The Interview Australia
Murdoch University
Pro Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Rebecca Bennett

In the realm of higher education, the importance of having diverse voices lead conversations isn't just a matter of equity; it's also a practical approach to problem-solving, recognising that those closest to the issue often hold the key to the most effective solutions. This understanding is central to the work done by Rebecca Bennett, Pro Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Western Australia’s Murdoch University, who has worked tirelessly to put students’ voices at the heart of the conversation. 

In this edition of The Interview, Rebecca met with Co-Host Luke James to discuss questions ranging from how to sustain long-term engagement in EDI initiatives to the role of intersectionality in combating abuse and harassment. 

Rebecca's Journey

Luke: Let’s kick off with a quick introduction to yourself, your role, and your institution. 

I’m Rebecca Bennett, and I’m the Pro Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Murdoch University in Western Australia. I sit on the university’s executive committee as part of the senior leadership team. I also maintain an academic role as the Associate Dean of Research in the School of Indigenous Knowledge, so I have plenty to keep me occupied! As part of our university’s 2030 strategy, we have appointed a PVC for each of our three pillars: Sustainability, First Nations, and EDI. Our goal is to reorient the university towards those values to create a more socially and environmentally conscious learning community. 

Luke: What are the key things to keep in mind when building a sense of inclusion and belonging across an entire institution?

Let people from minority, marginalised, or diverse backgrounds lead the conversation. For example, if you are establishing an initiative which will affect cultural or linguistic minorities, you need to listen to the students and staff from those communities. In Australia, the same applies to First Nations peoples, the LGBTQ community, or people with disabilities. Make sure your key stakeholders aren’t only your senior leaders, but the people themselves. The whole goal is to make sure their voices are heard and that they feel empowered and celebrated. They are the experts on their own inclusion, and they know what they need and what they want to see. 

Luke: Students have many demands on their time, and they often find themselves pulled in different directions. How do you encourage them to get involved in EDI issues?

Equity is not an add-on: it needs to be embedded in everything we do. All of us need to play a part, from our leaders, academics and student support staff. At its core, equity is about how one individual treats another, so it needs to be everyone’s responsibility. The big challenge is ensuring that equity is top-down, bottom-up, and middle-out so that you have stakeholders at every level of the institution. Students shouldn’t need to invest time on top of their studies: it should be ingrained into everything they do. But just as importantly, they shouldn’t need to fight to get the support they need. If a student is disabled or neurodivergent, they shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get the accommodations or adjustments they are entitled to. So we need to take that burden away from students; it should be our responsibility to provide them with the tools they need to thrive.

Luke: How do you make sure students and staff stay invested in EDI initiatives on a long-term basis?

It’s difficult because it’s often viewed as “extra work.” But I really do think it should be seen and valued as people’s work. So, if students take a course on inclusion, they should get course credit for that. Sometimes, if people don’t complete their training, it can cause more harm than good: people can be too eager to show off how inclusive they are, but they forget to ask for input from the marginalised groups who are actually affected. So it’s vital that people see it through to the end. However, students have busy lives, and it can be difficult to ask them to give up their free time, so we need to make sure their efforts are valued, whether that’s academically or even financially. 

Luke: Safety and harassment are huge concerns for many students, and students from marginalised backgrounds are often the most affected. From an intersectional perspective, what are some additional considerations that practitioners need to think about when addressing these issues?

It’s not only an equity issue; it impacts every aspect of student life. But if we do good equity work, such as challenging gender roles and the objectification of women, we can help to prevent bullying, harassment, and violence. In Australia, it’s become a highly public issue, and our ministers have been calling for a wider response. But I think with this kind of work, success is not always visible, and sometimes visibility can undermine the desired outcome. The moment you try to brand it, you can reduce its effectiveness. For example, there was a recent campaign in Australia that compared consent to a milkshake: that’s not just cringeworthy, but it’s also counterproductive. 

At Murdoch, 40% of our students are international, so we can’t just take a Eurocentric approach to these challenges. We need to understand that not everyone is comfortable talking about these issues publicly. So it’s important to provide safe, private spaces to discuss consent and find culturally appropriate ways to open discourse and explain how that relates to Australia’s cultural and legal framework. 

Luke: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career?

Focusing on doing, not showing. It’s not enough to make noise about an issue, the goal is achieving meaningful cultural change, so you need to actually get out there and make a difference.

Curious to see what the future of training looks like?
Luke James
Luke works hand-in-hand with leaders and changemakers in our professional services markets. If you want to join the next series of The Interview, or just learn more about GoodCourse, then get in touch at

The future of training is here, are you ready for it?

Tired of chasing your learners to complete dull training? Let's speak today👇
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.