Prof. Adam Shoemaker with Danielle Kanatas

Episode 16: Prof. Adam Shoemaker with Danielle Kanatas

After she experienced first-hand the profound impact that healthcare workers could have on one's life, Danielle Kanatas wanted to explore how she could contribute to society herself. Hear more of Danielle's fascinating story.

Show notes

After she experienced first-hand the profound impact that healthcare workers could have on one's life, Danielle Kanatas wanted to explore how she could contribute to society herself.

With a background ranging from training with the Matildas in the Premier League to Public Relations and marketing, Danielle sought something more. This led her to Biomedical Science at Victoria University and – subsequently – to becoming the student representative on the VU Council.

She is now progressing her dreams towards a career in health – and her giving nature is palpable every day...

This podcast is hosted by



Adam Shoemaker

Adam Shoemaker

Professor Adam Shoemaker has extensive experience in the Australian University sector and is one of Australia's leading researchers in Indigenous literature and culture. He commenced as the Vice-Chancellor and President of Victoria University in December 2020 after four years as Vice-Chancellor of Southern Cross University. He spent his formative years in a diverse range of fields, such as reviewer and columnist for The Australian, an ABC Canberra Radio programmer, serving as chair of the Brisbane Writers Festival in the mid-1990s and spending three years with the Delegation of the Commission of the European Committees.

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Danielle Kanatas

Danielle Kanatas

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Hello and welcome. I'm here to provide acknowledgement of country. For those who don't know me, I'm kj Karen Jackson, director of Moon d Bock. My genealogy tracks back to Mora Lakes in Bama Forest and Mount Hope in Pyramid Hill, giving me my connections to yada, yada and bar language groups. There's a couple of things I'd like you to take away from my acknowledgement. The first is to remember the hidden history of Aboriginal people since invasion, our loss of language removal from country, and our new extinction from massacres and pandemics. The second is our strong and inherent connection to community and country. These connections have given us the resilience and courage to rebuild our languages, gain access to country, regenerate our cultural practices in acknowledging the traditional owners of the country on which you are now on. I'd like to sincerely thank them for their generosity and kindness in welcoming people onto their lands. Lands never seated and lands that run deep into their being and spirit. I wish to pay my deep respect to the ancestors, elders, communities, and families of the Ang Undre on whose land I stand and who create connection and share knowledge with all of us. Thank you.

Speaker 1 00:01:16 Hello, colleagues. It's fantastic. Again, thank you KJ Fier. Amazing acknowledgement of country and welcome to all of us. It's really significant. We are grateful daily for that message because it's when we, which we not only want and need, but which we really recognize and respect as well. The lens of the warri ang are powerful lens, and we are very privileged to be sharing them. I also want to welcome you to the people of VU podcast, which is one of our last for 2022, but one of the most interesting as well. And thank you to everyone who has listened throughout the year. I really hope you found it as valuable as we have. We've enjoyed it immensely. And today it's a delight to be joined by Danielle Knasis, who's not only proud by medical science student here at vu, but also, and very importantly, the student representative on the VU Council. Danielle, it's super to have you with us.

Speaker 2 00:02:06 Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1 00:02:07 It's just great, you know, and I must admit it's been one we we've been looking forward to for a long time. And can I just ask you, Danielle, because I know that you are a person who's very proud of being here, very proud of your heritage, very proud of the whole ensemble of all of that. Tell us a little bit about where you grew up. Were, were you, were you born here in Melbourne? I understand

Speaker 2 00:02:26 Indeed, yes. Yep. I grew up in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. I am Australian Greek, a granddaughter of Greek immigrants raised here locally. Played, played ample sports. Sport was a big part of, of our childhood, namely tennis, basketball. Really enjoyed playing a bit of soccer too. I I, I played for the Premier League here in soccer, so I played with some very talented, very talented women.

Speaker 1 00:02:56 So, just pause for a second then, just, just so we know, that just slipped through carefully, but the Premier League is not a small thing to achieve. So what position did you play and when did you do it?

Speaker 2 00:03:06 So it depends on, on, so I, I played with individuals that played with the, the Matildas actually. Yeah. So depending on when they were on tour, if they were on tour or not, it depended on where I played, but predominantly left back, which was great. Yeah.

