Equity, Access and Diversity in the School of Physics

The School of Physics, like the University of Sydney as a whole, aims to provide an environment for learning and working where our students, staff and visitors feel comfortable and included. Our goal is to provide an environment that is equitable and supportive for all staff and students, free of conscious and unconscious bias, with access to facilities, learning and work open to all.

We recognise the the need for continuous improvement and are working to identify and remove biases based on gender, ethnicity or origin, culture, language, relationship status, pregnancy, sexuality, race, medical conditions or disability, age and political or religious belief.


In an effort to further this goal, the School has established a Physics Equity and Access Committee (PEAC) that aims to

  • devise policies and priorities and implement actions to make the School environment equitable and supportive for all staff and students,
  • raise awareness of equity, access and diversity within the School,
  • promote transparency and expand channels of communication within the School and the University
  • provide advice to staff and students within the School concerning equity and access issues.

The PEAC web pages describe the committee membership and link to committee documentation.

Equity, Access and Diversity - Support and Advice

The School has appointed Equity Officers whose role is to act as a point of contact for staff or students who may have a query or concern about any issues relating to equity, access or diversity in the School of Physics.

The Equity Officers are:

Boris Kuhlmey Boris Kuhlmey, who has particular interest in issues encountered by minorities, including LGBTIQ students and staff, and those affected by disease and disability.
Maryanne Large Maryanne Large, with a particular interests in the interests of women and those from different cultural backgrounds.
Andrew Sheldon-Collins Andrew Sheldon-Collins, who has a particular interest in issues encountered by those experiencing PTSD or mood disorders; issues facing law-enforcment, emergency services and military veterans; and the interests of professional staff.

Although these interests have been nominated, each of the Equity Officers would welcome any enquiry from any member of the School about queries or concerns related to equity, access or diversity.

If you would prefer to report an issue anonymously, you can describe it on PEAC's Anonymous Report Form

You are also welcome to discuss any matters related to PEAC and its activities with the co-chairs of PEAC, Associate Professor John O'Byrne and Ms Eve Teran. They can be contacted at .

Also, the Head of School is always open to any staff member or student with an issue to discuss.

For support outside the School of Physics you are encouraged to contact:

Staff seeking information to support students should consult the Student Support intranet page and the Specialist advice and support of students booklet (pdf).

Physics Initiatives

Apart from these various modes of offering support and advice, the School of Physics has adopted a set of Local Provisions as a first step in establishing processes to help the School towards its aim to provide an environment for learning and working where our students, staff and visitors feel comfortable and included. Among the provisions are:

  • Wherever possible school meetings will be scheduled 'family-friendly' core hours from 10am to 2pm.
  • All School positions will be offered with a part-time/job share option and with a flexible time basis.
  • The School has adopted the university-wide gender targets of 40% women at level E and 45% at level D, but with a target date of 2025.
  • The School has set the additional target of an average of at least 40% women for new appointments to continuing academic positions.
  • Short-lists for all positions will have a target of 40% women and 25% culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) candidates.
  • Short-lists for all positions will include at least the top-ranked female and CALD applicants.
  • All conferences and workshops led and organised by Physics staff will actively ensure female and CALD staff and students are represented as speakers, invited speakers and LOC/SOC members.
  • The School expects women and CALD staff to be represented on all School committees at least in proportion to their fraction within the group from which members of that committee are drawn.
  • The will seek to ensure that every academic and professional people manager, selection panel member, involved in recruitment or promotion processes, and other decision makers to complete unconscious bias training, preferably prior to taking on their role. (A good start is to test your own unconscious bias.

Follow the Local Provisions link for more details.

The School has also initiated a variety of other programs:

  • In late 2014 we conducted an on-line Survey of our staff and postgraduate students, collecting some demographic information, but primarily aiming to seek out the experiences, concerns and ideas around equity, access and diversity issues. The Survey results suggest that overall the School is a generous and collegial place to work but there remain matters of concern to some staff and students.
  • In late 2015 we conducted a similar, but shorter on-line Alumni Survey, seeking out their perspective on the work environment and culture in the School. We would also welcome the involvement of any of our alumni in our work on equity, access and diversity issues. These Survey results are currently being analysed.
  • In 2015 the School of Physics obtained permission from the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board to offer the prestigious Professor Harry Messel Research Fellowship to women only (also with a part-time option) as a positive effort to attract women applicants and address the gender imbalance in the School.
  • Submissions in late 2015 for ARC Centres of Excellence (CoE) have included commitments to offering academic positions in Physics at Sydney, leading to continuing positions, as female-only appointments.
  • The School has begun an ECR Staff Development Funding program to contribute funds towards attendance by Early Career Researchers (ECRs) at external (non-research) workshops or short courses related to development of leadership or management skills, or equity, access and diversity in the workplace or in careers in science. Preference will generally be given to ECRs who are women or represent a minority group within the School’s staff (note that professional staff may access support from the Professional Staff Development Fund).
  • An Early Career Women in Physics afternoon tea was held in October 2015 to support and encourage women in physics. Female honours students, postgraduates and postdocs were encouraged to attend. A breakfast was arranged for all staff and students to mark International Women's Day on 8 March 2016.
  • The Sydney Institute for Astronomy(SIfA) has instituted the Hunstead Merit Award, providing $5k top-up funds for up to 2 students beginning a PhD with SIfA, with one reserved for women and other groups under-represented within the astronomical community.
  • A new Parent/First Aid room has been opened in room 104 of the Physics building. It includes features such as a breastfeeding chair, refrigerator for milk/baby food, a change table and a lounge (see the photo below). A change table has also been installed in the Unisex Accessible Toilet (room 215A).
Parenting/First Aid Room
  • An Equity, Access and Diversity statement has been inserted in all Unit Outlines for undergraduate students. It highlights the School's commitment to equity of access and opportunity and the channels available to report concerns.
  • A scheme has been implemented to use students to deliberately diversify the markers of 3rd year project reports.
  • The Autumn 2016 issue of the Physics News was dedicated to the women in the School of Physics, telling some of their stories in recognition of the contribution of women in various positions to the work of the School.
  • The number and diversity of Physics Profiles is being increased to better represent the range of people who are Physics graduates and the diverse range of jobs they have.
  • Information and resources related to Equity, Access and Diversity have been collected on the Equity, Access and Diversity Links page.

Other initiatives are under discussion and further suggestions are always welcome.

PEAC reports

Test your Unconscious Bias

Equality versus Equity - Adapted from http://indianfunnypicture.com/equality-doesnt-mean-justice-pic

(Adapted from http://indianfunnypicture.com)

Harvard has created a revealing series of online Implicit Association Tests (IATs) you might like to try. These study our unconscious bias in various categories using randomised, anonymous quick testing. They typically only take 10 minutes, provided you can ensure no distractions.

Among the most interesting might be the Gender-Science, Gender-Career, Sexuality, Disability and Race IATs.

This is not an exercise in being branded as sexist or racist etc. It is instead designed to raise awareness of any potential unconscious bias that can then be overcome to ensure our behaviour is as fair and equitable as possible.


The Equity, Access and Diversity Links page lists a wide variety of resources provided within the University and beyond. Information includes:

  • Physics Facilities
  • University Policies
  • University Staff Intranet links which describe many of the resources and facilities available to staff (and students)
  • Science Faculty Links including the Women in Science project
  • Other University links including the ALLY Network for LGBTIQ students and staff
  • Relevant University courses
  • External Links

Contact us

Contact the PEAC co-Chairs at