Globe-trotting academic to explore Fraser Coast


Associate Professor Elaine Sharplin.

FRASER Coast is a far cry from Peru, South Africa and India but for Associate Professor Elaine Sharplin this region is just as exciting and she’s eager to explore.

University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Fraser Coast’s newest academic is keen to immerse herself in the education scene and go kayaking, hiking, camping and off-road driving in local areas including Fraser Island (pictured).

“I live to travel and taking this position is part of my next travel adventure,” Associate Professor Sharplin (Literacies, Curriculum and Pedagogy) said.

“I’m really looking forward to working with new colleagues and students, exploring opportunities, meeting school principals, staff and students, and immersing myself in Queensland’s education system.

“This position gives me an opportunity to explore Queensland, which is relatively new to me. I’m looking forward to exploring the east coast and hinterland areas as far up as Cape York.”

USQ Vice Chancellor and President Professor Jan Thomas welcomed Associate Professor Sharplin to the University saying she was a valued addition to the team of academic and professional staff.

“Her expertise, particularly in rural and regional education, is highly regarded and we look forward to having her on board to enhance USQ’s range of programs and partnerships with schools, industry, government and the wider community,” Professor Thomas said.

Exploring education internationally

Associate Professor Sharplin was born in Victoria but lived most of her life in Perth.

She has worked in rural and metropolitan schools as Secondary English Teacher, been a Regional School Development Advisor, co-ordinated communications, workplace and women’s programs at TAFE in Port Headland, and conducted research as a consultant before spending the past 15 years at The University of Western Australia as Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning) and Secondary Teacher Education Program Co-ordinator.

Her research interests include Rural and Regional Education, English and Literacy Education, Early Career Teacher Development, Pre-service Teacher Education, Curriculum and Pedagogy.

Associate Professor Sharplin has a strong record of supervising higher degree (Masters and Doctoral) students in a broad range of areas.


Visiting Fraser Island’s Maheno shipwreck is on Associate Professor Elaine Sharplin’s travel bucket list.

She also Editor for the Australian and International Journal for Rural Education.

“Because of my interest in rural and remote education, I’ve previously worked with Indigenous communities and am keen to get to know the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of the Fraser Coast and beyond.”

Associate Professor Sharplin said she hit the ground running as she arrived in Hervey Bay in late January.

“I arrived on the Monday, settled on a house in Urangan on the Tuesday and started at USQ Fraser Coast on the Wednesday,” she said.

“Before that I had been in India for a month and flew back to Perth the day before coming to Hervey Bay.”

Her travels last year took her to India, Tanzania and South Africa while on long-service leave, and also to a remote village in Peru where she conducted a study of parents and students’ education aspirations.

“In Peru I was billeted with a family, taught English to students and met with parents, staff and parent association members to collect data about the aspirations of the parents and children.

“I also explored what barriers may have been inhibiting the achievement of those aspirations.

“What was fascinating was that many of the issues in relation to Peru’s rural and remote education were very similar to the Australian context.

“There were similar issues around the attraction and retention of teachers and subsequently the quality of teaching, as well as issues of geographic and economic disadvantage.

“The similarities were quite astounding.

“In Tanzania I had an opportunity to visit some schools and look at the experiences of disadvantaged girls’ education.”

Associate Professor Sharplin has also travelled widely across to the globe to places such as Vietnam, Cambodia, South America, North America and Europe.

Her 23-year-old daughter, a primary school teacher, and 19-year-old son are still living in Perth.



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Do you work with a corporate psychopath?

WHILE it’s common for workers to claim their bosses are psychopaths, research shows only one per cent of Australia’s population can be officially classed with the personality disorder.

Stephen Bell, Hervey Bay and Maryborough Hospital director community and allied health, said that percentage increased to 3.5% in the corporate world and 25% in correctional centres.

Mr Bell, a registered psychologist of 20 years, said the corporate executive world statistically had a higher level of individuals with psychopathic traits than the general population, particularly in senior positions.

“That’s partly because some corporate environments have cultures that favour manipulative, egotistical, and self-centred managerial behaviour leadership styles that get results.

“In addition, if these executives are delivering to, and meeting the corporate objectives of the business, attention to these negative tendencies may be overlooked.”

Mr Bell will talk about psychopathology in the workplace when he presents the next professional development session for health experts at University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Fraser Coast this Tuesday, February 17.

“I will spend quite a bit of time talking about personality disorders. In particular I’ll delve into functional psychopathy,” Mr Bell said.

“That’s about people who have traits which predispose them to having low levels of empathy, self-serving, opportunistic, ego-centric and ruthlessness but who can also mask these traits by being superficially charming and persuasive.”

Mr Bell said that while psychopathic traits were undesirable in most work places, those same traits might predispose workers to doing better in other careers that require quick and ruthless decision-making with low levels of empathy for other people.

