Alumni Award Recipients
Professor Emeritus Alan Bell - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Emeritus Professor of Animal Science, Cornell University
UNE Qualifications: Bachelor of Rural Science (Hons)
A week before his agricultural science classes were due to begin at the University of Melbourne in 1965 young Alan Bell made a spur of the moment decision to accept an offer to study at UNE instead. The Gippsland farm boy, the first in his family to attend university, "let alone one a thousand miles away", was soon bundled up in the family car and heading for Armidale."I don't recall why I made that decision, perhaps it was the idea of getting away and seeing a different part of the world, but studying Rural Science at UNE was one of the best decisions I have ever made," now Emeritus Professor Bell says. "Looking back, it set me up in a way that perhaps a different degree might not have."UNE was also young, but had garnered "quite a reputation". Ground-breaking Professor Bill McClymont was half-way in to his 21-year tenure as founding dean of the Rural Science faculty and espousing his new and inspiring theories about agricultural ecology. "The place was really humming and I felt privileged to take some of Bill's courses," Alan says.Perhaps the experience of travelling so far from home also gave the dairy farmer's son a passport to the future. For throughout his distinguished 50-year career in animal science Alan has worked on three continents - in Australia, the United States and Great Britain - at some of the world's most prestigious research institutions.Graduating from UNE with honours in 1969, he began his career with the CSIRO Division of Animal Physiology at Prospect, working with esteemed sheep researcher George Alexander. "He was an excellent mentor and exemplar, who never lost his devotion to the industry," Alan says. "We were doing all sorts of intensive, lab-based research but once a year he insisted we go out and work on commercial properties. Our research goal was to reduce the number of lambs that died early in life, and it gave me valuable insights into the practical side of the wool and sheep-meat industries."Within three years Alan was enjoying "a bit of an adventure" undertaking his PhD studies at the Hannah Research Institute, affiliated with the University of Glasgow in Scotland. He then returned to Australia to lecture at La Trobe University for eight years, finding satisfaction in teaching and enjoying a one-year sabbatical in the Division of Perinatal Medicine at the University of Colorado. Taking up a coveted appointment at Cornell University in 1985, Alan furthered his international reputation for research on the nutritional physiology of pregnancy, lactation and growth in sheep and dairy cattle, and rose to become Department Chair of Animal Science - a post he held for a decade.Although he'd grown up on a dairy farm, Alan hadn't seriously researched dairy cattle until arriving at Cornell. "It was a big department - 30 professors, 500 undergrads and some really, really big research programs," he says. "We had a research herd of 500 milkers and 400 other dairy cattle, a research beef herd, sheep, pigs and poultry. Agricultural extension was led by the university and we did a lot of RD&E that had impact, helped solve problems and make peoples' lives better."But after spending more than half his working life abroad, Alan's homeland again beckoned in 2007 and he took up the demanding role of Chief of CSIRO Livestock Industries - an end-of-career chance to give something back to Australian agriculture. Two years before his retirement in 2012, he was seconded for a year to be Interim CEO of Food Science Australia and to establish a new CSIRO Division of Food and Nutritional Sciences. Colleagues say they admired Alan's capacity to unite competing research groups, egos and agendas with little “blood on the floor”."During my final contract with CSIRO I tried to make the division more outward-looking and willing to collaborate with universities, including UNE," Alan says. "We moved labs and co-located with university departments on university campuses on three of our five major sites and I was very pleased about that."Serving on numerous national primary industries, food and nutrition, and animal welfare committees, as well as consultancy work and an adjunct professorship at the University of Queensland has kept Alan "out of mischief" in recent years. His colleagues and former students are unanimous in their praise for his authentic leadership, collaborative approach and commitment to mentoring throughout his career."I've always tried to demonstrate the behaviours I have expected, and to take advice from others, including junior colleagues," he says. "I think an effective leader is inclusive and empathetic, but I also put a lot of stock in loyalty."He's written a history of animal science in Australia and, mindful of his own journey, a personal reflection on the "giants" who have influenced his own career. "I am very much aware of my roots and I think I have been lucky most of my life," Alan says. "It sounds high-minded, but we would all like to think that we can help to make things better for others during our working lives. You get a lot of satisfaction seeing research that you do translated into something useful."Animal science today is much more than just improving the way we feed and breed animals and enable them to provide food and fibre products for us. Farmers are custodians of much of the Australian landscape, and animal welfare and environmental stewardship is increasingly important. Providing appropriate research findings that help them to do that responsibly is critical."Life, not just animal science, is about adapting and responding to changed circumstances. Nothing stands still and there remains an enormous amount of research to do, as well as improving the adoption of the research we have already done. We have been pretty good at conducting world-beating research in Australia but we could do better at taking it to the end-user and making sure it works properly.
Sarah Brown - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: CEO The Purple House
UNE Qualifications: Diploma in Health Science (Nursing); Graduate Diploma in Educational Studies (Aboriginal Education); Master of Nursing;
Pride of the Purple House As founding chief executive officer of the ground-breaking Indigenous healthcare service the Purple House, Sarah Brown could recount many achievements from over the past 17 years. Delivering some 8000 dialysis treatments annually in 18 remote communities across remote Australia is life-saving in and of itself, and she is justly proud of the organisation's hard-working all-Indigenous board and team of dedicated workers and volunteers. "Our aim has always been to respect relationships, culture and connection in the health and wellbeing of our patients," Sarah says."Many had been forced off their country to missions and government settlements, and had fought really hard to return, but were being forced off their land again, to Alice Springs to be on dialysis three times a week if they wanted to survive kidney disease. It was tearing families and communities apart. We were determined, where possible, to provide treatment on country." It's telling then that Sarah cites a 2018 government decision, inspired by the Purple House model, as perhaps its greatest breakthrough Medicare listing remote haemodialysis for rebate. "This was a real game-changer for us because it recognised what Indigenous communities wanted," Sarah says. "Medicare item numbers don't disappear with a Prime Minister; they are there for the long haul and give communities some certainty. It also went a long way to putting our organisation on a sustainable footing for the future, by guaranteeing clinics an income stream based on the number of people treated." A former bush nurse, who completed a Diploma in Health Science (Nursing), Graduate Diploma in Educational Studies (Aboriginal Education) and Masters in Nursing at UNE, Sarah Brown has always played the long game. She had come to the attention of a group of Pintupi-Luritja leaders in the early 1990s while helping to teach Aboriginal health workers in the Northern Territory "That was a laugh; they taught me far more than I could teach them". One in five Indigenous adults show symptoms of chronic kidney disease, and Indigenous Australians are almost three times more likely to die from the condition than non-Indigenous Australians. The elders were dismayed by the high mortality rates and dislocation of families during dialysis treatment. They wanted it delivered on country. An auction of Indigenous artworks at the Art Gallery of NSW raised $1 million to launch the Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation (better known as the Purple House) and Sarah was soon working out of a corner of her Alice Springs lounge room to help make the dream of remote dialysis a reality. "Despite working as a bush nurse I had never seen a dialysis machine in my life, but I had visited Kintore (where they wanted the first dialysis machine installed) and knew that people would have a big challenge ahead," says Sarah. But pride and confidence in the project soon grew."People finally had some hope; they were not poor old dialysis patients who had to move to town and live on someone else's country anymore," Sarah says. "It was a fantastic opportunity to work with people who were living in poverty but had really clear ideas about who they were and what they wanted for their families and their future." In almost two decades, the Purple House has done much to address the renal failure epidemic in Indigenous communities across three states and is about to launch its second mobile dialysis truck. Founded on family (Walytja), country (Ngurra) and compassion (Kuunyi), the model turned traditional Indigenous health delivery on its head. Administered by a board of 12 Pintupi-Luritja directors, it provides much more than medical treatment: aged care advice, healthy meals, allied health support, NDIS services, a bush medicine social enterprise and companionship are all part of the service. While she claims she is "much better at making cups of tea and having a chat", Sarah is clearly a driving force behind "the Starship Purple House". "We've had some terrible times over the years, when we thought we would not find the resources to keep going, when we had to advocate and push and be complete ratbags to help people survive," Sarah says. "But you walk in here (the Alice Springs headquarters, which hosts a dialysis and GP clinic) sometimes and it's like we're having a party, not like people have end-stage renal failure. I’m useless at taking holidays, because I suffer from extreme fear of missing out. I couldn't imagine doing anything else." However, it's not always easy. "Our care is about ensuring quality of life, and sometimes that involves stopping dialysis and helping people to die on country with the people they love around them," Sarah says. "You build very close relationships with patients who become part of your family and sometimes you lose them. There are still people I miss terribly, who fought hard for dialysis on their country. "But my work has given me huge faith in humanity, about the importance of doing the best for each other. Things will get better, gaps will close, but a lot of that will be because of the resilience, resourcefulness and compassion of Aboriginal people." They are full of praise for Sarah, too. In November 2017, Purple House directors wrote that "her heart is in the Purple House" and "for the people", while statistics attest to her unique approach: Central Australia has gone from having the worst to the best survival rates for renal disease in Australia. Along the way, the Australian Financial Review named Sarah one of its BOSS True Leaders. "I do show people my left buttock every now and then and ask them to check my Best Before Date," she says. "Hopefully, someone will tap me on the shoulder and tell me it's time to roll up my swag if I go completely bonkers, but I think there are advantages to having someone who has chucked their lot in with this mob and doesn't give up." While 2020 has hardly gone to plan, Sarah did receive an Order of Australia Medal for "her significant service to community health, remote nursing and Indigenous communities" and says the team is looking forward to a big Purple House 21st birthday bash next year at the Art Gallery of NSW. "It's been a tough year," she says. "We've had to adapt our model in order to keep people safe. Some things have been slowed down and we've pushed ahead with other things that really matter, which has been looking after each other and doing the best we can with what we've got. That's always been the motto of the Purple House." Congratulations Sarah Brown, AM, one of our 2020 UNE Distinguished Alumni Award winners.
