We thank Professor Gwynnyth Llewellyn for her time as Dean
15 August 2012
Professor Gwynnyth Llewellyn, a distinguished alumnus of the University (PhD, Dip OT, BA, MEd, Dip Cont Ed), led the Faculty of Health Sciences through an extraordinary transformation during her seven-year term as Dean. We take this opportunity to celebrate her achievements and to acknowledge her dedication to the faculty, and the energy she has devoted to all its endeavours as she steps down in 2012 from her role as Dean.
In 2005 when Gwynnyth first took up the role of Dean, the Faculty of Health Sciences was a very different organisation to the internationally renowned Faculty of Health Sciences that it is today. Under Gwynnyth's guidance and leadership, inspired by her vision, the faculty has succeeded in becoming internationally renowned for its education and research in allied health and health sciences.
The faculty is now known internationally for its research excellence in disability, rehabilitation, exercise and health, and functioning. It is Gwynnyth's vision that ensured the faculty secured its position on the world stage. The faculty is also known for its world-class education and for graduating students with an international perspective. Gwynnyth has led the faculty in forging strong alliances with non-government and government organisations nationally as well as international agencies such as the World Health Organization.
Under Gwynnyth's leadership, the faculty has seen an exponential growth in research, placed greater emphasis on post-graduate education, established creative learning methods, established an international portfolio and internationalised all curricula, and succeeded in attracting and retaining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff.
The faculty has seen unparalleled success with the FHS Abroad program, providing all students with access to an international experience. Collaborations with the World Health Organization have also resulted in the establishment of the WHO Collaborating Centre in Health Workforce Development in Rehabilitation and Long-term care under designation, and contributions to the first-ever World Report on Disability, including hosting a symposium for the Asia Pacific region at the University in December 2011.
Gwynnyth has set the agenda for allied health in the global community. She has energetically fostered relationships with allied health professional bodies, mentored leading academics to contribute to public debate and health policy, and has herself taken the lead on the international stage in her area of research in disability.
At the beginning of her career, Gwynnyth worked as an occupational therapist with various organisations, including the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service, Melbourne, and various hospitals in Sydney and the UK. It was in 1982 that she commenced work in the area of disability, with the Severely Handicapped Children's Program, marking the beginning of a career in disability, an area in which she has become an international research leader. At this time she also re-established her academic links, returning to the University as a fractional lecturer in the School of Occupational Therapy in 1985, becoming a full-time academic at the end of that year. She was appointed Sesquicentenary Professor and Foundation Chair, Occupational and Leisure Sciences in 2002, prior to her appointment as Dean in 2005.
Gwynnyth had a distinguished career working in the disability sector prior to joining the University, and her contribution has continued throughout her term as Dean. Her contribution to the field of disability has been extremely influential. She has held many directorships and ministerial appointments, including Director of the Board of the Royal Rehabilitation Centre, Sydney, NSW, Disability Research and Development Group, Department of Community Services Research Advisory Council, Children's Court Advisory Committee, Inaugural Expert Advisory Group for the NSW Commission for Children and Young People, Director of the Association of Children's Welfare Agencies and Director of the NSW Council for Intellectual Disability.
Gwynnyth's own research in the field of disability continues to be a passion, particularly the effect of intellectual disability on families. Her principal area of interest is parents with intellectual disability and increasingly she is also working in the area of disability and development. While her work has been published extensively in the international academic literature, I know Gwynnyth's collaboration and friendship with internationally renowned collaborators such as Professor Eric Emerson of the Centre for Disability Research, Lancaster University and Alana Officer and Tom Shakespeare of the World Health Organization has been a career highlight.
Gwynnyth strongly believes in research collaboration and the importance of links with the relevant professions and influential organisations. She has been dedicated to the recruitment of highly regarded professors into the academic ranks of the faculty from universities across Australia and around the world. Her reason for this is to strengthen our areas of research excellence, increase the quality of research output and improve the student experience.
Gwynnyth's prodigious work ethic is legendary. She is extremely capable and executes all her responsibilities with enormous intelligence as well as efficiency and creativity. In addition to all these skills, Gwynnyth is an impressive orator and always captures the imagination of her audience, particularly our students, for whom she has obvious respect. She takes great delight in engaging with young minds and fostering talent.
While acknowledging the importance of the faculty's international links and aspirations, and transformation of the faculty into an internationally recognised allied health academic unit, Gwynnyth's principal focus has been on nurturing and resourcing a respectful academic community to which bright and creative thinkers are attracted and in which scholarly excellence flourishes. As a result, many illustrious alumni have been welcomed back to the University and engaged in the life of the faculty.
After completing her term as Dean, Gwynnyth will take on her next challenge, that of ensuring the success of the emergent WHO Collaborating Centre and the Centre for Disability Research and Policy and ensuring the work is relevant to those who most need it.
We thank Gwynnyth for such significant contributions to the faculty, to allied health and to the disability sector, and congratulate her on her enormous achievements. We look forward to continuing to work with her as she, no doubt, forges new and even more challenging directions for the world of disability.