- Charles Sturt celebrates a career dedicated to excellence in research, teaching, and professional leadership roles
- Title of Emeritus Professor to be conferred on Professor Toni Downes who now resides in Cronulla
- Honorary title recognises the Professor’s outstanding and exemplary contribution to the University and the wider higher education sector
Charles Sturt University (Charles Sturt) will confer the honorary title of Emeritus Professor on leading education academic Professor Toni Downes at the graduation ceremony in Sydney on Tuesday 10 December.
Charles Sturt Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Vann said, “Emeritus Professor Toni Downes served both the University and the wider education sector through a career dedicated to a range of research, academic and professional leadership roles.
“The University has enormous respect for Professor Downes’ contributions to school and university education, and as an outstanding role model is deserving of the title of Emeritus Professor,” he said.
Across her career in education, Professor Downes taught and researched for more than 25 years in universities, and developed and taught programs in curriculum, teaching, learning and educational leadership, with a particular focus on the effective use of digital technologies.
“During her time at Charles Sturt University she made an outstanding and exemplary contribution to the University and the wider higher education sector as well,” Professor Vann said.
Professor Downes said she felt “humbled and proud at the same time”, and thanked the University for the honour.
“While this title acknowledges my contribution over the span of my career, I want to also acknowledge and thank my family and my many colleagues at Charles Sturt University for their emotional support and professional contributions throughout my career,” Professor Downes said.
“Careers and academic achievements do not occur in isolation, and I’m proud that my overall contribution has been for the public good.”
Professor Downes commenced at Charles Sturt in January 2006 in the role of Executive Dean in the Faculty of Education, and in 2015 she was appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Academic) until she retired from the University in July 2018.
Prior to this she was an educational consultant, project leader and classroom teacher in the government and non-government school sectors.
The focus of Professor Downes’ research and professional engagement has been on improving educational outcomes through the effective use of digital technologies.
Her scholarly work has included numerous research and professional projects; over 70 publications; many professional presentations and workshops; and over $1 million in research grants and consultancies. This work explored:
- How young people used digital technologies in their homes and how their use fundamentally changed the ways they engaged in play and learning.
- How schools could harness the affordance of the technologies to improve learning.
- How to improve teachers’ understanding and use of technologies in their classrooms to improve teaching and learning.
This work was picked up by federal and state governments in various initiatives between 1985 and 2010. During this time, Professor Downes also worked in Australian Government projects in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines with a particular focus on how to use hand-held digital devices in mathematics and science education.
Professor Downes has been a keynote or distinguished speaker at international conferences in New Zealand, the United States, England, Switzerland, Hungary, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Wales, China, Finland, and Norway.
Professor Downes’ major achievements as Executive Dean of the Faculty of Education include:
- The introduction of dual sector qualifications for Charles Sturt graduates to improve employment prospects, particularly in small and mid-size regional and rural communities.
- The establishment of a Centre for Indigenous Studies and the appointment of the foundational Chair in Indigenous Studies.
- The achievement of world ranking or above in the 2012 and 2015 ERA results in three of the four education sub-disciplines. These results placed the education discipline in the top 10 in Australia and in the top two at the University during this period.
As President of the Australian Council of Deans of Education she brokered a successful $8.3 million national project to improve Australian teacher education graduates’ understanding and use of technologies in classrooms.
She also negotiated a partnership with Indigenous leaders to improve the engagement and success of Indigenous teacher education students through the $8.4 million MATSITI project.
In her three years as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Downes led the delivery of key outcomes of the 2015-16 University Strategy including:
- Introduction of new disciplines in law and engineering.
- Growth in course profile and load at Port Macquarie.
- Development and early implementation of the Charles Sturt Online Learning Model.