Speaker 1 00:03:23 What would you say was one of your most proud moments doing that, which is fabulous experience?

Speaker 2 00:03:28 Yeah. Just the, the team spirit. It just being a part of a community that was well aligned. You know, we worked hard, we worked really hard. It, it was a, it was really a wonderful experience. Yeah.

Speaker 1 00:03:50 Oh, and are you good in the air?

Speaker 2 00:03:51 Good in the air,

Speaker 1 00:03:52 Yeah. You know, with your head.

Speaker 2 00:03:55 Yeah. Not too bad. Not too bad. Not too bad. Yeah.

Speaker 1 00:03:58 That's, that's useful. That's a good theme for today, isn't it? To be good with your head because it's actually good with, it's what we say, men's Santa in cor you know, a healthy mind and a healthy body together. And we need that in that view. I

Speaker 2 00:04:09 Am very tall. I can bridge things up very high. That helps,

Speaker 1 00:04:12 That helps us. You're halfway there already. That's

Speaker 2 00:04:15 Correct. Correct. That little advantage

Speaker 1 00:04:16 For those of you who are just imagining this is true. So, Danielle, does this run in the run in the family? Do you come from a tall family? Is that

Speaker 2 00:04:23 Right? Yes. Actually, my grandfather, who I feel I certainly attributes to who I am today, he, he's quite tall. Yeah. So my grandparents came out from Greece, you know, in the, in the 1950s. And interestingly, my grandfather who got off the, the ship there at Station Pier in Pop Pop Melbourne, he, he threw his suitcase behind. He, he didn't even take it with him. He thought, Nope, I'm here the land of the opportunities. I'm here to embrace it at fully, I am leaving my life Wow. From Greece behind me, and I'm going to start fresh from scratch. So not only did I get my height from him, but I think I also got a bit of that determination from him too.

Speaker 1 00:05:09 So are you a bit of a suitcase thrower as well? You've done that metaphorically it sounds like.

Speaker 2 00:05:15 Oh, you just try and do what you can with the resources you have available to you? Yeah. Really, really proud of, of where I've come from. Yeah.

Speaker 1 00:05:24 That super. Well, why not? Yes. I mean, as one migrant to another, you know, thinking of your, your grandfather, I mean, it's a fantastic thing that moment, the first step that people, you know, lay as it were on the ground, is often when they talk about, and did your grandfather talk about how it felt just to breathe the air and to, to be in a different part of the

Speaker 2 00:05:42 World? Yeah, certainly. Yeah, certainly. They worked really hard here. They worked really hard. They really embraced the opportunity that came toward them. And interestingly, they found the opportunity. So they all married here. They, they all came from Greece, but married here in, in Melbourne. And they worked so hard and made enough money to go back to Greece and set up again, you know, turn over a new, turn over a new leaf. And they only lasted nearly 12 months. They came

Speaker 1 00:06:18 Straight back here. Tell me, how long did they stay in a straight before they tried to do the reverse migration attempt?

Speaker 2 00:06:23 I'd probably say a decade. Oh. I think they had young families at the time.

Speaker 1 00:06:26 Wow. Yeah. And after 10 years, a lot had changed. Yeah,

Speaker 2 00:06:29 Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, once you live here, how, how could you want go anywhere else, really? It's,

Speaker 1 00:06:34 I mean, it's probably the pool of maybe other relatives perhaps. Was it the reason?

Speaker 2 00:06:38 Correct, yeah. I think loneliness would've, would've definitely attributed to them wanting to go back. Yeah. And also that duty of care to look after their family, you know? Yeah. Obviously economical benefit of, of, you know. So, but interestingly, they just, they just came straight back. Wow. Within 12

Speaker 1 00:06:57 Months. Within 12 months. Isn't that crazy? It's sort of Well, in a way though, at least they knew then. There'd never be any further doubt about where to be. Yes. You know, I mean, that's a good thing. Totally. It clarifies it, you know. And so, as someone who's grown up, how many times have you been in Greece yourself, would you say?

Speaker 2 00:07:12 Oh, I feel very privileged to say this. I've probably been about 15 times. Wow.

