Pleiades Award winners

10 March 2017
Dr JJ Eldridge
Dr JJ Eldridge, "equity is our aim."

The Department of Physics has been awarded the Pleiades Bronze Award from The Astronomical Society of Australia’s (ASA), Inclusive, Diverse and Equitable astronomy (IDEA) chapter, for recognition toward demonstrating a strong commitment to developing practices to improve the work environment for all staff and students.

The award is an accumulation of efforts between many in the department over the past years, including Dr JJ Eldridge whose relationship with the ASA made the achievement possible.

“I’ve been trying to increase our links with the Australian astronomical community, but in New Zealand as yet we don’t have a formal organisation, and to drive links with another country I got involved in the IDEA Chapter of the ASA and found out about the award.”

JJ, who is a member of the Faculty of Science Equity Committee, identifies as transgender and has forged strong associations with the Faculty of Science Rainbow Committee, Trans on Campus and the University LGBTI network since arriving at the University in 2011. Previous academic appointments have been held at Institut d’Astrophysics de Paris, Queen’s University Belfast and Cambridge University.

Alongside JJ’s work with campus organisations, the department conducted a workplace climate survey, led by Dr Frederique Vanholsbeeck and Dr Dion O’Neale, to look at a way of becoming more compliant toward creating an equitable workplace from overseas examples such as JUNO in the UK and Sage in Australia. As a result the department has been working to become more transparent in their decision making and made big efforts to improve communication between colleagues. Therefore, a strong foundation of best practise held the department in good stead when applying for the Pleiades Award.

“When the ASA saw our efforts with our workplace climate survey it was a clear case, it’s cool to apply for something and have a body of your peers in astronomy recognise us for doing the right thing” says JJ. “Equity is our aim, because with equity we become more inclusive and then you get diversity. Diversity just means that everyone doesn’t think the same all the time, it’s a great way to new ideas. People feel welcome here, it’s exciting to see what is going to happen with our student body.”

Dean of Science, Professor John Hosking, is proud of the Department of Physics for winning the Pleiades Award, "this is great news! Congratulations to those in Physics who put the case together."