Professor Denis Burnham - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Foundation Director of the MARCS Institute, Western Sydney University
UNE Qualifications: Bachelor of Arts (Hons)
Much more than baby talk During his illustrious career investigating the science of speech and infant development, Professor Denis Burnham has discovered many things about the way infants learn to communicate. The ‘BabyLab’ he established at the ground-breaking MARCS Institute for Brain Behaviour and Development at Western Sydney University has, alone, tracked the progress of thousands of tots throughout their childhood. However, it was as an experience while completing his Honours degree at the University of New England (1971-1974) that, with hindsight, Denis believes shaped his future life's work. He was a 23-year-old expectant father, studying new theories on child development, psychology, and philosophy, including the age-old chestnut of nature versus nurture. "I had bought a book on child development and asked Professor Paul Barratt, who was then the head of the Psychology Department, what else I should do to prepare for our first baby," Denis says. "Paul turned to me and said: 'Throw the book away and just be a parent'." It proved prophetic advice. Because, for all his research and fascinating findings, Denis is constantly reminded that basic human instincts, interactions and emotions are at the heart of how a child learns. "As I have done more and more research, I've realised that the social and emotional development of a child and their parent is all bound up together," he says. "It used to be considered that kids start learning language when they start to talk, but we now know that three months before birth they can hear their mother's voice in the womb, and when they are born they prefer their mother's voice to others and also their native language to other languages. "My most recent work around the way parents talk to babies and babies talk to their parents shows that together they form a little microcosm. It's like a dance. The babies’ and the parents’ behaviour are in synch. Each gives and responds to the other’s cues, without even being aware of it. They teach each other simply by engaging." In March 1973, Denis’s third year at UNE, baby Lachlan arrived, inspiring Denis to think about a multitude of philosophical and psychological theories. But it also afforded important opportunities to learn home truths in practice."As most parents know, the baby teaches you how to be a parent," Denis says. "You don't deliberately set out to teach them language it just emerges. People adjust their speech, its structure, rhythm and emotion (using what's known as 'baby talk' or infant-directed speech) to best benefit the baby, and the baby asks for the appropriate input at each stage of development. Parents don't have to follow a child development manual. They simply need to trust their instincts and trust in their baby." Building on some early work on infant vision, Denis was the first in Australia to investigate the emerging area of speech perception in infants and how it underpins language development. From inquiring into our earliest visual, auditory and language development, into music and speech interactions and even how adults process language, Denis has become one of Australia's foremost language development researchers. His work and that of others, including his many research students, has contributed greatly to the growing scientific and community awareness of the importance of very early experience, and to the establishment of such practices as mandatory newborn hearing testing in Australian hospitals. In addition, his findings have helped countless families deal with speech issues, dyslexia and clinical conditions like Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia. During his 16 years at the helm, the MARCS Institute grew to employ 170 people (including 50 PhD students) investigating a complex array of subjects: human visual and auditory perception and cognition, neuroscience, psychophysiological brain responses, bioelectronics, neuromorphic and biomedical engineering, computational modelling and even how we interact with robots. Three MARCS Institute BabyLabs in Greater Western Sydney have since inspired others in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Japan, Thailand and Singapore, the latter two in collaboration with MARCS. Professor Kate Stephens, current director MARCS Institute (where Denis continues to work as a research professor) says his leadership can be felt throughout the world, in the graduate students and postdoctoral researchers "modelling his dynamism and passion for the pursuit of knowledge and science communication" and in the laboratories and universities that build on his "creative research methods and scientific discoveries". Language is critical to a range of developmental, social and emotional milestones as we grow, but is also "our means of using the accumulated wisdom and learning of centuries". "It's just so damn interesting," Denis says. "Knowing more and more about language development means that when children are having problems we can maybe intervene earlier, and possibly circumvent future problems." After conducting some of the first studies in Australia on infants’ visual perception at Monash University, and the first studies on infant speech perception in Australia throughout his 18 years at the University of New South Wales, Denis was head-hunted by Western Sydney University to establish the then MARCS Research Centre. "At MARCS Institute today we study human communication; the way we develop the ability to interact with others," he says. "We have engineers and linguists and musicians doing all this inter-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary stuff. But the over-riding message we try to get out is for parents to just engage with and interact with their babies. This is one of the biggest predictors of later language development." Many of the Masters and PhD students Denis has supervised are now his collaborators, and he is widely revered for his commitment to teaching and learning. He credits MARCS Institute's outstanding research prowess in great part to its collegial, community-based approach, which he sought to instigate from the very start. "And this was instilled in me very early at UNE by the close-knit student and academic community and the lively and convivial interaction between staff and students," he says. Denis and his wife Joanne went on to have three more children after Lachlan, and come October they will have 11 grandchildren. "Right from Lachlan's birth I've been intrigued by what babies can do and learn," he says. "But I can't help but think that in some ways we are reinventing the wheel. In modern times, people are having babies later in life and are more analytical about children-rearing. Some even question the value of baby talk to infants, thinking it will stunt their language development. The truth is that even those who question its utility automatically produce baby talk that actually teaches infants about the nature of the language around them. Most importantly, unbeknown to infant or parent, the amount of baby talk to the child actually predicts their later vocabulary and language development. "Of course, an added bonus is that babies gurgle and laugh and enjoy it, and it makes us feel good as well. Baby talk has evolved over eons to be one of the many inbuilt wise, but unconscious, behaviours by which we humans teach our young. Now science is rediscovering its importance and benefits, with possible applications to sub-optimal situations like post-natal depression in the parent or sensory impairment in the infant that might interfere with normal development." Congratulations Professor Denis Burnham, one of our 2020 UNE Distinguished Alumni Award winners.
Emeritus Professor Peter Drysdale AO - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Emeritus Professor of Economics, Visiting Fellow Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University
UNE Qualifications: Bachelor of Arts (Hons)
People before numbers From Canberra to Tokyo and Beijing to Delhi, his name is known in the highest echelons of government. For 50 years he has contributed to some of Australia's most sensitive and enduring economic partnerships in the Asia-Pacific, earning him such accolades as Japan's Order of the Rising Sun, the Asia Pacific Prize and the coveted Weary Dunlop Asia Medal. But for modest scholar and economist Emeritus Professor Peter Drysdale, widely acclaimed as the intellectual architect of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), it has never been about the awards. "Nothing that I have done could have been achieved without my friendships in the region," he says. "They are what matter most to me. Ultimately, it's the people-to-people relationships that cement economic exchange and the delivery of education and tourism. Effectiveness and impact depend on how you relate to others." Former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, who worked closely with Peter from 1988 to 1996, attests to his long track record of influencing policy. "He has been an intellectual driving force for Australia’s engagement with Asia since the 1970s and continues to lead thinking on the very many important issues around that to this day," he wrote. Noted economist Ross Garnaut, one of 80 PhD students Peter has supervised during his career, similarly describes him as "the most important Australian in the development of productive relations with Japan over the past half century", who has united leading economists throughout the Asia-Pacific and "built bridges across deep cultural differences". Indeed, Peter had still been travelling to Asia every month or two before COVID-19 severely clipped his wings. Seventeen years post "retirement", he remains an Emeritus Professor of Economics and Visiting Fellow in the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University, from where he heads Australia’s East Asia Forum. This pre-eminent platform for analysis and research on international politics, economics and affairs is a joint initiative of the East Asian Bureau of Economic Research (which Peter leads) and its sister network, the South Asian Bureau of Economic Research. But it all dates back to his childhood on the NSW North Coast and in Armidale during World War II. "As a boy I was very interested, to put it mildly, in where Japan came from and what it was like," Peter says. "I remember the war years vividly and at high school I tried to do whatever assignments I could on Japan, how it had risen as a power, what led to the war and the opportunities that existed for Australia in the post-war reconstruction of Japan. "I had a cousin in Changi prisoner of war camp in Singapore and my memories go right back to when the midget Japanese submarine blew up the HMAS Kuttabel (in Sydney Harbour in May 1942, with the loss of 21 naval lives). But my family was committed to reconciliation, and respect for the other, and that was part of my upbringing. It was clear to me that we would have to come to terms with Japan's war-time role and that's what motivated my work on Japan." And that he did. Enrolling to study for a Bachelor of Arts at UNE in 1956, Peter's double major was history and economics, in which he completed an honours year. But he also enjoyed a range of psychology and anthropology subjects and active participation in university life, as editor of Nucleus, President of the Union, and founding President of the Junior Common Room in Wright College, where the Drysdale Room has taken his name. "Those courses at UNE were inspiring in opening up new ways of thinking about the world and understanding different cultures and societies, which has informed my thinking ever since," Peter says. "I wrote an essay on the Australia-Japan economic relationship in my second year when the Agreement on Commerce of 1957 was signed, and after my honours year that became the subject of my graduate work and subsequent PhD at ANU, where I was recruited by that pioneering agreement's chief negotiator, Sir John Crawford." In the early post-war era characterised by anti-Japanese sentiment, however, these ideas were visionary. "I had a concept of how important it was for us to work with Japan, that it wasn't just the bilateral relationship that was important; it was the relationship in a multilateral, global context," Peter says. "The Australia-Japan agreement had helped Japan move towards equal treatment in global trade after the war, and it helped us to establish equal treatment in the Japanese market after US occupation. Those principles later became critical to thinking about how we would manage relations with other countries in the region, like China." As Australia's economic relationship with Japan deepened, so did the political relationship, boosting travel to Japan, and educational and cultural exchanges. But back in 1964 Peter was one of the first two Australian graduate students to study in the country, while working on his PhD. It was the beginning of a long, productive and happy association. "I was very warmly received; I had an office in the foreign ministry and an office in the finance ministry and met the captains of Japanese industry and talked about the future of Australian-Japanese relations," Peter says. "I was interested in how Japan's ambitions for recovery were being fashioned, what that meant for how Japan related to the rest of the world, and how Australia could be part of that. At the personal level, Japan has a fascinating culture and learning about it was a tremendous window into how we thought about things and did things. That was a big discovery for me learning about myself in Japan and the deep personal friendships and associations I formed now extend over two or three generations." Inevitably, Peter was asked to contribute to Australia-Japan economic policy-making. This culminated, years later, in the establishment of APEC (in 1989) a vital regional economic forum but also an important vehicle for healing old wounds. Peter's promotion of APEC has been described as an innovative act of courageous leadership. "I didn't see myself playing a particularly important role at the time; looking back, I simply feel a sense of gratitude for the trust that we put in each other in pulling it all together," he says. "APEC came into being through the participation and engagement of people all around the region who became not only professional associates but close friends. When this process first began, many of the countries involved didn't even have diplomatic relations with each other and now we have this cooperation and understanding on issues of mutual interest that's vital to the economic and political security of the region." Having held posts as a Fulbright Professor at Yale University, an adjunct professor at Columbia University and a distinguished associate at Stanford University, Peter was founding director of the Australia-Japan Research Centre at ANU in 1980. In 2016 he was named an Officer of the Order of Australia for "distinguished service to Australia-Asia trade and economic relations, particularly with Japan, to public policy development, to education, and as a mentor of young economists". Most recently, says Ross Garnaut, Peter has brought "much needed clear-headed economic analysis to the difficult debate" around Australia's relationship with China. Receiving the Rising Sun award in 2001, Peter says, symbolised the growth and success of the Australia-Japan relationship since WWII, where his interest in international economic diplomacy first began. He also highly prizes the award named in honour of Australian surgeon and prisoner of war Edward "Weary" Dunlop because Weary's life after the war was committed to reconciliation, despite the horrific experiences of his fellow prisoners of war."It typifies the understanding of the other, which is the key in knowing oneself," Peter says. Congratulations Emeritus Professor Peter Drysdale, AO, one of our 2020 UNE Distinguished Alumni Award winners.