Speaker 1 00:07:16 That's great. Yeah.

Speaker 2 00:07:17 That's great. That's very close to my heart. Yep.

Speaker 1 00:07:19 Yeah. It shows that, but that heartland can be renewed and maintained even for those, you know, generations in the way that you've done it. That's fabulous. It just shows that, I think during that time, from the fifties to the present, it's kind of gotten closer because of technology. Yes. Even though the, the air, you know, travel has still a long one, but people do feel connected. I mean, I have the same thing with my, you know, sisters and brothers and you know, brothers in Canada and so on, and we're kind of in touch like all the time, but just in a very rapid bites. Do you do that still? Are you in touch, you know, kind of rapidly with your relatives overseas?

Speaker 2 00:07:51 A little bit. I'm third generation. Yeah. Australian Greek. So there, there has been a bit of filtering through that. And, and also from an emotional perspective, my grandmothers, I mean, what they went through and how they raised young families here, it, it just blows me away. And I often think about that because I've got three children of my own. I often think about that in my every, you know, everyday life. That, that level of gratitude, you know, that they didn't have the independence that we have today. And this is merely two generations back. It's happened quickly. My, my grandmothers, one of them didn't have her license. They didn't have their independence that we do today. So interestingly, and, and it was all they knew. But on the education front, when my mother was going through high school and was in a late adolescence, my grandfather approached her and said, and said to her, you know, what, what is it that you want to do?

Speaker 2 00:08:50 And she said, oh, well, what do you think I should do? And he said, well, you know, you're gonna have kids and a family, so possibly, you know, now's the time that you can finish up, round it up and potentially learn a trade. Right. So she did, she left school in year nine, year 10, and she became a hairdresser. So they didn't hold education to a higher regard as what we do now. That's all they really knew, to be fair. Yeah. So when I came along and my two brothers came along, they, they were so supportive in whatever it is that we wanted to do in life. And they were just really encouraging. You

Speaker 1 00:09:34 Want that, it sounds like they were, you don't get it. Were they there on the sidelines cheering you when you were playing all these different sports as well?

Speaker 2 00:09:39 Absolutely. Yeah. That kind of thing. My dad would relentlessly drive me to, you know, and, and we would play in seafood, we would play and we would play in in Sydney sometimes. So yeah, it was, it was crazy. Fantastic. All the driving that he did.

Speaker 1 00:09:55 Yeah. You know, really tells you how much he obviously loved you, but also loved what you were doing, I think both things together. And when you decided then to study, did you study because it was a place that you were interested in intellectually or was it sort of already socially in your zone, like where sports and friends and so forth? Yeah.

Speaker 2 00:10:12 Great question. I went to a very high performing public school in, in Melbourne. And it was a science and math based school. Yeah. That had a, an amazing science faculty, but it was, you either a really high performing student or you sort of would get a little bit lost. Yep. And I found it difficult to find my place. So interestingly, when I finished vce, I got into science Yep. And I got into commerce. And after deliberation I ended up going with a safer route and I went with commerce. Right.

Speaker 1 00:10:50 So why was it, why was that safer?

Speaker 2 00:10:52 Because it was all we knew. It was all we knew as a family. You know, my, my parents were both involved in businesses. My grandparents, they had milk bars when they came from, from Greece. So it, it felt like the safer option. I didn't have to do chemistry. Yeah. I didn't have to balance any chemistry equations. Yeah. So I did it. Yeah. But upon reflection and, and hindsight's a wonderful thing, but I used any excuse not to be there or I used any, you know, I think I changed my major about as many times. I went from marketing to HR to marketing communications to pr. I entered into a, you know, I did full-time. I did part-time. I, it was just crazy how much I was avoiding it. I entered into a beauty competition and I, I won,

Speaker 1 00:11:47 I'm telling you now. While studying. While

Speaker 2 00:11:49 Studying. Well no, I used it as a way to defer my, my my.

Speaker 3 00:11:53 Yeah, exactly. So I won Miss Victoria, I got to travel Australia. Yeah, exactly. Oh my gosh. It's pretty crazy.

