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Thursday 24 October 2019 12:08pm

The 2019 winners of University of Otago Staff Awards at a celebration at the Clocktower last week (from left) Rachel Kinnaird, Campus Watch representative Peter Corbett, Brian Donnelly and Rachael Holloway. Photos: Sharron Bennett.

A staff member who has been at Otago for 33 years is the recipient of this year's Award for Exceptional Performance by a member of Professional Staff.

Brian Donnelly, a Senior Adviser, Superannuation, Retirement & Staff Benefits in HR's Promotions & Remuneration team, received his award at a special ceremony in the Clocktower Building last Friday afternoon.

Alongside this, the 2019 Health and Safety Awards were also presented. The Excellence Award in Health and Safety (Individual) went to Gross Anatomy Manager Rachel Kinnaird, the Excellence Award in Health and Safety (Team) went to Campus Watch, and the Excellence Award in Health and Safety (Member of the wider Health and Safety team) went to Physiology's Compliance Officer Rachael Holloway.

Brian Donnelly - 2019 Award for Exceptional Performance by Professional Staff

Brian Donnelly.

The Professional Staff Award was created in 2004 to recognise and reward members of the general staff who have made an outstanding contribution to the University of Otago.

Brian's nomination cites both his quantitative and anecdotal contributions – and both are vast.

Since he took up his current role 14 years ago, the number of staff members enrolled in a superannuation scheme has climbed significantly. There are currently approximately 3,500 University staff enrolled in a superannuation scheme, an increase from around 2,000 in 2010. There are more UniSaver (NZUSS) members at Otago than any other University including the much larger Auckland, and the numbers continue to climb.

Those who have received advice from him are full of praise. One described him as “one of the most useful, kind, supportive people on this planet” another said “I really feel Brian needs to be acknowledged – do whatever you can to retain, promote, genetically clone and make sure the Uni keeps Brian forever!”

The praise is lighthearted, but highlights his knowledge and kindness.

"It just goes to show that after 50 years working, and at age 68, that one should never give up, and always keep your standards high."

Brian says he feels extremely honoured by the Award.

“I feel very humble that I was chosen ahead of so many other well deserving Professional Staff, as one never expects to win something like this.

“It just goes to show that after 50 years working, and at age 68, that one should never give up, and always keep your standards high.”

Brian came to the University from the District Health Board in 1986, working as Payroll/HRMIS Manager from 1986 – 2005, before moving to his current role.

He credits his upbringing, in a loving, but poor Catholic family, for giving him his moral compass, which he hopes he has used wisely all of his career.

“I have worked in Banking, Payroll, as a Management Accountant, Superannuation, Budgets and retirement planning, so I have always worked with numbers and money, and even the most complex matters I love explaining to those who have difficulty understanding these matters. It gives me a huge buzz where staff come to me in trepidation, and leave with a huge smile, because I found them a solution, and explained in simple terms things they could not understand.

“I care about staff, and I truly believe that every problem has a solution, so it is up to me/us to find that solution. Many would say that I go too far, but where staff are distressed, and are worried about their job, not having enough money to retire, or a personal issue, it is wonderful to find the solution, or go to the right people to make it happen.”

2019 Excellence Award in Health and Safety (Team) - Campus Watch

Peter Corbett.

Campus Watch received this year's Health and Safety Team award for their proactive work with the Fire Service towards fire safety.

For the last three years Campus Watch Teams have led a self-initiated campaign to provide fire safety advice to student flats and ensure all flats have a working smoke alarm. Collaborating with Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ), the Otago Regional Council and OUSA Student Support, the team proactively visits more than 1,000 student flats at the beginning of each year to have a face-to-face conversation about fire safety, and provide a free smoke alarm check.

The initiative was prompted by a flat fire in June 2016, which seriously injured two students. A Fire Service investigation showed that two smoke alarms installed in January 2016 had been taken down and placed in a cupboard.

Campus Watch Team Leader Peter Corbett says the team is humbled, and very grateful for the appreciation shown with the award which has boosted staff morale.

“It has been very uplifting for the teams,” he says.

“Campus Watch Staff saw a void, and identified a real need to educate students in their first year of flatting. As a professional firefighter of 30 years I probably was able to recognise this more readily. Fire Safety in the student flat was the focus, but we also used this opportunity to promote effective Smoke alarm operation.

“Campus Watch saw the instruction of Fire safety in the student flat as very pertinent to our Pastoral Care cause, and a very good opportunity to interact closely with our students.”

2019 Excellence Award in Health and Safety (Individual) - Rachel Kinnaird

Rachel Kinnaird.

Gross Anatomy Manager Rachel Kinnaird received her award for the work she has done in supporting the mental health of her team.

Head of the Department of Anatomy Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith describes Ms Kinnaird as a leader whose compassion for others stands out as a key strength.

“She utilises this compassion in many ways but specifically in the area of mental health and wellbeing, not just for the team she supervises, but also for the wider Department of Anatomy community. Her kind and cheerful demeanour is one very important part of this but equally, Rachel is not afraid to get involved, to ask the hard questions and, most importantly, to notice, reach out, and listen to those who are struggling.”

As well as supporting and strengthening her own team, since coming to the University in 2015 she has introduced a number of mental health initiatives within her department – including a photo competition for Mental Health Awareness week in 2017; the introduction of Kudos cards that staff and students can use to provide positive feedback or thanks to another person; and getting the department involved in Gumboot Friday for the IAmHope mental health charity.

"Mental well-being is a passion of mine and has been for most of my life. If I can use the Health and Safety platform to get more people aware of the importance of an holistic approach to employee well-being then that's what I'll do."

Ms Kinnaird says she shares her award with her entire team.

“Each member has played a vital role in maintaining the health and safety of the areas for which we are guardians.

“Most of all I am incredibly proud of how they have come together to support each other's mental wellbeing and for acknowledging the value of maintaining a holistically healthy workplace. It makes my job a joy.”

Ironically, while her nominees Carol Dunstone and Professor Matisoo-Smith were nominating her for the Individual award, she was was co-nominating (with Carina Perner) her team for the team award.

“So I see it as a win for us all.

“Mental well-being is a passion of mine and has been for most of my life. If I can use the Health and Safety platform to get more people aware of the importance of an holistic approach to employee well-being then that's what I'll do. The drivers of employee well-being are: social connectedness, job satisfaction, financial security, emotional and physical health. Being in a position to be able to impact these in a positive way is a responsibility not taken lightly.”

2019 Excellence Award in Health and Safety (Member of the wider Health and Safety team) - Rachael Holloway

Rachael Holloway.

Physiology's Compliance Officer Rachael Holloway was very surprised to win the award, but says it is great to know that her Department appreciates what she does and that she can help reduce their 'compliance anxiety'.

“It takes time to build up knowledge of all the various rules and regulations and within the Department we have worked together over the years to get good processes in place. I am fortunate to have had very supportive HoD's, and also supportive research and technical staff in the Department, which helps implementing processes and keeping track of what is going on much easier.”

Her award recognises her work quietly but effectively managing and minimising risk, and ensuring compliance within the large and varied Department of Physiology.

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