Associate Professor Alice Gorman - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Associate Professor, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Flinders University
UNE Qualifications: Doctor of Philosophy
A stellar career NASA estimates there are more than 500,000 bits of human debris larger than a marble spinning around in Earth's orbit. From the upper stages of rockets to decaying spacecraft bodies, spy satellites, needles of metal and even the carcasses of cockroaches. Perhaps most famous among this space-age collection is a lost wrench, an astronaut's glove and human footprints on the Moon. "People use the term space junk, but it's much more complex than that," says Associate Professor Alice Gorman, from the College of the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at Flinders University. An archaeologist who completed her PhD at UNE in 2001, Dr Space Junk (as she is known) sees the debris somewhat differently. "Space is a cultural landscape, just like Earth, and these items are part of our material culture and space heritage," she says. "They are imbued with all sorts of scientific, political and social meanings, tell the stories of our human relationship with space, and may inform the next steps we take." Twenty years ago Alice was instrumental in pioneering the field of space archaeology internationally. Using earthly methods and theories, she has helped demonstrate the importance of recording and studying the artefacts and sites that evidence human exploration. Along the way, through the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs, the Australian Space Agency, and the Space Industry Association of Australia, she's become a strong advocate for sensitive space policy and the ethical and sustainable use of space resources. With space tourism and mining emerging as distinct possibilities in future, this voice is assuming greater importance. "Things are changing really fast; people are proposing to mine the Moon and settle on Mars," Alice says. "Looking at the ways that humans have conceptualised our place in space, and we've used technology to interact with space in the past, is important to making good decisions in the present." Most recently, Alice and her fellow space archaeologist Justin Walsh, from Chapman University in California, have begun collaborating with NASA to explore the archaeology of the International Space Station. They are using machine learning to analyse millions of images in the NASA archives as well as its inventory management system (which logs everything that has gone to the station and returned) to show how crew members have interacted with objects and technology over time. "We hope the results will improve the efficiency of long duration space missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond in future," Alice says. "If a crew is going to set up an isolated habitat on Mars, for instance, then understanding what makes things work more efficiently or enhances people’s wellbeing could be the difference between life and death." A sought-after space commentator and communicator, Alice is a popular contributor to The Conversation and Twitter, and her research blog (Space Age Archaeology) is archived by the National Library as a significant scientific publication. Her award-winning book Dr Space Junk vs The Universe: Archaeology and the Future has inspired spirited discussion ever since its publication in 2019. However, while her head is often in the heavens, Alice's feet are firmly on the ground. She teaches and continues to work around Australia as a heritage consultant, often in collaboration with Indigenous people, and is one of the few space researchers to highlight the importance of indigenous peoples having more input into the space industry internationally. Advancing the needs and rights of women in space is another subject close to Alice's heart. As a mentor and ambassador for the Space4Women Mentor Network developed by the United Nations, she is determined to contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goals. "Women have been traditionally excluded from space, and I'm aiming to help break down those big structural barriers," she says. "Women need to gain more of a foothold in STEM fields and men need to be prepared to confront some of their deeply held prejudices. My path into space has not been a traditional one; I've shown that you don't have to be a mathematician or an engineer to work in space." Alice's original ambition was, in fact, to become an astrophysicist, but she says she "wasn't actively discouraged but wasn't actively encouraged either". Finding a unique way to combine a fascination for past human behaviour with her passion for space has opened up entire galaxies of opportunities. "The answers to why we are here, the big questions of the meaning of life are caught up with understanding the universe; that's the big scale," Alice says. "Archaeology explores the smaller scale, looking at past human behaviour, the use of different technologies in different environments, and how that has changed over time. These are two different ends of the same question and the more I work in this area, the fewer differences I see between Earth and space." People often ask Alice why space travel and exploration is even legitimate when we've been unable to adequately look after planet Earth. "There's a chance to get it right with space," she says. "I can't say we are on a good trajectory at the moment, but it's really important to get people thinking and talking about this, and one way to do that is to tell the stories of the objects in orbit." Human interactions with space are endless and vital. "The twin Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft are exploring the furthest reaches of deep space right now, serving as sensors for us; cosmic rays, meteorites and inter-planetary dust are falling to Earth regularly; and our planet is driven by the light of the Sun and the Moon," Alice says. "We are not isolated; we are and always have been very connected into the whole solar system and galaxy beyond. And you can have those perspectives without leaving earth." As for travelling into space herself, Alice is more ambivalent. "When I was a little kid, it was something I wanted more than anything else in the world," she says."Now, I am a bit agnostic about whether we should be moving so fast into space. I support the space industry but I also don't want to see us get it badly, badly wrong, to the point we can't go back." Congratulations Associate Professor Alice Gorman, one of our 2020 UNE Distinguished Alumni Award winners.
Professor Christine Phillips - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Professor, Social Foundations of Medicine, Australian National University Medical School; Associate Dean, Research (Health Social Science), Australian National University College of Health and Medicine
UNE Qualifications: Graduate Diploma in Continuing Education
A prescription for kindness Three confronting experiences signpost the remarkable career of Dr Christine Phillips and speak volumes of her personal philosophy on life and community service. The first occurred at the tender age of 16, when Christine's surgeon father took her to visit the Aboriginal reserve Cummeragunja, on the banks of the Murray River, where he ran a visiting health service. "It was one of the most shocking experiences of my life," she recalls. "The Yorta Yorta people were so impoverished, living in overcrowded houses so close to a thriving, middle-class community. I remained angry about that for a very long time and it made me think about all the things we choose not to see, and led me to think about medicine from a social justice perspective." The eldest of nine children, Christine considered following in her father's footsteps one of the least imaginative steps she could undertake at 18 years, but ended up enrolling in medicine at the University of Melbourne, where she found the training "arduous and dull". "I couldn't imagine that I would ever enjoy it or be really proficient at it," she says. "But when I got to Royal Darwin Hospital to do my internship I realised that the actual job bore little resemblance to the training, and it was wonderful." Still, Christine thought she should keep her options open and enrolled in a Graduate Diploma in Continuing Education at UNE. "I wanted to have something else I could do if medicine imploded for me, which I fully expected it to do," she says, "and the timing was great because it gave me a very different way to think about things. "From Darwin I went to ANU and studied anthropology, public health and got a doctorate in the end, but the thing that set it all off was that Grad Dip. It was a big thing to get down to Armidale from Darwin in those days, but it was really good to meet people who were wildly different from doctors. That UNE training in adult education proved critical for the rest of my career." The second major event in Christine's life coincided with her graduation the beginnings of the HIV AIDS crisis. "It was such a horrible virus and there was no treatment available," she says. "The infection rates were high among my circle and some parts of the community were very judgemental. Every clinician had to come to terms with that. To me, not acting with judgement was a fundamental principle. I later worked quite closely with people with HIV in general practice. Every weekend we would visit them dying in their homes; beautiful young men, loved by their families and friends and partners, dying too early and abjectly." Christine still works in that same Canberra general practice, which specialises in drug and alcohol medicine, and youth, migrant and complex mental health. Since 2008 she has also been the medical director of the Companion House Medical Service, which provides torture and trauma counselling and medical care for refugees and asylum seekers. There, her impact has been profound, as witnessed by the improved cervical screening, pregnancy care and Hepatitis B treatment. In 2010 she also co-founded the Refugee Health Network of Australia, the peak advisory body to government on health care, and wrote the national standards for health practitioners using interpreters. "Companion House is the most joyful place to work," Christine says. "You witness survivorship every day, how people break the chains that determined their upbringing, who are optimistic about their future. Many overcome great challenges, and to be a small part of that is a fantastic privilege." By 2004 Christine had also embarked on university teaching within the ANU Medical school. Today, she is Professor of Social Foundations of Medicine, and Associate Dean, Research (Health Social Science) within the College of Health and Medicine. Having pioneered the integration of social sciences including dance, music and art in medical education, she hopes to inform new generations of doctors in unique ways. "It's a way for clinicians to engage with broader perspectives," Christine says. "Medicine is a fundamentally judgemental career; diagnosing is a process of exercising judgement. But you have to park your moral judgement to be a doctor, to avoid tripping over your own preconceptions and prejudices. By exposing our students to the social sciences, we challenge their perspectives and free them up to think and experience and be in the moment. It's vital for them to know what it feels like when someone they care about dies, what it feels like when they fail or a great injustice occurs. You witness great injustices in medicine daily." A dedication to supporting some of the most marginalised and vulnerable in society has seen Christine work across the spectrum in the prison service, with victims of domestic violence, the homeless and urban poor. "It surprises people to learn there is so much deep urban poverty in the ACT; our housing crisis is the worst of any Australian city," she says. "And evidence shows that any mental health issues among people who are homeless are usually secondary to their homelessness. They are not homeless because they are psychologically unwell; they become psychologically unwell because they are homeless." The final telling experience in Christine’s life has been working with asylum seekers who have been in long-term detention. “I have now worked in this field long enough to have seen several generations of asylum seekers who have suffered long-term immigration detention, and the impacts upon children, where Australia sadly has more experience than other major refugee resettlement country," she says. "The most profoundly shocking thing for me has been the failure among more Australians to be moved and outraged by the actions undertaken in our name towards people who have asked for help, as they are entitled to do.” In her consultancy work, clinical practice or academic life, Christine's efforts are characterised by a deep respect for others and a commitment to equity ("all patients are entitled to the best care available and no-one should be left behind"). She was named a Member of the Order of Australia this year for her "significant services to medicine, medical education and refugee health". "I think it's always important to consider the context in which people live and I believe that kindness really matters," she says. Congratulations Professor Christine Phillips, AM, one of our 2020 UNE Distinguished Alumni Award winners.
Mr Timothy Walker AM CBE - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: immediate past Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the London Philharmonic Orchestra
UNE Qualifications: Diploma in Financial Management
Striking the right note Among the many accolades that Tim Walker received upon his retirement from the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) this year were scores of personal tributes from musicians, conductors, trustees, music lovers and even HRH The Duke of Kent. Via video and internet posts, they generously praised the "Aussie straightforwardness", daring and decisive programming, and inspired leadership that characterised his "glorious reign" as chief executive and artistic director of the esteemed orchestra. Coronavirus had robbed him of an official farewell, and Her Majesty The Queen's awarding of a Commander of the British Empire (CBE), forcing Tim to hastily exit London, but his many colleagues and admirers were permitted a rousing applause. His name may not be widely known outside concert halls in his home country, but throughout Europe Tim Walker is musical royalty. For 17 years he presided over the LPO's repertoire, revenue and reputation as it maintained a demanding schedule of concerts, tours, festivals, recording sessions and community programs. "It was pretty much a daytime, evening and weekend job," Tim says. "Apart from touring with the orchestra, I travelled regularly to negotiate tours, audition conductors and soloists and so on. There were also concerts to attend all the time, business dinners, and seeing how people worked with other orchestras. I was lucky to have a night home in a month. "Typically, we did about 170 performances a year, some 40 of them in London. Up to 50 others could be anywhere from San Francisco to Shanghai, and we also played for an annual country house opera season at Glyndebourne and recorded movie soundtracks for the likes of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 3. The record label that I established in 2005 has also now released 150 recordings." LPO violinist and president Martin Höhmann says Tim leaves the orchestra "at the top of its game in London and internationally", with a talent for producing challenging and relevant performances. "The belief in what the orchestra can do is without limits," he says. On the other wide of the world, from the relative safety of his Tasmanian rural property, Tim is now reflecting on what part a Diploma in Financial Management from UNE played in his stellar career. "When I enrolled I was head of music at the Don College in Devonport, where I had been teaching for three years," he says. "I had musical knowledge but felt the diploma would round out my education and equip me for an arts management career. It certainly helped me to apply for the role I sought at the Canberra School of Music (now the ANU School of Music)." It was the only professional position, in fact, that Tim has ever applied for, and led to a memorable 12-year tenure with the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO), where he rose to the position of general manager in just two years and appointed Richard Tognetti (the internationally renowned soloist, composer, conductor and artistic director). "I moved the ACO from a part-time to a full-time orchestra and extended its concert and subscription series into all the state capitals, plus regional cities," Tim says. "We did eight national tours a year, and the business skills I had learnt at UNE became a strong aspect of my role." Later, as chief executive and founder of the World Orchestras organisation, Tim brought some of the world's greatest ensembles to Australian shores, including the Israel Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony, BBC Symphony and Leipzig Gewandhaus. Consultancies for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Australian Festival of Chamber Music and Australian Ballet further cemented his arts administration skills, bringing Tim to the attention of LPO recruiters. "It was the only one of 14 symphony orchestras in Great Britain where the positions of chief executive and artistic director were combined, and that's what interested me," he says. "It was rare for countries to take outsiders to manage organisations like the LPO, but I felt very comfortable, even as an Australian representing this great British institution. "I think I brought a lot of realism and pragmatism to the role, and that Australian sensibility of 'we've got something to do here, so let's not muck around, and get on and do it'. Australians tend to be quite open, too, and I think people found my transparency refreshing." While leading one of the world's great orchestras and delivering world-class concerts was Tim's primary objective, Arts Council funding also afforded him opportunities to provide access to music for many of Great Britain's most disadvantaged. The successful London Music Masters and Future Firsts programs that Tim worked on continue to help nurture new generations of musicians, and with corporate backing he organised concerts for homeless, aged and prison groups, and workshops for those with a disability. "The education and community work was important," Tim says. "It was rewarding work for the orchestra, but also another way of giving back to the community." Former principal and dean of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Emeritus Professor Sharman Pretty, believes Tim's career is an inspiration to those working in the arts and creative sectors in Australia. "He has demonstrated that, with passion, astuteness, commitment, perseverance and resilience, it is possible to build a career in Australia that, on its own merits, will be recognised and sought after internationally," she says. "The role that Tim held with the London Philharmonic Orchestra ... is a role to which many young Australians with a commitment to arts and orchestral management might aspire and, through his success, can know is achievable." As the COVID-19 crisis began to unfold earlier this year, Tim transitioned the LPO online, leading his team to stage popular Sunday evening concerts with a strong health and wellbeing focus, as well as informative programs about career development. "We tried to offer a variety of programs that would be useful to different audiences and that was one of our ways of dealing with the inability to give concerts or do overseas tours," he says. "But until there is a vaccine, I don't think concert life will get back to normal, so my retirement, for personal reasons, is perhaps timely." On the island state where he first learned piano and violin, led his school orchestra and played in the Northern Tasmanian Youth Orchestra, Tim is growing accustomed to a slower pace of life. It's also a time of contemplation. "The biggest sense of satisfaction, for me, came from attending concerts and seeing other people appreciate the results of my work," he says. "My effort to build the quality of the orchestra, to get the best conductors and soloists and to come up with the most interesting programs, and to have a full house of people applauding something that you have worked to do, that's the ultimate satisfaction when a concert hits the right notes and moves people to respond. Then to sell that orchestra to other countries with great orchestras in Vienna, Paris, Berlin and New York and so on, and again have sold-out concerts, that's also very satisfying, to see how the company you run is succeeding not only at home but around the world. "That's the power of music; it hits the head as well as the heart. It transforms you as a person because it enables you to see and feel things that you might not otherwise have considered possible." Take a bow Timothy Walker, CBE, AM, one of our 2020 UNE Distinguished Alumni Award winners.