Speaker 2 00:11:59 So, oh my gosh. I used every excuse under the sun Yeah. To not go. And

Speaker 1 00:12:05 Did someone suggest this to you or did it just come to you? The idea,

Speaker 2 00:12:08 Yeah. A friend. A friend. A well, in terms of the beauty pageant. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. A friend was going into it and so

Speaker 1 00:12:14 Oh, interesting. Yeah. And was that before or after you did the work with the Grand Prix?

Speaker 2 00:12:18 No, that, that led onto the work that

Speaker 1 00:12:19 Led on. So tell us Grand Prix. Tell us a bit more about that.

Speaker 2 00:12:21 So yeah, it was great. Miss Victoria was a wonderful opportunity. Had its good, had its, it's not so good. The good things were access to amazing opportunities such as the Grand Prix. Also, it, it taught me about being a benevolent contributor to the community. So I had access to working with various charities such as Variety, children's Charity. I got to mc events and, and host events. And, you know, it was, it was honestly an amazing experience. I got access to etiquette school.

Speaker 1 00:12:56 Oh

Speaker 2 00:12:57 Really? Etiquette school. Like who

Speaker 1 00:12:59 I didn't know there was such a thing.

Speaker 3 00:13:00 Exactly. Right.

Speaker 2 00:13:01 So, wow. It was, it was wonderful experience, but it also had its downfalls as, as to, and so I, I decided to let that go after I finished my duties in, in Miss Victoria and decided that whilst there was great opportunities, I wanted to contribute to the community in a way that was really meaningful.

Speaker 1 00:13:21 Yep. And it sounds like, like this, you've used this word contribute a lot cuz you described, you know, your grandparents and how they contributed your parents, how they contributed in your case. And you are a very much a giver, a give back person. So it seems that that's been a very big theme throughout your life so far. Would you agree with that?

Speaker 2 00:13:38 You are so great at this first chance. You're amazing. Yes. And contribution to the community is something that I value and something that I, I hold very close to my heart and it comes in different layers. It could be making cupcakes for the, for the school fair. Yeah. It could be reading with our children. Yeah. It could be learning the barista's name and, and looking him in the eye and saying, thank you for a wonderful coffee. You know, it's things like that can make such an ample difference in the, in the recipients day. And I feel very strongly about that. I

Speaker 1 00:14:12 Really do. You know, and you know, all the theories about mental health too and how positive affirmation links to it. Yeah. In fact, as you know, it's out in the media. It's on television all the time. But not everyone takes it to heart. But I think you really live it and it's a wonderful thing, you know, to see in action.

Speaker 2 00:14:26 Yeah. And I, and, and that's why I signed my emails off with, with gratitude Danielle. Yeah. Because I, I am, I feel very privileged for the opportunities. And I guess that leads me on to why I chose to study bio science.

Speaker 1 00:14:39 Yes. Let's hear about

Speaker 2 00:14:40 That. Yeah. Okay, great. So I unfortunately had an encounter whereby a close immediate family member got really ill overnight. They went from being completely capable to completely incapable of doing what we think is really normal things in life. So with that, the recovery and it's been, it's been a long grueling process to be honest. It's been over the last decade, the care that we've had from healthcare workers and the emotional, you know, benefits and, and not just for this person and, and in, in their recovery, but also the family support. It, it made me really, it really, it, it just, it was profound. Wow. It really was profound. And I thought to myself, these people are remarkable people and what they're doing in the community. I, I just, I felt like it was an area in which I wanted to expl explore further. And I, I just, I had to, I had to have the, have the opportunity to potentially be in their shoes one day and give back. Like they gave back. Gave back. Cuz I will never forget that. Yeah, I can see that.

Speaker 1 00:16:00 Yeah. Can see that modeling. And how did you choose, for example, you could have chosen any degree, lot of them, for example, social work or other psychology in, in different ways. They, they give back. How did you choose biomedical science as opposed to any other degree and doing it here at Victoria University?

Speaker 2 00:16:16 Well, I knew that commerce didn't work for me. Yes.