“Research shows that people who are able remain detached and have limited empathy can be quite suitable in niche careers, for example you wouldn’t want that in a social worker but you would in a sniper.”

Mr Bell’s session, hosted by the Fraser Coast Health Professionals Local Education Research Nexus (FCHP: LEARN), will also cover the workplace impacts of other personality and mental health issues such as social skill deficits, marital and family problems, depression and anxiety.

“I’ve got some contemporary statistics on those topics which people should find interesting in terms of prevalence of those conditions in the general population and therefore in the workplace as well.”

Some of theoretical explanations of psychopathology will also be discussed.

“Is maladaptive behaviour biological or behavioural? For example, is it an imbalance in brain chemistry? Has it been learnt over time? Or is it a combination of both?”

Mr Bell said shift work, imbalances between work and personal lives, and even physical work conditions such as exposure to chemicals or excessive noise could also impact on psychopathology.

He will wrap-up the session with strategies for accommodating pathological behaviour including how to support co-workers and employees.

“There is a range of solutions such as redesigning tasks, making environmental changes and allowing more flexible hours.”

Mr Bell has been employed by Queensland Health for 19 years, working in health management roles for the past nine years. He has held several executive leadership positions in hospital health services in the Sunshine Coast and Wide Bay areas.

Mr Bell has clinical expertise in acute mental health care and in the area of complex psychological trauma and child abuse. He has presented papers at state and international conferences on collaborative models for the treatment of traumatised and disabled children in state care.

Registration for this Tuesday’s workshop can be completed online. Registered participants will receive a Certificate of Attendance. Members of the public are also welcome.

Where:            USQ Fraser Coast, 161 Old Maryborough Road, Hervey Bay.

When:             5.15pm to 7.15pm, Tuesday February 17.

Cost:               $35.


Photo: Three and a half per cent of Australia’s psychopaths can be found in corporate boardrooms.

USQ student ambassador digs archaeology

FROM Australia’s Arnhem Land to Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, the world will become one big digging patch for University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Student Ambassador Elli Tonscheck after she completes her Bachelor of Arts (Archaeology) this year.

Now in her third and final year of Undergraduate studies, Ms Tonscheck is looking forward to discovering where her university qualification will take her. To register as an archaeologist she also needs to complete a one-year Honours degree in 2016.


USQ Student Ambassador Elli Tonscheck looks forward to exploring the world. PHOTO: Contributed.

“I went to Europe in 2012 and can’t wait to do some more travelling and see where my qualifications take me. It’s very exciting,” Ms Tonscheck said.

“When I tell people I’m studying archaeology, they automatically think of Egypt and Rome. That’s what I imagined too at first but there’s also so much to uncover in Australia. My heart really lies with Australian Indigenous history.”

Originally from Highfields near Toowoomba, Ms Tonscheck, 20, credits her early life on the family farm and a high school teacher for inspiring her to pursue archaeology as a career.

“My father was always interested in history and I learnt a lot from him. At high school my Ancient History teacher said you have only one chance at living a great life, so go out there and live it!”

Ms Tonscheck said that although she was non-Indigenous, the work her USQ lecturers were doing in Australia’s Arnhem Land had been truly inspiring.

“USQ’s Professor Bryce Barker and Associate Professor Lara Lamb have done extensive work on the rock art in Arnhem Land at a site called Gabarnmung. They have also worked with Indigenous groups in Papua New Guinea and the Whitsunday Islands.

“What I enjoy most about their research process, is they practice community-based archaeology, where every single one of their research projects has a positive outcome for the local Indigenous community on the land they are working.

“This shows they have a deep understanding of their impact as researchers, truly caring about the Indigenous communities.

“I think it’s really important that Australia’s history is told, and not just the white history, but that of the incredible Indigenous history that surpasses 1788.”

Ms Tonscheck said that at USQ, archaeology undergraduates had the opportunity to volunteer their time to work in laboratories where they sort through excavated material.

“This is a fantastic opportunity which you would not necessarily receive at larger institutions. I find this work to not just be a fantastic learning opportunity but also an incredibly rewarding experience.”

In 2013, Ms Tonscheck was awarded the Don and Barbara Stevens Scholarship, which has a maximum value of $15,000 and is dedicated to the former USQ Chancellor Don Stevens who worked at USQ from 1996 to 2006.

“This scholarship will last the duration of my degree, assuring that I can complete my studies while getting the most out of my university experience,” she said.

“It has opened up so many opportunities and ways for me to become more involved with USQ, through which I have been able to express my immense gratitude for this incredible donation.”

PHOTO: USQ’s Professor Bryce Barker and Associate Professor Lara Lamb have done extensive work on Aboriginal rock art in Arnhem Land.