Elizabeth Adler - Young Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Diplomat Australian Embassy Cambodia
UNE Qualifications: BA (International Studies); Bachelor of Laws
International affairs were a regular dinner-table topic of conversation for Elizabeth Adler (nee Prior) growing up. Lively discussion ranged from humanitarian crises, to the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment."My Somali mother Sue and her nine sisters came from a poor rural family and were withdrawn from school at a young age, but my mother fought hard to stay in school," Elizabeth says. "She understood the importance of education and studied hard, coming third in her district in her high school entrance exams. She could not believe her luck when she earned a scholarship to study at an American Evangelical school in Kenya."Sue went on to become a teacher and then a women’s development officer with Oxfam UK, where she met Elizabeth's father Julian, who was then an Oxfam Project Coordinator. Two years later, the couple was forced to evacuate the country and move to Australia when the Somali civil war broke out."I guess my interest in working in international development can be traced back to my parents' experiences and those early family conversations," says Elizabeth. Enrolling in a Bachelor of Arts (International Studies)/Bachelor of Laws at UNE seemed only natural, but she was already thinking far beyond Australia's borders."I volunteered with the Armidale Branch of Amnesty International, supporting its campaigns, and completed an internship with the Australian Human Right Commission during my studies, in what was then the Sex and Age Discrimination Unit," Elizabeth says. "Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick served as an important role model at that time; I remember us discussing the superannuation gap between men and women and her saying ‘a man is not a financial plan', which really stuck with me."The experiences broadened Elizabeth's understanding of human rights issues and furthered her interest in being part of Australia’s efforts to address poverty in the developing world. "One of the most memorable courses I took at UNE focussed on Australia’s response to civil unrest in the Solomon Islands, through the Regional Assistance Mission," Elizabeth says. "This mission marked the official beginning of the end of violent inter-ethnic conflict in the Solomon Islands and highlighted Australia’s important role in the Indo-Pacific. I was proud of Australia’s response, and thought to myself - 'I want to be part of that'."After a short stint working as a research officer with the Australian Human Rights Commission, on the review of the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force Academy, Elizabeth was employed by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in Canberra. It was then that her diplomatic career really took off.Elizabeth undertook a short-term stint with the Australian Embassy in Myanmar, supporting development operations, gender equality work and a UNICEF child protection program. She also enjoyed short periods working at the Australian High Commission in Papua New Guinea, helping to build the leadership capacity of the public sector, and at our embassy in Jakarta, where she supported the implementation of the Australia Awards Scholarships program, providing opportunities for the alumni of Australian universities.For the past year Elizabeth has been a diplomat at the Australian Embassy in Cambodia, managing the Australia Awards program, the New Colombo Plan and Australian Volunteers Program, supporting delivery of a gender-based violence program and providing advice on higher education and gender equality. It's an impressive resume for a 30-year-old, which is why UNE has recognised Elizabeth with a Young Distinguished Alumnus Award."Working with DFAT is more than a job; it's a career," Elizabeth says. "In my current role I engage with high-level Cambodian government officials and representatives from universities, international and national NGOs, and Australian scholarship recipients."It's inspiring to meet those who are working extremely hard to make a difference, including people who have won Australia Awards scholarships to study in Australia. I get to see the fruits of their labour when they return. Some have raised community awareness about the causes of cancer, built a highly successful café franchise, lifted the standards of Cambodia’s universities, and advocated for women in leadership in the public service."DFAT offers a diverse and interesting range of jobs in foreign policy, development and trade, which should satisfy Elizabeth for years to come."Over the next 10-20 years I would like to focus on development issues in Africa because, despite its potential, it is still extremely underdeveloped and poverty is endemic," she says.
Garry Clark - Alumni Achievement Award
Position Title: Self-Employed Professional Musician/Conductor
UNE Qualifications: Bachelor of Music/Bachelor of Teaching
Teaching, performing and conducting music is the lively score of Garry Clark's life. It reaches rousing crescendos during performances at glamorous venues like the Sydney Opera House, but is just as captivating when the tempo changes and he's guiding novices through their first ensemble rehearsals."I get a lot from starting beginners off on their musical journey; seeing them learn properly and enjoy playing," says the talented band director. "Some have been performing with me in school and community bands for years and many former students have gone on to complete musical degrees, become high school music teachers or participate in accomplished orchestras."Garry orchestrated a similar route himself. He joined the Royal Australian Air Force Air Command Band straight from high school and spent five years performing and touring, before enrolling in a Bachelor of Music and then Bachelor of Teaching at UNE to expand his repertoire."I was a professional musician by experience, but as a qualified music teacher I thought I could share that knowledge with others," Garry says. And indeed he has, primarily as the musical director of three primary school band programs in western Sydney, two community bands and the community-based, not-for-profit Hills Music Academy."Garry has played a central role in the development of musical talent in Western Sydney for over 30 years," says fellow music teacher Danielle Burns. "His primary school band programs provide students with outstanding tuition and unmatched performance opportunities so that they emerge as skilled, confident musicians who contribute significantly to the cultural life of their communities."Collaboration and community engagement are two of Garry's guiding principles. By engaging young people and audiences, he endeavours to provide pathways for aspiring musicians and create cultural cohesion in concert with community pride."Our community bands are all-inclusive and draw people of all ages from all backgrounds; we have doctors playing beside retirees and students," Garry says. "In a band, you are part of something that is bigger than you; the emphasis is on teamwork, and every player is just as important as every other. There is a lot of camaraderie and opportunities to make new friends."The community bands have a strong social agenda - we play for citizenship, Australia Day, Anzac Day, Remembrance Day ceremonies, and support fundraising for local charities. Performing gives members a sense of worth; a feeling that they have something to contribute to their community. The musical education also extends to developing important life skills like teamwork, professionalism, reliability and communication. Band rehearsals are always on - I never cancel!"However, Garry's contributions to the music industry reverberate well beyond the Hills district. He serves on many advisory boards and selection panels for musical festivals and eisteddfods (including the Australian School Band and Orchestra Festival and Sydney Eisteddfod), and is regularly engaged as an adjudicator and guest tutor. He has been both the National and NSW President of the Australian Band and Orchestra Directors’ Association (ABODA) and, in 2004, was awarded ABODA’s highest award, the Citation of Excellence. He is also a past member of the World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles, and a board member of the Asia and Pacific Band Director's Association.When he's not discussing or leading bands, Garry also likes to perform in them, and has played with the Australian Wind Orchestra and Sydney Wind Orchestra, touring Australia and the USA, where he performed in New York's Carnegie Hall. Until recently, Garry led the saxophone section of the Sydney Wind Symphony.Although the bands he conducts regularly compete successfully in notable competitions and festivals, Garry is not motivated by winning awards."A lot of my primary school players, who have grown up through the programs from the age of 8, come back to teach or tutor, which is very pleasing," he says. "It's great to see them become teachers or musicians and then to share their love of music with the next generation. Music is an art form, a language you can speak your whole life."Congratulations Garry Clark, a 2019 winner of the UNE Alumnus Achievement Award.
Sarah Cook - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Kinross Wolaroi School, Rowing Coach & Educator
UNE Qualifications: Graduate Diploma in Education
Strength is often forged in the intense heat of fire. And so it was for accomplished athlete and UNE Distinguished Alumni Sarah Cook in the lead-up to the 2012 London Olympics.Having already won several World Rowing Championship and World Cup medals, the eight-time Australian champion was training hard for the pairs event, determined to secure that most elusive of sporting rewards, an Olympic gold.But rather than investing in its elite female athletes, Rowing Australia was scaling back its women's program. "I was one of only four women on scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport, whereas there were 12 men in the rowing program, and there was no attempt being made to grow the female squad," Sarah says.Then Rowing Australia decided not to consider trialling to select a women's eight to contest the qualification trials for the London games. It was a decision that transformed a disheartened Sarah into a vocal advocate for gender equity. She subsequently sidelined her own personal aspirations to join what the media dubbed the 'Motley Crew' and campaigned for the women’s eight to have the same opportunities as their male counterparts."It was one of those moments when you realise that sport is bigger than the individual," Sarah says. "I knew we had the talent to do well, and I'm very passionate about the development of the next generation of female rowers, and women's sport in general."The Motley Crew went on to win the Olympic qualification regatta and make the Olympic final in London, vindicating their highly publicised stance. And it proved a major turning point in Sarah's life."We were inundated with messages from women thanking us for what we had done for them and their daughters," she says. "Pleasingly, Rowing Australia now offers equal funding and support for men and women, and the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics will see gender parity for rowing events for the first time in Olympic history."While Sarah decided to retire after the London campaign, there was yet another chapter to be written in her sporting biography - she promptly took up sailing and represented Australia for the next three years. "I'd never sailed before, but it was awesome," she says. "It was an amazing opportunity to enjoy a different challenge."To support herself, Sarah returned to rowing as a coach, and became the first female senior sporting coach at the all-boys GPS school St Josephs College, in Sydney."I was able to help those athletes take their next steps into the national rowing system and Australian teams, to help them achieve their dreams," says Sarah, who was later appointed the school's Head of Rowing (responsible for 180 athletes and 25 coaches) and became the first female Master-in-Charge of Rowing in the history of GPS competition.But, once again, it was not all smooth sailing."It was a baptism of fire," Sarah says. "Old boys would often ask 'wasn't there a man for the job?' but I was unfazed. In my first year at St Joeys we won Head of the River for the first time in 42 years and went on to enjoy another two very successful years before I left to become the Operations Manager for Australian Sailing."Sarah's list of pioneering achievements in high-performance coaching and administration - across rowing and sailing - is almost as impressive as her competition results. Her appointment as the men’s coxed four crew coach for the World Rowing Junior Championships in 2016 made her only the second woman in the history of Australian Rowing to coach a men's crew. The same year she also became the first female president of the Sydney University Boat Club, after its historic amalgamation with the Women's Rowing Club.Various voluntary roles ensued, among them Director of Rowing NSW and Councillor for Rowing Australia. Sarah also took on a commentary role at the world-famous Henley Royal Regatta in the UK and, in 2018, was named a steward of the regatta - becoming only the third Australian and the first female to receive this lifelong honour.All the while, this passionate advocate for youth development, health and gender equality in sport completed a Bachelor of Applied Science and then, at UNE, her Graduate Diploma in Education.Sarah describes her current role, as Head Rowing Coach and Athlete Development Coordinator at Kinross Wolaroi School in Orange, as "deeply fulfilling". "It's very rewarding seeing kids enjoying sport with their mates at every level, having their own goals and competing to the best of their ability, and enjoying all the benefits that sport brings," Sarah says.Even through the disappointments? "I don't have an Olympic medal, and that's something I really believed I was capable of achieving at the London Olympics, however the campaign for the women's eight crew gave me an opportunity to do something meaningful with lasting impact," Sarah says. "It made me who I am, and it was the start of a conversation that's continuing and only getting louder about equal parity in sport."