Speaker 2 00:16:21 Biomed is a very broad degree, which is advantageous because if you don't necessarily know what you want to do, it's the platform in which to explore from genetics to, to medical microbiology Yep. To anatomy to, you know, physiotherapy subjects. It is so broad and it's such a great, it's such a great platform to, to which to grow and to hone in on your, your skillset. Right. And, and, and also it leads you into amazing opportunities. So if you, if I hypothetically wanted to do continue on with honors, like I could do that and become a researcher, which would be amazing. Or, or Allied Health or, or even medicine.

Speaker 1 00:17:10 All those things could happen.

Speaker 2 00:17:11 All those things could happen. Yeah.

Speaker 1 00:17:13 Yeah. And, but it's not an easy degree. Like it's a lot of hours. But do you find that the block way of teaching it helps you? Like, cuz you've got other things going on always in your life. So how does it work for you? Is the block a good thing for you?

Speaker 2 00:17:26 Yeah, great question. So I knew after my experience studying commerce and the amount of years it took for me and, you know, chopping and changing, going from full-time to part-time. And then when you are doing that in your degree, cuz because there's a series of prerequisites, right. In order to advance into your degree, you need, you need to, to tick the boxes of some subjects. So if I miss out in semester two x, Y, z subject, I then, you know, it, it creates a lot of barriers. I knew that I didn't want any of that. I knew that I just wanted to, to hit the ground running. Yep. And so if I, for example, you know, needed to take a bit of time off, I could do that with the block mode. Yes. Block mode has allowed me to tick all the boxes. I feel, as cliche as it sounds, I I wouldn't be able to study full-time with three children Yep. As a board member without block mode. Yeah. Honestly, hand on heart. I,

Speaker 1 00:18:32 I agree. Yeah. Well actually I met one, one student in law who has eight children. Eight children. Yes. And, and she said much the same. Wow. You know, and she said, look, I am looking forward to being creative in a whole new way. Yeah. And this enables me to do it. The view block model. I couldn't have done it anywhere else. Yeah. Interesting. And you sort of sounds like you're saying a similar thing.

Speaker 2 00:18:52 Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Because you wanna be present as well. Yeah. With your children. Oh,

Speaker 1 00:18:56 It's so

Speaker 2 00:18:57 Important. It's so important. Particularly at such a foundational age. And they still want you around. So you're effectively got so many different hats on. And the good thing about block model is you're focusing on one subject at a time. So right now I'm studying medical microbiology and immunity and I am fully immersed in that subject. Right. So I'm not juggling, I'm not juggling four different subjects. Yeah. I am in one mindset, in one mind frame. And it's, it's advantageous. It really is.

Speaker 1 00:19:24 Oh, I'm so pleased it's working. Cuz that's the, the dreamers and the designers of this, that's exactly what they're hoping to hear. That this works for people and people like you. And yet here you are busy, all these things done in your life and you come to a briefing with the chance on me to talk about council membership. What led you to come to that meeting?

Speaker 2 00:19:43 Oh, that's a good question too. Well, the email came through to my student email and I just thought, why not? Yep, yep. So I went down and I, I walked into that boardroom meeting and the energy in that room was just, it was warm.

Speaker 1 00:20:01 Yep.

Speaker 2 00:20:02 It was eloquent, you know, the support was palpable and I just knew it's, it's where I wanted to be. Oh,

Speaker 1 00:20:09 That's great. Well, the Chancellor is an amazing person, honestly, you can tell He is, you know,

Speaker 2 00:20:13 He is. I was privy to a meeting with him on, on Monday, which was great.

Speaker 1 00:20:17 Yeah. So similar thing, he really cares about the individual, but also the organization as a whole. And of course that's what council does. So you're in this unusual position where there's only one student representative on the VU Council and of course you haven't met every one of our 40,000 students. So how do you sort of imagine you can represent the student voice? How does that work? I mean, do you, do you think there's, it's not an easy thing to do, so when you come to a meeting, how do you prep for it?

