views and learn more about positive workplace culture and inclusive practices. The program will be run together with staff from the MQ Workplace Equity and Diversity unit.

2018: Culture survey + Silver Pleiades Award application


Following our culture survey, a range of improvement actions have been established that will need to take place either within the Department, or with assistance from other offices within the institution.  Priority has been given to concerns in the area of behaviour in the workplace, concerns in any area that affected a significant proportion of the respondents, and concerns that returned a strongly negative response.


The outcomes from our culture survey have shown a range of positive responses, and highlighted a number of areas where the Department will need to take improvement actions, including in the areas of behaviour in the workplace and career progression. The 2018 Culture Survey Summary is available here > pdf document


We have now submitted to the ASA IDEA Chapter Steering Committee our application to the Silver Pleiades Award, including a response to the recently conducted culture survey. In November and December we will work on detailing our action plan to address the issues and opportunities identified in the survey. A copy of our Silver award application can be accessed here > pdf document


The department staff and students were invited to take part in an anonymous culture survey, supported by the Workplace Diversity unit at MQ. The survey opened on 20 Sept 2018 and closed officially on 30 Sept 2018. We received 104 responses from an audience of 172 staff and students - a response rate on 60%. Outcomes will be published here shortly.
Committee members Joanne Dawson, Judith Dawes and Emma Hastings attended the third Gender Equity Summit at MQ.
Tara Dunch joined the membership of the Equity and Diversity committee as our first undergraduate rep - welcome!


Adam Joyce and Mark Wardle led a team of astronomy students into remote regional communities in NSW; the project aimed to put people in remote towns in touch with the latest research, provide access to astronomical equipment, and increase appreciation for dark skies as an integral part of our natural environment.
Deb Kane again this year led a group of department volunteers at the annual Indigenous Science Experience at the Redfern Community Centre, spreading the science of light through activities and displays.


Cormac Purcell and Kelly Sharpless joined the Ally Network, growing our in-department support network and boosting local involvement.
Ben Norton rolled diversity, equity and inclusion awareness into the casual academic (tutors and demonstrators) induction session with support from the EDC Chair. This will be a regular feature for induction sessions on-going.


Dorrit Jacobs and Emma Hastings discussed aims to establish a committee in Earth and Planetary Sciences to focus on equity, diversity and inclusion in that Department.


Members from the equity, diversity and inclusion committees of both Biology and Physics and Astronomy joined forces over cake and coffee to talk about our experiences in these areas. We learned that we share the same aims, the same hurdles, that we both want to clearly define our goals and to conduct a local culture survey. We're hoping to meet again before the end of the year to continue to share information and support.


Joanne Dawson and Dan Zucker presented a summary of their experiences in the Astronomy community at Macquarie University at the second Gender Equity Summit at MQ. Attendees at the Summit also included Michael Steel, Judith Dawes and Emma Hastings.

2017: Workplace Culture Statement + Marriage Equality + IDEA Workshop


The department adopted its' Workplace Culture statement in late 2017. The full statement and the commitments that accompany it are available in an earlier section above. The statement underlines our commitment to best practice and an ongoing culture of improvement, measurement and reflection.


Australia Marriage Equality logoOn 11 Sept 2018 we officially adopted a position in favour of marriage equality in Australia endorsing the following statement:

The Department of Physics and Astronomy at Macquarie University supports equality under the law in all circumstances. This includes the right of any adult and their consenting adult partner to have their relationship recognized equally under Australian law, regardless of gender.

Also in September, Macquarie University hosted the 2017 ASA IDEA Workshop. With guest speakers from organisations including Macquarie University, CSIRO and Swinburne University, the workshop asked how we can reach those most reluctant to get involved. Funding support and child-care services were available to encourage the widest participation possible. Full details of the event are available here.

2016: Department Committee established + Bronze Pleiades Award application

The Department of Physics and Astronomy established an Equity and Diversity committee in 2016, with the first meeting held in August. The department committee acknowledged the great efforts and positive examples set by the MQAAAstro Diversity Committee and determined to build upon them. One of the earliest actions of the department committee was to submit an application to the ASA IDEA Chapter Pleiades Award scheme for 2016. The Award scheme was originally established to recognise the efforts of astronomy organisations within Australia who take active steps to advance the careers of women at all professional levels. The Awards now recognise achievements in the areas of equity, diversity and inclusion. Our 2016 application document is available here. In early 2017 we were delighted to be notified that we were successful in achieving the Bronze Pleiades Award, valid for two years.

Performance Indicators in Gender Equity

To establish whether or not the initiatives taken within the department to achieve gender equity are creating an impact we gather data relating to staff and student numbers, invited speakers and job applicants. The percentage of female representation is then collated on an annual basis, available below.

dept gender equity graph

Notes on data capture: staff numbers reflect continuing and fixed term staff; staff and student numbers are captured twice annually and averaged; students are those enrolled in programs or units administered by this department (service units are not captured); seminar and colloquia speakers are those from department-wide and research group specific sessions; job applicant data relates only to externally advertised continuing positions; systems at MQ do not currently support the capture of genders other than female or male so gender diverse information cannot yet be provided. *No academic positions advertised in 2018 or 2019. ^Data for this cohort first captured in 2019.

Resources and Support

**If you need immediate assistance or crisis support please refer to the Wellbeing support page for all contact details, including emergency services. We want to help you - please don't hesitate to seek assistance.**

Macquarie University provides comprehensive support for students and staff in the areas of general wellbeing, mental health and welfare, and is committed to equity, diversity and inclusion in all aspects of education and employment. Staff and Student Codes of Conduct at Macquarie University are in place to confirm the commitment of the University to be a fair, honest and impartial place study and work; they outline the expectations that can be made of all staff and students at the University. Breaches of the Codes are treated as misconduct and can be reported formally or informally. Please refer to the relevant Code of Conduct Information pages linked immediately below for details.