Catherine Marriott - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: CRC for Northern Australia
UNE Qualifications: Bachelor of Rural Science
Catherine Marriott's participation in the Tour de Cure to raise money for cancer research reveals much more than her passion for cycling. During the past two years she has clocked up almost 2000 kilometres in the saddle with a painful hip injury, to honour the father she lost to cancer when she was just 9. No complaint. No fuss. And never a thought of letting her team down."The beautiful thing about the Tour is that everybody is driven by a cause bigger than themselves, to find a cure for cancer, and everyone is generous of spirit and belongs to this one supportive group," says Catherine, who has raised more than $50,000 for the charity. "No-one cares who you are, what you do or where you've worked."But Catherine's made a life and respected career founded on teamwork, courage and service to others. Leadership came naturally to her, even in grade five, when she appointed herself school captain of Baddaginnie Primary School - "because there were no grade sixers and only 11 kids" - and used to ride her horse to school every day, over the main Melbourne-Sydney railway line, 10 kilometres there and back.It was a rural upbringing that instilled in Catherine curiosity and confidence, and the importance of networks and integrity. "To me, leadership is not about personal accolades; it's about what you do and how you positively impact other people to get outcomes for a community," she says. "It's my absolute passion to leave this planet a better place, to confront unjustness in the world, and to empower others to achieve things they didn't know they could, for the betterment of others. Self-interest just makes me sick; I prefer to see the people around me doing well. If you think you're too small to have an impact, try sleeping in a swag with a mozzie."This powerful ethos has underpinned every fascinating facet of Catherine's professional career. Since graduating from UNE with a Bachelor of Rural Science in 2011 she has worked as a beef industry nutritionist, jillaroo, mining dump-truck driver, and served in management, consulting and leadership roles in the agribusiness sector in Australia and throughout Asia. In 2012 she won the WA RIRDC Rural Women's Award and went on to realise her goal of setting up the company Influential Women, to create strong and resilient rural communities by investing in the wellbeing and growth of women.Since 2014 Catherine has been a commissioner with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. Her appointment as CEO of the Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen's Association and then WA Program Manager for the CRC for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA) further recognised her ability to engage stakeholders within the agricultural sector (including politicians, researchers and producers) and to grow organisations sustainably."I have never done anything that is not aligned with my personal values, that isn't consistent with my mission to improve rural communities," Catherine says. "For me, it's about being effective, generous and authentic. So often in life we pretend to be somebody because it might make us more popular or get us further ahead, but the biggest gift you can give someone is the courage to be authentic. I have spent my whole life building the confidence and capacity of others, encouraging them to live in their own skin and to stand up for what they believe in."Known affectionately as Maz, Catherine is also prepared to walk a mile in another's shoes. "If you want to be respected and build empathy ... you have to, even if you are absolutely terrified," she says. "If you are feeling confident and have clarity around your role, whatever that may be, you can do what is right for you. Aligning peoples' values with their purpose can't help but create a more vibrant rural Australia."There's a beautiful saying: 'We have to love the unloved children because if we don't they will burn the community to feel its warmth'. When I transpose that over the work I have done, it's about looking after people, so that they feel valued, happy and enjoy what they are doing. Instead of being disruptive, they can then be productive and make an active contribution."In endorsing Catherine's nomination for the Distinguished Alumni Award, President of the National Farmers' Federation Fiona Simson praised her empathy. "Rarely do you find someone seemingly larger than life but so sensitive and caring of others at the same time," Fiona said. "She also passionately supports what is “right”, and a better outcome, even if that means more work for herself or a less than optimal outcome for her. She is smart, articulate, passionate, professional, bold and loyal, and the future is an open book for Maz, with amazing opportunities wherever she might like to go."
Abinesh (Bobby) Narain - Alumni Achievement Award
Position Title: CEO & Director, Railway Radio Communications
UNE Qualifications: Graduate Certificate in Management; Master of Business Administration
Continual professional development - and a positive outlook - have taken UNE graduate Abinesh (Bobby) Narain around the world. But he is most proud of what he's achieved closer to home.When Tropical Cyclone Winston struck his Fijian homeland in February 2016, Bobby was in Sydney, where he had created a family and successful business fitting communications systems to freight trains. The category-five storm, accompanied by winds of up to 195 kilometres per hour, killed 44 people and destroyed villages and critical infrastructure."The place where I was born, in the north-west, sustained severe damage," Bobby says. So he dropped everything, contacted the Fijian consulate in Sydney and offered his assistance. For the next month, Bobby made his factory available for the receipt and dispatch of donated goods and food, and personally co-ordinated the appeal, organising trucks and fuel, pallets and forklifts to operate the makeshift depot."It was a golden opportunity to give back, to help my fellow Fijians," Bobby says. "We were not prepared for the generosity of Australians and managed to fill eight shipping containers, plus send 100 tonnes of emergency supplies by air-freight. All my operational and organisational experience came to the fore."His efforts earned Bobby the Campbelltown City Council Australia Day Award earlier this year and UNE has now recognised his achievements with a 2019 Alumnus Achievement Award.After a humble upbringing in Fiji, Bobby travelled to New Zealand to complete his secondary schooling, for "a better education and future opportunities". He remained in NZ for 10 years, working part-time while gaining a Diploma in Electronics and Computer Technology, before a scholarship enabled him to study to become a commercial technician."Every day is an opportunity to learn and improve," Bobby says. "I always had an interest in developing myself and motivating others. And learning never stops; it doesn't matter how old you are. With education you can change the world."Moving to Sydney in 2000, Bobby gained sales experience and launched his own business, then enrolled in a Graduate Certificate in Management and a Master of Business Administration (International Business) at UNE. "For me, the study was about future-proofing," he says. "I did the MBA to address my weaknesses and to learn to view business through a broader lens. I even earned an Endeavour Scholarship to travel to South Korea and China and spent 12 weeks learning Mandarin. The tertiary study was not about making more money but self-improvement. Every module strengthened me as an individual and strengthened my small business skills. It was critical in making my business a success."That business - Railway Radio Communications - installs and maintains CCTV cameras, radios and satellite phones for trains travelling some of Australia's most remote routes. "Ours is only a small business - we compete against ASX-listed companies for some jobs - but my installation teams are fast and efficient and we fill a niche," Bobby says. "I'm always prepared to be opportunistic and to chase the remote contracts."The nature of the business means that Bobby can get called out at any time to provide emergency support. "But when I see one of those trains taking containers of wheat to the ports or goods from the ports to regional areas and I know we have installed the communications systems, then I feel very proud," he says. "Those systems ensure the safety of the train operators and the security of those rail services. Without it, the trains couldn't go on the track."Most recently Bobby has joined Toastmasters International and he's interested in writing a motivational book about capitalising on life's opportunities. "If I can do it, why can't you?" he asks. "I want to empower others to believe that good things can come from small beginnings. That you can make things happen if you put your mind to it, release self-doubt and ignore the naysayers."We live in a lucky country, where anything is possible for anybody who wants to make a go of it, unlike in developing countries where discrimination and inequality persist. I could never have achieved this kind of success in Fiji. Sometimes I have to pinch myself."
Richard Schilizzi - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Emeritus Professor, University of Manchester
UNE Qualifications: Bachelor of Science (Physics)
One of the first books Professor Richard Schilizzi remembers reading as a seven-year-old was the sci-fi thriller Lost on Venus, with a heroic space adventurer at its heart. He's assumed a similar leading role throughout his illustrious career, exploring the furthest reaches of our universe.A gifted and visionary scientist, the world-leading radio astronomer is an expert in the complex technique of very long baseline interferometry (VLBI), at the cutting edge of astronomy and astrophysics, and the author of some 250 scientific papers. However, Richard's greatest legacy will perhaps be the two institutes he helped develop and manage over 40 years to enable ground-breaking research - the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE), at the centre of an array of VLBI telescopes across Europe, and the central office for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the world's largest radio telescope - which will advance astronomy for decades to come.And it all began with a Bachelor of Science (Physics) degree with Honours at UNE, the alma mater now honouring Richard with a Distinguished Alumnus Award."I've always been driven by what radio astronomy can tell us about how the universe began and evolved, as well as a strong interest in international scientific collaboration," Richard says. "One of the interesting things about the large trans-national projects I've been involved in is the human aspect of how best to bring people from different social and scientific cultures together to create scientific facilities beyond the capacities of the individual institutes and countries."In nominating Richard for the award, fellow UNE graduate and financial analyst Dr Garry de Jager highlighted Richard's capacity for "seeking out the needs for the future, finding support from colleagues, then from institutions, creating new ones if necessary, selling the vision, persuading and charming those who held the purse strings, and then getting results".Richard, now Emeritus Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Manchester in the UK, is more modest. "I've always been interested in pushing the boundaries of pure science, in research that transforms peoples' views of the universe, but also pushing the boundaries of the instrumentation," Richard says. "I've functioned at the interface of astronomy and engineering in a highly collaborative environment. You are always building on what's gone on before. We had the opportunity to run with things if they looked like they had a good chance of achieving something interesting."After early-career research in California and the Netherlands, Richard played a leading role in building the European VLBI Network (EVN) and established himself on the global scene when he was instrumental in founding JIVE, and became its first director. The VLBI technique uses radio telescopes physically separated by hundreds of kilometres to study objects in our universe that emit radio waves, providing humanity's sharpest view of these objects and clues to the history and evolution of our universe.Richard then became the first director of the International Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Project, which has now become a global collaboration between about 100 organisations in 20 countries. He led the SKA project for nine years until 2011, and took it from a loose collaboration of national efforts developing new telescope concepts to a coherent global project able to embark on the final stages of telescope design.In the succeeding years, preparations for the first phase of the multi-billion Euro mega-facility (consisting of thousands of dishes and up to a million low-frequency antennas) have continued, and construction is poised to begin in Western Australia and South Africa. The SKA facility will be to radio astronomy what the Hubble Space Telescope has been to optical astronomy.Retirement from the SKA in 2012 was short-lived; Richard was immediately charged with establishing a new SKA Group at the University of Manchester and led the international research and development consortium that developed the hugely important SKA signal transport system.Collaborating with scientists, governments and potential financiers all over the world on such ambitious projects has demanded consummate project management skills, strategic vision, technological problem-solving abilities, unrivalled diplomacy and passion."It was a time of opportunity and we made very good use of it," Richard says. "The science is borderless but the funding and legal aspects are not. These were large projects that required international collaboration and support, but they grew from the grass-roots. The most pleasing thing is that these facilities didn't exist and now they do. That's the best accolade one could have; that you start something up and it keeps going."The applications of the technological innovations have also been enduring, with a healthy flow of information between governments, industry and academia, and vice-versa. And the possibilities are as vast as the night sky."What excites me is all that we have yet to discover about the universe; the exploration of the unknown," Richard says. "We astronomers like to say we look at the sky through our telescopes but what we see is only about 4% of the total energy density in the universe. We don't know what the hell the rest of the dark matter and dark energy is. There is an enormous amount that we are yet to understand."Fortunately for the international scientific community, pioneers like Richard Schilizzi have laid the foundations for many discoveries to come.
