Equity and Diversity Committee

The School of Physics is committed to providing support and resources to create an equitable environment for all members of the department, including students at all levels and visitors. This has been demonstrated through a number of initiatives over the history of the school and now through the formation of the Equity and Diversity committee.

About the Committee

The priorities of the School of Physics and the initiatives driven by the committee include:

  • Equitable recruitment of new staff through female-only hires and equitable hiring policy and processes
  • Improving the understanding of unconscious bias and its impact through training
  • Working with the Faculty of Science and University of Melbourne Diversity and Inclusion committees to create and implement University and Faculty wide initiatives
  • Growing the Women in Physics group
  • Developing a diversity policy and code of conduct to ensure inclusion and acceptance of all members regardless of gender, ethnicity or origin, culture, language, relationship status, pregnancy, sexuality, medical conditions or disability, age and political or religious belief
  • Understanding the department’s need in Diversity and Equity to explore further policies, programs and resources that may be required on a regular basis. A summary of the 2017 School of Physics Climate Survey (PDF 640.6 KB)
  • Ensure the School of Physics has access to faculty and institutional training in the LGBTIQA+, cultural, indigenous and disability spaces
  • Participation in the Athena SWAN Award and the Astronomical Society of Australia's Pleiades Awards.
Jacinta de Besten: Equity and Diversity Committee Chair


If you are interested in becoming involved in the School of Physics Equity and Diversity Committee activities or wish to know more about our initiatives, please feel free to contact the committee chair, Jacinta den Besten (jacinta.den@unimelb.edu.au), or Head of School, Stuart Wyithe (swyithe@unimelb.edu.au).

Join the University of Melbourne Women in Physics Facebook page for further updates from the Committee.

Members of the Committee

  • Jacinta den Besten – Chair
  • Stuart Wyithe – Head of School
  • Caterina Ciciulla
  • Rachel Webster
  • Nicole Bell
  • Jude Prezens
  • Laura Wolz
  • Cate MacQueen (PPSS)
  • Innes Bigaran (PPSS)
  • Christine Lee (PSS)
  • Josephine Stevens – Executive Officer

Equity and Diversity Policies

Our commitment to Equity and Diversity in the School of Physics has resulted in the creation of a number of policies aligned with the University of Melbourne policy library and tailored to the School’s individual needs and philosophy.


Join the University of Melbourne Women in Physics Facebook page for updates on our events.

Women in Physics Camp

Each year we offer a two-night retreat for the female students and staff in the department. This retreat offers talks, mentoring and networking activities and workshops to understand and develop strategies towards combating gender equity issues. In 2018, we were joined by Swinburne University and RMIT and the camp hosted over 50 students, staff and guests. Read more about the camp from 2017 and 2018.

The Women in Physics Camp 2019 will take place from 3-4 May.

Girls in Physics Day

In 2018, the School of Physics hosted over 80 high school students and 11 teachers and treated them to a special version of the Physics July Lectures as part of the 50th anniversary of these lectures. The students also engaged in a panel discussion and were taken on a lab tour by one of the female graduate students in the department.
More information about the Girls in Physics Day will be available soon.

Women in Physics Panel (Physics Student Society)

This annual panel discussion is hosted by the Physics Student Society and discusses being a woman in physics to high school students.

In conversation with…

This is a new program started in 2017, where prominent leaders and scientists are invited to have a round table discussion with the research students to impart their wisdom, and craftiest methods, to tackle inequality in the profession. We have since had visits from the University of Melbourne’s previous Provost and current VC of Queensland University of Technology, Prof Margaret Sheil, and The Social Science founder and science entrepreneur, Michelle Gallaher.

Regular catch up and networking events

Join us for coffee or dinner on one of our regular social events.

RISE (Residential Indigenous Science Experience)

The School of Physics has been involved in this program for Indigenous high school students since its inception. Students spend a week on campus exploring the many areas of science offered at the University of Melbourne.

Upcoming events for 2019

The 60th anniversary of Dr Jean Laby’s PhD submission: This will be a celebration of all the female Physics PhD candidates since Jean Laby being the first in 1959 and the ongoing support of the Laby family through the Laby Foundation.


If you are looking for support or advice related to Equity and Diversity, feel free to contact Jacinta den Besten (jacinta.den@unimelb.edu.au) or Laura Wolz (laura.wolz@unimelb.edu.au). The following links may be helpful. Please note that some require internal access to the University's intranet.


These resources can help you learn about more practical ways to engage:

  • The Institute of Physics lists information on their Diversity initiatives here and advice for teachers on addressing gender imbalance in the class room here
  • The language decoder for Job ads
  • The Pleiades Awards and SAGE awards recognize Astrophysics or STEMM institutions respectively for their efforts in diversity and gender balance
  • The Women in Astronomy blog by the American Astronomical Society Committee on the Status of Women contains many interesting blog posts and links to useful resources
  • Article on gender equality and how to improve the status of women.

We would like to acknowledge the generosity and support for many of these programs from the Laby Foundation, alumni Dr Hugo Stephenson and Student Services and Amenities Fee grants.