Student resources and support: MQ Wellbeing support and advice for physical, mental and overall health;  Indigenous students cultural and career support, and student spaces through Walanga Muru; support for our international students; Student Code of Conduct and reporting cases; Student Diversity and Inclusion unit; and crisis support services

Staff resources and support: MQ Wellbeing support and advice for physical, mental and overall health; Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for confidential counselling and coaching; cultural support for Indigenous staff through Walanga Muru; diversity and community at MQ; accessibility support; Staff Code of Conduct and reporting cases; crisis support services

MQ supports White Ribbon Day in advocating against and supporting those affected by domestic and family violence, and the Respect.Now.Always initiative at MQ supports a commitment to prevent and respond to sexual assault and harassment across the campus, to build a culture of safety and respect for all. The MQ Equity and Diversity unit coordinates a strong Ally Network which supports a positive and safe workplace for LGBTIQ+ staff and students - local contacts are listed in the following section. Also check out the Queer Space and Women's Room in the vibrant MUSE building. These spaces are arranged to foster a sense of community and to provide a safe space to rest, relax and share information.

Australian Human Rights Commission provide a range of guidelines and practical resources  designed to help promote diversity and prevent discrimination in your workplace

beyondblue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live

Diversity Council Australia is an independent not-for-profit organisation leading workplace diversity programs and may be a useful resource for addressing matters of diversity and inclusion in your team or research centre. In September 2018 Diversity Council Australia has released a new 6-part podcast - The Art of Inclusion - addressing topics from gender equity to mental health and disability at work, through to inclusion of LGBTIQ+, Indigenous and culturally diverse communities. The series features prominent voices and thought leaders associated with these issues in Australia.

headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation provide support to young adults with early intervention mental health services, and promote young people’s wellbeing

indigenous.gov.au can connect you with policies and programs supporting Indigenous safety, wellbeing and culture

*NEW* LGBTIQ Inclusive Language Guide has been released by the Victorian state government, and provides tips for using more inclusive language everyday in the workplace and beyond. Department EDC member, Dr Mikolaj Schmidt, has collated a terrific summary of the guide and his suggested tips in a document available for you here > pdf document

National LGBTI Health Alliance recognises that people’s genders, bodies, relationships, and sexualities affect their health and wellbeing in every domain of their life. They offer a range of resources, contacts and a knowledge hub.

trans101.org.au have created a series of short videos which help create a better understanding of what it means to be transgender and help you to support trans people around you. If videos are not your thing, you can read all about instead - also on their website.

Turing Circle support equity and diversity, and provide a safe space for LGBTIQ+ science and engineering professionals and students in Australia.

Acknowledgement of Country: Staff and students are encouraged to include an Acknowledgement of Country in the program agenda for small events and committee meetings. This is an acknowledgement given by the event lead that recognises and pays respect to the traditional people of the Macquarie University land. A brief explanation and example wording can be found in the attached > pdf document. If you are unsure about how to proceed or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact a member of the leadership within the department, or contact Walanga Muru directly.

Suggested Reading: If you're interested to read more about gender equality (and inequality) in the field of physics or science more broadly, and to discover strategies in place within those communities we recommend the following as good places to start: The AIP decadal plan; American physical society resources; ABC news article from Mar 2018; LGBT+ Inclusivity in Physics and Astronomy: A Best Practices Guide (2nd edition, Apr 2018); Testosterone Rex or The Gender Delusion by Cordelia Fine; Stop Fixing the Women by Catherine Fox; Why Science is Sexist by Nicola Gaston; Lab Girl by Hope Jahren; The Only Woman in the Room by Eileen Pollack; Inferior by Angela Saini; Academy of Science Women in STEM Decadal Plan (released in 2019) available as pdf download;  APS Sexual Harassment article from April 2019; and the OSA SPIE Professional Conduct Report from 2019 available as pdf download


Department Leadership
Head of Department, Prof Michael Steel: Tel. 9850 8916, Email: michael.steel@mq.edu.au
Deputy Head of Department, Prof David Spence: Tel. 9850 8973, Email: david.spence@mq.edu.au
Department Manager, Emma Hastings: Tel. 9850 8911, Email: emma.hastings@mq.edu.au
Health and Safety Officer, Bianca Sawyer Tel. 9850 4167, Email: bianca.sawyer@mq.edu.au

Equity and Diversity Committee 
The Department of Physics and Astronomy maintains an active Equity and Diversity Committee who meet at least five times in the year. Members include academic, research and professional staff, and higher degree research and undergraduate students. Our contact details are linked below.

Emma Hastings (Chair), Dan Zucker, Joanne Dawson, Judith Dawes, Lee Spitler, Michael Steel, Mikolaj Schmidt, Richard McDermid, Tara Dunch, Thomas VolzWilfred Gee, Sarah Caddy, Lyra Cronin

Macquarie University Ally Network local members
The Ally network supports a positive and safe workplace for LGBTIQ+ staff and students. Local members within the Department of Physics and Astronomy are listed below, and may be academic or professional staff. Please don't hesitate to contact an Ally Network member for advice or assistance. And look out for the contacts poster in Department (seen here in mini).

Orsola De Marco; Richard McDermid; Judith DawesMichael Steel; Joanne Dawson; Daniel Zucker; Emma Hastings; Kelly Sharpless; Jenny Morcom; Dave Spence; Rich Mildren; Bianca Sawyer; Sarah Caddy; Wilfred Gee

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