Dr Victor Squires - Alumni Achievement Award
Position Title: Consultant
UNE Qualifications: Bachelor of Arts; Bachelor of Letters; Master of Arts
Unsung rangelands champion A passion for the vast rangelands covering 40% of the Earth's surface has taken Professor Victor Squires to some of the most inhospitable corners of the globe - from the vast Thar Desert of India to the Alborz mountains of northern Iran. But wherever he roams, it's not the landscapes, but the resilient people who inhabit them that hold him in thrall. "Millions of people are dependent on the world's rangelands as a source of livelihood and as a place where their culture and religion, arts and crafts can continue to exist," says Victor, an international authority on rangelands management and dryland agriculture. "They are subject to the winds of climate change; they have lived for generations in deep snow or desert environments with howling winds and sandstorms. There is a simplicity about them, yet they have developed the most ingenious coping mechanisms and are among the world's most generous people." As a well-travelled rangelands consultant since "retiring" from academia, Victor has many a riveting tale to tell about training young scientists in the field and engaging with some of the world's poorest people. He's partnered with institutions and government agencies (like AusAid, the Asian Development Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development and other United Nations agencies) to address land degradation and protect rangelands ecology, and been a regular contributor to the work of the United Nations Convention for Combating Desertification (UNCCD) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). "Rangelands can be seen as unproductive and inhospitable, but there are probably no more efficient ways to use land than for grazing livestock," Victor says. "Despite all the documents and speeches saying they are very fragile environments, rangelands are actually very resilient. In Kuwait, even after the invasion of 1990, plants were pushing their way up through thin layers of bitumen, and in fields that had been allowed to regenerate - because they were littered with landmines - we discovered six or seven plant species that were thought to be extinct. "We all talk about sustainability, but what do we want to sustain - the plants, the biodiversity, the culture of the people, their livelihoods? Often the question 'what does sustainable production mean?' is not even asked." Victor's scientific career began with postings as a technical officer and then principal research scientist with the CSIRO in Australia's own dry interior, in western NSW and around Alice Springs. After 22 years with CSIRO he was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Natural Resources at the Roseworthy Agricultural College and later became director of the National Key Centre for Dryland Agriculture and Land Use Systems at the University of Adelaide. He's written or edited 20 books and published more than 200 papers on rangelands biodiversity, degradation and restoration, but Victor singles out two key achievements from his 60 years of applied research. The first is a paper he published in 1995, which highlighted the link between desertification and climate change, and vice-versa. "This idea hadn't occurred to anyone before, but even if our rangelands only produced 10 kilograms of net primary productivity per hectare per year, that's a helluva lot of biomass over such a large area," Victor says. "Drylands are up there sequestering 1.6 gigatonnes of carbon a year, which is more than all our forests, which are being cut down or burnt at an alarming rate. My conclusions led to a number of people getting really excited about this sort of stuff." Secondly, Victor is extremely proud of the mentoring he's done in 35 countries - in Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Tunisia and "many strange and wonderful places". "When you transfer ideas and change mindsets, people are more willing to consider alternatives, and ideas can spread quickly," he says. "I've always tried to work for the arid lands, but with regard for the people, too." Since 1986, Victor has undertaken more than 10 projects in the north-western provinces of China, especially in Xinjiang and Gansu. China's State Council recognised his contributions with gold medals for International Science and Technology Cooperation and Friendship, and last year he became the first ever recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from the Gansu Agricultural University in Lanzhou. Not bad for a boy from the bush, who left school at 15, completed his leaving certificate by distance education while working as a dairy labourer, then earned a scholarship to attend Hawkesbury Agricultural College. He spent the best part of a decade completing three degrees externally at UNE (studying botany, geography and ecology) while raising a young family and working full-time. While colleagues highlight how Victor has enhanced our understanding of the world's rangelands and "what arid land science could offer small farmers, agro-pastoralists and the economies of developing countries", his proud brother Don delivers more personal praise. He says Victor's "undisputed academic and career distinction is not merely a result of his obvious intellect and academic success, but very much a product of his personal strength, determination and drive and the capacity to come from behind ... to rise to a position of international prominence" from very humble beginnings. For Victor, engaging with people from all walks of life has meant that "every trip, every year is a new challenge and an opportunity to learn". "By taking the path less travelled, I have accumulated a great deal of experience," he says. Congratulations Victor Squires, a recipient of the 2019 Alumni Achievement Award.
Professor Michelle Trudgett - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Pro VC Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education, WSU
UNE Qualifications: Bachelor of Arts (Aboriginal Studies); Master of Professional Studies; Doctor of Education
Visionary is a word often used to describe Wiradjuri woman Michelle Trudgett. Well before she had enrolled to study at UNE she had set herself the goal of gaining three degrees by the time she reached 33; then her ambition was to be appointed a Professor before turning 40; then to assume the role of Pro Vice-Chancellor by the age of 45.That she has achieved all three goals with one year's grace comes as no surprise to those who know Michelle. One colleague describes her as a "force of nature"; another "a fierce advocate for Indigenous education, who not only imagines a better future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, but ... makes it happen".And it's a journey that began in 1997 when she left her Sydney home for UNE's country campus, to take up the study of psychology. "I soon fell in love with Indigenous Studies, and thought it much better that I learn more about my people, history and culture," says Michelle, who went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts (Aboriginal Studies), a Master of Professional Studies and then a Doctor of Education. It was her doctoral thesis that would set the stage for the impressive research and academic career to follow."I only knew of two other Indigenous Higher Degree Research (HDR) students at UNE at the time," says Michelle. "In the year that I was born there wasn't a single Indigenous person with a doctoral qualification in Australia and the first one wasn't until 1980. There was a significant gap in knowledge about how Indigenous HDR students could be supported by our institutions, so I decided to investigate the support provided to Indigenous postgraduate students as my doctoral thesis topic."This ground-breaking study has since informed national policy and guided government and university practices alike. "When I started, most researchers were still focusing on how to get Indigenous people into undergraduate studies, but there wasn't much thinking about options for this cohort once they completed their undergraduate qualification," Michelle says.It's a question she has investigated thoroughly on her way to becoming one of Australia’s leading Indigenous scholars and finest researchers in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education. Her research has explored Indigenous education at all levels, building to two current projects exploring Indigenous leadership in higher education and the development of Indigenous early career researchers."Making higher education more accessible and supporting Indigenous Australians to achieve excellence are key," Michelle says.And that she has, leading by example. Michelle was the inaugural Indigenous Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Macquarie University and soon developed a highly popular Master of Indigenous Education degree. She moved quickly through the ranks at Warawara, Macquarie's Department of Indigenous Studies, becoming head of the department in just three years, and actively encouraged all administration staff to enrol in degrees "to give them room to move in their future careers"."I have no time for deficit education; Aboriginal people are able to achieve and succeed at any level," Michelle says. "We are proud, strong and intelligent people and it's important that everything we ask of our Indigenous staff and students is centred around achievement and high expectations."In 2015 Michelle (by then a Professor of Indigenous Education) was appointed the inaugural Director of the University of Technology Sydney's Centre for the Advancement of Indigenous Knowledges, now regarded as one of Australia's most respected Indigenous research centres. The subject she introduced – Aboriginal Sydney Now – provides almost 1000 students each year with a better understanding of contemporary Indigenous culture.Last year Michelle's outstanding leadership in Indigenous Education was recognised when she was named the 2018 National NAIDOC Scholar of the Year. She was also awarded the Neville Bonner National Teaching Award for Indigenous Education.Now Pro Vice-Chancellor Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education, Strategy and Consultation at the Western Sydney University, Michelle is implementing her grand plan to encourage the growth in Indigenous academic employment and higher degree research, as well as the incorporation of Indigenous Knowledges across all aspects of university core business. And, yes, she achieved this appointment at the age of 44."It's absolutely imperative to have Indigenous people – the key stakeholders – involved in the decision-making that affects them, whether it be policy or strategy," Michelle says. "My hope is that we will see more Indigenous people holding university executive appointments. With Indigenous people making up 3% of the Australian population, we should already have at least one Indigenous Vice-Chancellor across our 40 universities. There are none, and I want to change that."We have Indigenous surgeons, lawyers and judges, but there is this big void in the higher education sector. Future Indigenous scholars need to see Indigenous people succeeding, leading research and influencing policy. Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can benefit from Indigenous leadership styles; it's important for improving Indigenous communities, but also important to the socio-economic fabric of Australia."Having an Indigenous Vice-Chancellor would signal that we have moved away from notions of universities as western institutions and towards them being global institutions. One can only try."
Dr Robert Wilson AM - Alumni Achievement Award
Position Title: Consultant
UNE Qualifications: Bachelor of Science; Diploma in Agriculture in Science; Non-UNE degrees, MBA, 1987; PhD, 1980
Passionate industry pioneer The welfare of animals, agricultural industries and rural communities has been at the heart of Dr Robert Wilson's 40-year career. It has inspired innovations to commercial production, novel research and development, and voluntary service aimed at encouraging the next generation of producers. A widely respected animal scientist, Rob is best known for his contributions to the Australian pork industry and the advancements in welfare and environmental standards he helped pioneer. From developing Western Australia's largest integrated pork operation (Wandalup Farms) to several Pork CRC roles and leadership of a number of federal research programs, his career has traced the rising trajectory of the Australian pork industry itself. "There were few commercial animal nutritionists when I graduated from UNE (with a Bachelor of Science and Diploma of Science in Agriculture, in the early 1970s)," says Rob, a recipient of this year's UNE Alumni Achievement Award. "The pork industry was small and dynamic, and we had researchers and farmers who could see the potential for more intensive production. We all worked together and had a common purpose; it's still like that today." Pork was largely a sideline to dairy or grain production, but times were changing. "The industry was evolving into something more sophisticated, more of a business, and we needed to get all the aspects right - from the farming, through the supply chain to a quality product," Rob says. "Consumers were starting to see pork as something other than a celebratory product, but we had to educate them and the chefs, and pork producers had to do their job well. Nutrition, genetics, management, biosecurity and disease management all became very important, as well as R&D." After Wandalup, Rob was invited to join the Pork CRC, first as a commercialisation manager, then responsible for improving the industry's green credentials and integrity. His research and co-operative partnerships with producers, agribusiness companies and government agencies saw him champion new industry standards for animal welfare and sustainable waste management - standards adopted nationally and internationally, not only in pork but throughout other intensive agricultural industries. "Australia has been very proactive in terms of addressing welfare and environmental challenges," Rob says. "Thanks largely to industry R&D, and the time and goodwill of a lot of farmers, we now have appropriate welfare practices that are audited and benchmarked around the country. "The industry also produces a lot of effluent, but we developed vast composting and recycling systems to ensure there is very little or no discharge to land, and the nutrients can be sustainably applied to plants or crops. We now have a pork industry that is not just profitable and internationally competitive but also ethical." Importantly, Rob's adoption of technology to improve productivity, product quality and generate new markets has not been at the expense of smaller pork players. "Very early on, and throughout my career, I've been conscious of including smaller family farmers," he says. "I developed a contract growing scheme, where we encouraged progressive farmers to build their pig production facilities. This often meant that family members could stay working on the farm, because it gave them another source of guaranteed income." Whether it has been his active role in R&D or industry politics - through the Pork CRC, Pig Research and Development Corporation or the WA Pork Producers Association (WAPPA), Rob has been instrumental in transforming the pork industry into one focussed on ethics, eating quality and efficiencies. Such contributions earned him a Membership of the General Division of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2007. More recently, Rob became a director and chair of Westpork, WA's largest and the third largest pork producer in Australia. He is also the inaugural chair of the advisory board for the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute at Curtin University, chair of Pork Innovation WA and a director of the Food Agility CRC. As a mentor to young people, councillor and past president of the Royal Agricultural Society of Western Australia and inaugural chair of Agricultural Shows Australia (ASA, representing the nation's 580 agricultural societies and shows), Rob continues to invest in the future of agriculture. "I am enthusiastic about educating people about agriculture and their food, because the divide between producers and consumers is so huge," Rob says. "There are generations of kids growing up now with no idea about wool, cotton, milk and meat, so we spend a lot of time and effort improving the educational component of agricultural shows, particularly through benchmarking and competitions. With ASA I am involved in mentoring our rural ambassadors and young judges, to encourage young people to pursue careers in agriculture. We also have to ensure our agricultural shows remain relevant to agriculture and their communities."