Speaker 2 00:20:44 Yeah, it's multi-factor factorial to be honest. It is, it is an incredible privilege to be able to be a student voice and provide that nexus between a student body and council. And I, I, I don't know if you notice vice chancellor, but I generally try and bring in experience into council meetings. So I'll say, ah, today, you know, yesterday I, I had this incredible experience of, you know, extracting RNA from DNA and, and, and it was just amazing. You know, and then I'll head into my, my topic at hand, but just that insight into what students are doing, I just feel it's a level of enthusiasm. Yeah. And it brings real life experience into council, which,

Speaker 1 00:21:28 Well, we, we really notice it. And I've gotta say everyone comments on the fact that there's engaged council members and they're super engaged and you're one of the second categories, super engaged, but also really great considering the future all the time. And I guess it's because you've had so many different futures yourself, you know, as you've, as you've as we've heard all these different options. So, and when we say proud biomedical science, I think pride is, is palpable. We, we

Speaker 2 00:21:50 Notice that. Thank you. And, and when I said multifactorial before it, it's also, you know, contributing to, oh, sorry, I've used that word again now. But also, you know, contributing to the actual student. I was in a situation the other day where it was probably at the start of second year, so going back a little bit of time now, one of my colleagues who's very intelligent, I mean, we're all geeks at heart really.

Speaker 1 00:22:17 We're studying science,

Speaker 2 00:22:18 Let's face it. Yes. She, she almost sounded unsure when she was asking a question. And I actually approached her. I, I built enough of a relationship. I I, I love building relationships. Like you and I, I said to her, you know, you're such a smart person. How, how about, you know, how about you try and, and ask a question like this? And it just, she was so appreciative and from, from that moment on the level of confidence and the self-assurance has just grown. And seeing her, I mean obviously she's a little bit younger than I am being a mature aged student. Yeah, yeah. But it was, it was pivotal for her. And I think, wow, I've really added value to her life. And moving forward, she'll use those skills, not just at VU, but going, going into the workplace and, and just like that, I felt that a lot of these instructors and a lot of these teachers have, have given back to me too.

Speaker 1 00:23:17 But this is what you've been describing is this, this kind of sequence of moments where people are generous. Yes. You know, people generous with you, and then you echo it back. And actually surprising for many people who aren't on council, it's quite a generous group, you know? Oh yes. Like people give up their time. A lot of voluntary time outside the meetings. It's very interesting. And you, you're the same, but they forget, this is not something, somebody's day job, this is something else. And, and the governance rule of strategy is so crucial for a university. So have you found that the other council members have welcomed you in that, in that way as well? Quite rapidly? Yeah.

Speaker 2 00:23:51 They really have. And they've taken an interest in me as an individual, me as a professional, me as a student, which has really been heartwarming. It has, yeah. Oh, that's, I, I really have feel, I feel as though I've found my place here at vu. Not just from a student perspective, but from a professional as well. And I'm just, I'm, I'm forever grateful for that. I really am.

Speaker 1 00:24:13 Oh, well it works both ways. Look, put it this way, we're talking here in just one day as a storytelling and a wonderful storytelling episode. But the future is what it's about. So after this, and when you've, when you finish, are you going to, when will you know, what do you think? When will you know what you want to do after this degree? I guess it's, it's still coming, but do you feel like you're getting closer to, you said maybe honors or maybe this or maybe that. Is it starting to form in your mind?

Speaker 2 00:24:37 Yeah, I think so. Medicine is, is my focus. So I'd love to be able to give back, as I said before, to those individuals,

Speaker 1 00:24:48 Well, you can cross the bridge to the hospital in the future. Can you imagine when we build that, you know, it's all part of the, the coming of together of this campus and that hospital, just so everyone knows.

Speaker 2 00:24:58 Yeah. And if you are here for lunch, I can say, Hey last chancellor, what are you doing for lunch? That's right.

Speaker 1 00:25:02 It all works together. But sincerely what I can say is this, from the highs and them in many of them to the challenges. And there's been a few of those too. You are one of those indefatigable people who just doesn't give up. And I think it's, you can really see the sporting background in what you described and also the giving background. Can I say, it's just been an absolute delight to get to know you a bit better. And that's what the This People Vu podcast is all about is getting to know fabulous people better. Thank you so much,

Speaker 2 00:25:27 Danielle. Thank you Vice chancellor. I really appreciate that. It's great. Thanks for having me on.

Speaker 1 00:25:31 Total pleasure.

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