Written By

Tianna Killoran

College of Science and Engineering

Publish Date

14 June 2021

It runs in the family

Families play an important role as a unit that supports societal opportunities and development. For this family, the opportunity to study at James Cook University has been an integral rite of passage that has educated multiple generations and helped its members to find their passions in many corners of the globe.

Studying everything from engineering, to marine biology, journalism, and even psychology, this family has seen the growth and development of James Cook University across the decades.

The youngest and most recent graduate of the family, Lara Mullamphy, graduated in 2016 with a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) degree majoring in Civil Engineering. But this wasn’t her first acquaintance with the university. Lara’s father, D’Arcy Mullamphy, was one of the early graduates of JCU in 1982 and has been lecturing in mathematics at the university since 1985.

Back when D’Arcy was studying, the Townsville Douglas campus had opened just over a decade prior in 1967. “I left school in 1978 and have come to JCU Townsville Campus virtually every week since then. I am still lecturing in the mathematics department and have been for 37 years,” D’Arcy recalls.

It was more than just D’Arcy’s daughter who would go on to graduate from the university. Other members of the family, such as Lara’s aunt Sarah Anderton and uncle Richard Anderton graduated from Bachelor and Graduate Diploma of Arts, and Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) respectively in the late 1990s. Lara’s second cousin, Sonia, also travelled all the way from Perth to study marine biology at JCU.

Siblings Richard and Sarah sitting next to each other with mountains in China in background
Sonia Solari and Sarah Anderton sitting next to each other wearing raincoats and sitting on large rocks
Left: Richard and Sarah Anderton in China. Right: Sarah Anderton and Sonia Tripolitanto while studying in the 1990s at JCU. Supplied by Sarah Anderton.

From Townsville to the rest of the world

For Sarah Anderton and Richard Anderton, a little sibling rivalry never went astray. Taking Chinese language courses at JCU managed to land both of them a job abroad.

“Sarah went to China upon graduation and I remember very clearly my jealousy hearing all of her stories from Tianjin whilst I was completing my final year,” Richard says. “I joined her immediately after graduating and ended up living in China for more than 13 years. We went on later to work at the Australian Embassy in Beijing together as well.”

Richard’s sister Sarah says that knowledgeable and passionate lecturers inspired her to seek out opportunities working abroad in China. “I was fascinated by my lecturers’ stories and it inspired me to move to China to teach English and learn more about Chinese culture,” she says. Sarah says that her lecturers' influence opened her world to fantastic experiences abroad.

Sarah and Richard both saw their time at the university as the first critical stepping-stone to the rest of their careers. They also later found themselves working together for the Australian government at the Australian embassy in Beijing.

In fact, Sarah and Richard would never have found themselves in Townsville if not for their father, Rick Anderton’s, passionate determination to move across the country and develop regional journalism in north Queensland.

Rick worked at the university as a casual journalism lecturer and Sarah found her parents' influence to be very important even from a young age.

My parents provided great support and encouragement for us to develop ourselves, and highlighted the importance of higher education, despite them not having the opportunity themselves.

JCU Alumni Sarah Anderton

Their cousin, Sonia, also moved across the country to attend university in Townsville. “The Marine Biology course was thought to be the best in Australia,” she says. “Since I had family in Townsville it was easy for me to move from my hometown of Perth and stay with them initially when I started university.”

Like her family before her, Lara’s degree was just the first step. She now works for Queensland Rail in Townsville where she faces new and interesting experiences every day. “QR has provided me with a diverse range of work giving me a spectrum of experience,” Lara says. “Every day is different, with different problems and different solutions, which is always interesting.”

D’Arcy echoes similar sentiments: “When I first got this job teaching at the university, I couldn’t believe that I could do mathematics all day and get paid for it.”

Lara Mullamphy standing on side of road in hi vis clothing with thumbs up
Richard Anderton next to his sister Sarah and they are both standing on front of a field
Left: Lara Mullamphy working for QR at Yabulu in Townsville. Right: Richard and Sarah Anderton together in China.

Inspiring the next generation

D’Arcy was the beneficiary of inspiring lecturers at JCU and has taken on the role of continuing this legacy. “I came to university with the hope of getting a chemistry or biochemistry degree but I was inspired by Professor Ian Whittingham to study physics,” D’Arcy says. “I have been very lucky to have worked with Ian in the field of atomic physics for 23 years. I still love teaching at JCU and hope I can make university life a little easier for thousands of students having trouble with their mathematics.”

Sonia says that it was a great influence having other family on campus. “D’Arcy was in the maths department and I had a lot of respect for him. No doubt I took some courses as a direct result of him teaching them. He was a great teacher!”

D’Arcy’s positive influence on mathematics education at JCU extended far beyond his family members.

Studying on campus has always been a memorable part of the university experience. “Some of my best memories from studying at JCU were the late nights spent with classmates in computer labs, the library and our thesis room,” Lara says. “Although it was sometime stressful to be frantically finishing assignments, studying for tests or just caught up brainstorming, it would always end up being a lot of fun.”

Her aunt Sarah adds, “We would stay up all night and spend hours in the old reading room in the library. We’d be looking up Chinese characters and trying to translate newspaper articles until our eyes were so blurry we couldn’t see!”

But it wasn’t all study and no play. Life on campus was also a highlight for Sonia, affectionately recalling memories of “Friday night live music at the tavern and hot chips and gravy at the cafeteria!” Sarah also describes the “community feel” of the JCU campus. “Because of the campus setup we could still meet up with friends from all disciplines and have lunch together or go to the University Club,” she says.

Although new buildings have popped up over the years and some of the faces may have changed, the spirit of campus life on JCU has remained the same. Inspiring lecturers, supportive communities of peers, and surprising opportunities are still important features of life at JCU.

Explore your future

Ready to kick start your career? Discover the diverse range of courses at JCU and the opportunities that await you in university.