Keith Robert Yates - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Geologist
UNE Qualifications: Bachelor of Science; Bachelor of Science with Honours
It was the potential for discovery that enthralled 16-year-old Keith Yates when first exposed to geology during a Bachelor of Science degree at UNE. "I wasn't a rock collector; I didn't know anything whatsoever about geology, but after six months I was hooked," says Keith. "Stimulated by the impressive teaching staff, I soon became fascinated with the history of the Earth and this has captivated me my whole life."Keith's timing could not have been better. "I graduated in 1960, well before Australia's massive iron ore deposits or many rich coal seams had been developed; it was early days," says Keith, now 80. "Some would say my timing was a stroke of luck."Joining the Commonwealth Bureau of Mineral Resources (now Geoscience Australia) in his first professional role, Keith mapped isolated parts of the Northern Territory, North Queensland and Papua New Guinea. "We were explorers in every sense of the word - going to places that not a lot of people had ever been to," he says. "It was like playing a game when you knew the odds were stacked against you, but if you used your nous and applied your scientific knowledge, you stood a good chance of winning the prize."That glittering prize - for Keith - was not merely unearthing profitable mineral deposits, exciting though that was. It was also rewarding the mining companies and their faithful shareholders, even the states and economies in which he worked.Keith moved to South Australia in 1970 and spent the next decade scouring our continent and South-East Asia as a chief geologist and exploration manager. But it was during a more senior executive stint with the small listed Adelaide mining and exploration company Australian Development Limited, from 1984-1989, that Keith oversaw perhaps his most memorable discovery - a high-grade gold deposit at White Devil near Tennant Creek, in the Northern Territory."It was a very rich deposit and the discovery radically changed the fortunes of the company," Keith says. "Not only was it a scientific endeavour that was very successful; it was also a business venture that was rewarding for the shareholders of the company, which went from market capitalisation of less than $10 million to over $100 million. From 1987-1999 White Devil produced more than 750,000 ounces of gold."The quest to uncover this precious metal consumed Keith for much of his career. In the 1990s he established his own company to consult to the mining industry and government on minerals exploration. He also became founding executive chairman of Adelaide Resources Limited, which made significant gold, iron and mineral sands discoveries in South Australia. "There's nothing quite like seeing gold bars coming out of the furnace, especially from ore that you yourself have played a part in discovering," Keith says.But it is for his role in stimulating and accelerating state-wide minerals exploration and development, and for shaping public policy that Keith is well known. As a taskforce member, he was pivotal in preparing a roadmap for the development of SA's mineral resources, and held several key advisory roles, on the Resources Industry Development Board, and as chair of the Minerals and Energy Advisory Council (MEAC)."The mining industry in SA was dragging the chain compared to other parts of Australia and I knew there was significant potential that was underplayed, even after the discovery of Olympic Dam in 1975, which is now one of the world's biggest copper mines," Keith says. "It needed a push and the SA economy has benefitted greatly from the export income associated with subsequent discoveries."A mentor to countless scientists throughout his 60-year career, self-effacing Keith is not one to rest on his laurels, even since "retirement" in 2010. Every two years he organises the NewGenGold Conference - the world’s pre-eminent gold exploration conference - which he founded in 1995, he actively supports STEM education and, as a member of the Playford Trust, helps to allocate scholarships to promising students. "I get a great deal of satisfaction seeing young people not just do well academically but go on to become good geologists, mining engineers and metallurgists in the professional world," Keith says.In May 2019 the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM), the peak industry body in Australia and New Zealand, recognised this highly respected quiet achiever with an Institute Sector Service Award. It acknowledged not only Keith's discoveries and the substantial economic impetus they've brought to regional communities, but also the support he's shown emerging geoscientists.And as for the future of mining in Australia? "A lot of the easy discoveries were made when the rocks stuck out of the ground," Keith says. "These days we're having to look deeper into the earth's crust, but the discoveries are still happening. Australia is a big place and there are still lots of empty corners to explore.“As world economies grow, mining plays an ever-increasing role in satisfying the demand for metals and other raw materials that are a dominant component in almost everything we use. New age smartphones, computers, wind generators, solar cells, batteries and electric cars all require a range of metals in their manufacturing, and the mining industry will be required to meet this demand. The future continues to be exciting!”
Ms Bushra Rahim - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Deputy Director, Home and Tribal Affairs Department, Civil Secretariat, Peshawar, Pakistan
UNE Qualifications: MEdAdmin
From humble beginnings in rural Pakistan, Bushra Rahim has risen to become one of her country's most influential advocates for educational, health and government reform for woman. She has defied the odds of her troubled province - where children have limited access to education, most women stay at home (the female literacy rate is just 18%) and female students and schools have been targeted by militant groups from neighbouring Afghanistan - to complete undergraduate and post-graduate studies at home and abroad, and to win a host of awards. The most recent is the prestigious 2018 UNE Distinguished Alumni Award. Bushra came to UNE on an AusAID scholarship in 2007, having already studied Business Administration and Computer Science in a traditionally male dominated program at the University of Peshawar. She had become the first woman to work as assistant director, IT, in the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Finance Department but felt she needed the backing of an international degree to improve the plight of Pakistan's women. “Travelling abroad alone to study, as a Muslim woman in the aftermath of 9/11, was not easy, but I had only one thing in mind - I wanted to do something for my people," Bushra said. Her dedication was reflected in impressive results. Bushra was awarded membership of the International Golden Key Honour Society for being among the top 15% of UNE students and went on to earn a Fulbright scholarship to complete a PhD at the University of Albany, in the US. “Terrorism was spreading in Pakistan at this time (2011), so there I had to become a peace ambassador and show a positive side of my culture, religion and country," she said. The rest, as they say, is history. After returning to Pakistan, Bushra assumed the position of deputy director and reforms coordinator in the Ministry of Local Government, Elections, and Rural Development. She co-founded a not-for-profit organisation to improve more than 1300 community schools in her province (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and to ensure that every girl receives a quality primary education. Setting up free community schools and vocational centres and earning funding from Fulbright’s Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) for a project to give women a greater role in social and civic life, political peace-building and business are among her countless other achievements. “Without active participation, no legislation can be passed in favour of women,” Bushra said. “Everything is in our hands and no one can take our right if we are aware of it. If I can manage to go abroad for studies, I believe every girl can. All they need is a good education, support and encouragement.” That's precisely what Bushra says she received at UNE. "The staff of the School of Business were very supportive, and discussing topics candidly with my professors was a unique experience," she said. "At UNE, I learnt the importance of critical analysis, and my appetite for reading and learning was satiated on a daily basis by the library. I still miss the liberty of going to the library and drowning in books." Meeting people from a variety of different backgrounds was a revelation. "For the first time in my life, I got the chance to learn about other countries, cultures and norms," Bushra said. "I learnt how important it is to listen and respect other people’s viewpoints and made many friends with whom I am still in contact. "My educational experience at UNE was a great source of enlightenment. It brought a positive shift in my attitude and mindset, and strengthened my belief in working for the betterment of my people, especially women." In nominating Bushra for the award, former UNE Adjunct Senior Lecturer Dr Fiona Wood praised her former student's commitment. "She embodies the mission of UNE leadership to solve problems and lead positive change, untiringly contributing to the education and empowerment of women in her troubled country," she said. "Pakistan has among the highest number of out-of-school children in the world (nearly 6 million), some 60% of whom are girls. Among those enrolled in school, low learning levels and retention rates are unfortunately the norm. Bushra's determination to make a difference against these odds is exemplary."
Dr Om Kumar Harsh - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Additional Pro Chancellor, Glocal University, Saharanpur, India
UNE Qualifications: PhD (CompSc)
Four research degrees, including a PhD in Computer Science at UNE in 2011 and a multi-disciplinary academic career spanning almost 40 years and five countries – Dr Om Kumar Harsh's life's work is nothing but varied, and he is now being recognised with a 2018 UNE Distinguished Alumni Award. Early in his extensive career, Om conducted research and taught in various Indian universities, before holding posts at the University of South Australia; Monash University, Malaysia; US Champlain College, Dubai; University of New England; and branches of the University of Missouri and California University in Oman. Computer science, engineering and physics in all their forms have been his abiding passions. Om was director of one of the largest engineering colleges in northern India – the Hindustan College of Science and Technology – and group director at the Amritsar College of Engineering and Technology, before becoming Vice Chancellor of Tantia University and, most recently, Pro Vice Chancellor (Additional) of Glocal University. Even as he has risen up the ranks of academia, Om has remained dedicated to the practical applications of learning, and has actively promoted international collaborations between universities and industry. "At UNE I learnt the importance of sharing research findings with other researchers, people working in that field and the public, to add to the scientific knowledge base," he said. "I remember the UNE staff fondly, for their love of learning and sincere interest in motivating students to succeed. I had the privilege of learning from some of the best computer science staff in the field and it prepared me well for a successful research career in advanced higher education and subsequent professions. I owe so much to the UNE School of Science and Technology." Studying at UNE, Om said he met people from all over the world, learning that we share similar challenges and can impact on each other in positive ways. "It made me more modest and appreciative for what I have," he said. "UNE instilled in me the desire to be active in my community and to make a difference in other people’s lives. The best global citizens are informed and have global relationships. They operate in whatever way they can – within their own country or others – to generate the change they desire. UNE introduced me to such concepts. "My experience at UNE was different to what I experienced at other universities. UNE taught me the power and value of knowledge and its strategies, which is vital for anything I plan to do for wider humankind." Despite his academic trajectory, Om never forgotten his humble origins, and has organised fellowships for disadvantaged rural students and opened TAFE-like centres in India to allow less affluent students to develop skills. "In collaboration with my Australian colleagues, I have also sought to help students from the Middle East, India and Malaysia to acquire an Australian education," he said. "I cherish my UNE memories and personally appreciate the opportunities that study abroad can bring. I will always keep a warm place in my heart for Armidale and UNE."
Professor Bill Griffiths - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Emeritus Professor of Econometrics, University of Melbourne
UNE Qualifications: BAgEc
First Class Honours, University Medal
Statistically speaking, there was always a very strong probability that Bill Griffiths would one day be named a UNE Distinguished Alumni. He graduated from University of New England with First Class Honours and a University Medal in 1967, undertook a PhD in the US, and was Professor of Econometrics for 32 years, first at UNE and then at the University of Melbourne. UNE was still developing its residential colleges when a young Bill arrived in 1963 and found his digs in an old house the university had rented in the heart of Armidale. "They would bus us up the hill to classes and meals every day," Bill says."Being together with a relatively small number of fellow students meant that close friendships developed." He remembers fondly "all the balls and cabarets" and playing 3rd grade rugby union for the newly established Earle Page College. The intimate size of the university also enabled close staff-student relationships. "It was a small, friendly university environment," Bill says. "Agricultural Economics/Econometrics Professor Takashi Takayama was instrumental in directing me towards an academic career by encouraging me to go to the US to do a PhD." When he returned to Australia in 1972, Bill gravitated quite naturally back to Armidale and went on to become a long-serving staff member of the Department of Econometrics (initially the Department of Economic Statistics). "Ours was a close-knit department," Bill says. "We were all good friends, with frequent social outings at restaurants and in people’s homes. Distinguished international visitors were always well entertained." Regular lunchtime tennis matches on UNE's clay court - some more competitive than others - proved therapeutic. "One could relieve the stress of the morning’s frustrating committee meetings by belting that little yellow ball," Bill says. Moving to the University of Melbourne in 2001, Bill served as Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies, Director of the Centre for Microeconometrics, Deputy Head of the Department of Economics and finally head of the department from 2013-15. He has also held visiting appointments at Louisiana State University and at the universities of Georgia (Athens), Illinois (Champaign-Urbana) and California (Berkeley), and was elected Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in 1995. Econometrics - the application of statistical methods to economic data - continues to engage Bill as an Emeritus Professor at the University of Melbourne. "It plays a vital role in policy decisions made by all our governments," he says. "Advice given by departments such as Treasury, the Productivity Commission, Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Department of Social Services all rely heavily on econometric modelling."
Dr Jo Newton - Young Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Research Scientist, ImProving Herds Project, Agriculture Victoria
UNE Qualifications: BRurSc, PhD
Hons.1, University Medal
Among Jo Newton's many outstanding achievements - including winning the leadership category of the Victorian Young Achiever Awards, Dairy Research Foundation Emerging Scientist Award and Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria Emerging Leaders Award - is an accomplishment that could easily go unnoticed in her crowded resume. Fresh from being named a Young Farming Champion, Jo was still studying for her PhD at UNE and working part-time on a nearby Merino stud when she set about resurrecting the sheep section at the Armidale Show. She put up her hand to become chief steward and promptly incorporated new genetic tools into the junior judging criteria. "As a school student, local agricultural shows helped open my eyes to agriculture’s exciting opportunities, and the same is true today,” she says. Jo has volunteered as a steward at the Sydney Royal Easter Show and Australian Sheep and Wool Show since then, but her commitment to the Armidale Show neatly encapsulates this accomplished scientist's unbridled passion for agriculture, her innovative thinking and belief in nurturing the next generation. Not to mention her hard-working ethos. Jo's professional life is hectic these days, helping show dairy farmers the link between herd improvement, genetics and farm profit as a research scientist with the Gardiner Foundation-initiated project ImProving Herds. “I’m passionate about ensuring that research outcomes don’t just reside in scientific journals," she says. However, Jo still manages to find time to advocate for young people as chair of the Youth Voices Leadership Team, to speak at schools and events promoting STEM and careers in agriculture, and to volunteer at agricultural shows. "I'm particularly keen to support young women entering agriculture; it's a passion that was fostered at UNE, when I helped to initiate the Farming Futures Project (which connects agricultural graduates with prospective employers) and represented Australia at the Enactus World Cup in Mexico," she says. In 2018 and at the tender age of 29, Jo was named one of The Australian Financial Review's 100 Women of Influence. But she's never been one to rest on her laurels. An Endeavour Postdoctoral Research Fellowship will soon take Jo to Ireland to learn from leading animal geneticists and extension specialists. "I'm keen to understand more about how I can translate research into practical, tangible outcomes, to deliver benefits to farmers," she says. And all this from a woman who grew up in inner-city Melbourne, who was told at age 16 that she was "too smart to study agriculture".
Mr Andrew Duver - Young Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Asset Manager, Agricultural Investment Company
UNE Qualifications: BEc
To say that Andrew Duver immersed himself in university life at UNE is an understatement. Andrew was a member of the UNE Economics and Business Society, an active sportsperson, and resident fellow while living at Drummond and Smith College from 2011-2013. "College life was one of the highlights of my time at UNE," Andrew says. "I participated in debating competitions, drama challenges and weekend sporting competitions, including the 111-kilometre Hawkesbury Canoe Classic, which raised money for medical research. I made lifelong friends, many of whom I’m still in contact with today.” It's no surprise then that, upon graduation, Andrew earned the New England Award, which celebrates participation in extra-curricular activities, professional development and community service. From UNE, Andrew completed further studies in Melbourne before being accepted into a coveted year-long graduate program with the Commonwealth Bank in regional Victoria. He subsequently joined an agricultural investment company in Melbourne and since then has risen to the position of asset manager, were he works with a team of high-performing farm managers to achieve their business objectives, bridging the divide between investor requirements and the practical realities of agriculture. Andrew's commitment to Australian agriculture extends beyond his day-to-day employment. This year he was one of just 10 people appointed to the AgriFutures Australia Ignite advisory panel, where he's playing a role in shaping the future of Australian rural industries, and he has explored industry issues with Dairy Australia to. Beyond his professional work, Andrew enjoys keeping active by training for half-marathons and raising money in fun runs. "Studying at UNE, in a regional community, allowed me to focus on areas of research applicable to my career in regional business and investment," says Andrew, now 26 and a winner of the 2018 Young Distinguished Alumni Award. "But UNE gave me much more than a degree."
Mr Peter Cosier - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Director, Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists
UNE Qualifications: BSc, DipURP
As director of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, Peter Cosier is at the forefront of land and water management across Australia. The eminent group that he helped establish has been influential nationally and internationally in water reform, landscape conservation, and developments in carbon farming and environmental accounting. And Peter says his experience at UNE was pivotal. "At UNE I was encouraged to question and challenge perceived truths, and given the opportunity to test new ways of thinking," he said. "My UNE experience played a significant role in my subsequent career because it combined my curiosity for science with practical training on how to manage our natural world for the long-term benefit of society." It has stood Peter in good stead ever since, from formative beginnings as a seasonal ranger in western NSW and an environmental planner in local government, to his role as a special projects manager for the Australian Democrats, his work in regional development, and later as a senior policy advisor to the former Federal Liberal Minister for the Environment, Professor Robert Hill AC. From 2004-06 Peter was deputy director general, science and information, of the NSW Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources, where he helped to decentralise natural resource management and develop a program for vegetation management on private property in NSW. Working effectively across the political divide, with politicians, bureaucrats, business and community leaders to produce scientifically-sound legislation and institutional reform has been Peter's specialty. But it is at the helm of the Wentworth Group - a trusted body that links science and environmental policy - that the full breadth and depth of his varied experience has been brought to bear. The group has dedicated itself to addressing decades of environmental degradation across the country and its blueprints for managing our natural resources are considered world's best practice. The revolutionary environmental accounts the group developed have not only guided Australia's environment ministers on the monitoring of our country's environmental health; they have informed the United Nations System of Environmental and Economic Accounts. The group has also made significant contributions to environmental legislation closer to home - in the shape of the 2003 NSW Native Vegetation Act, the 2004 National Water Initiative, the Federal Carbon Farming Initiative, as well as the Murray Darling Basin Plan. Proof, indeed, that a Bachelor of Science with UNE can take you into corridors of power around the world. These days, Peter also combines his abiding passion for the Australian environment and landscape planning expertise as chair of the Science Council for the Tasmanian Land Conservancy, a not-for-profit organisation that acquires land to protect important natural features. Nearly fifteen years after it was formed, the Wentworth Group continues to attract Australia's most respected and authoritative scientists to give science a powerful voice in discussions around how we address the most pressing sustainability issues of our time. Peter's drive and dedication are critical to its success. He credits staff at UNE for teaching him about the wondrous diversity of the Gondwanan flora, that economics is a tool not a religion, and that an understanding of science, coupled with sensible farm management practices, can enable wildlife and agriculture to live in harmony."It is the quest for science to speak truth to power that has underpinned the philosophy of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists," Peter said. "Our aim is to explore the great public policy challenges of improving the wellbeing of people in ways that also conserves the natural heritage of this Earth that we have been so fortunate to inherit."
Dr John Dixon - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Principal Advisor/Research Program Manager for the Cropping Systems and Economics Program, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research
UNE Qualifications: BRurSc (Hons), MNatRes, MEc, PhD
Eight years of study at UNE had a profound influence on world-renowned agricultural researcher and program manager John Dixon. It forged lifelong friendships, exposed him to revolutionary thinking and completely changed his career trajectory. "My original aim in going to UNE was to pursue a farm advisory career, but rubbing shoulders with dozens of fellow students and staff from Asia, Africa and South America shifted my personal goals to international research and development work," John said. "UNE set me up for an international career in a way that no other university could have. I learnt from people who were trail-blazers in agricultural research and development. I have always felt I was standing on the shoulders of giants from UNE." John's subsequent contributions to international agriculture have been significant - in Iran, Ethiopia, Nepal, Italy, Thailand, Zimbabwe, Mexico and Australia. For 40 years he has devoted himself to furthering global food security, poverty reduction and sustainable development through global platforms like the Food Summits and risk-oriented farming systems research in villages. He has worked with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) and, more recently, the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR) to create partnerships to improve the lives of millions of smallholder farmers in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Whatever the setting, John is respected for demonstrating a blend of intellectual curiosity and grassroots pragmatism. Colleagues applaud his deep understanding of farmer decision-making and participatory methods, and for engaging empathetically and constructively across cultures. He has championed several new areas of research, including farming systems and sustainable intensification and diversification, and coordinated a range of complex multi-partner projects. John has remained steadfast in his dedication to research that can improve the lives of the world's most disadvantaged people. In 2016 and again in 2017 he was nominated for the World Prize for Integrated Development. But he has never forgotten his own roots in rural systems, natural resources and agricultural economics at UNE. Even today, John's entire Bachelor of Rural Science year continues to enjoy weekend retreats every few years, an agricultural economics group lunches periodically in Canberra, and while overseas he regularly reconnects with UNE friends in Paris, Washington, Rome and Nairobi."The UNE experience was a coming of age, socially and politically," he said.
Dr Anurak Panyanuwat - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Emeritus Professor in Man and Environmental Management, Chiang Mai University
UNE Qualifications: PhD
Education at UNE can be applied to change the lives of some of the world’s most disadvantaged people, as Emeritus Professor Dr Anurak Panyanuwat has demonstrated. The progressive academic and researcher, who completed his PhD at UNE in the 1980s, is now known internationally for his significant contributions to education and community development. And he credits his UNE studies – exploring Australia’s system of distance education – with shaping his career in profound ways. “Distance education was only just starting for remote Thai people when I returned from UNE,” said Dr Panyanuwat. “Studying in Australia, and the wonderful adult education classes, liberal education sessions and continuing education activities I enjoyed influenced my thoughts about the kind of educational services we needed to provide in Thailand and other Asian countries.” Dr Panyanuwat wasted little time in implementing what he had learned. “I made use of such lessons as the Director of Sub-regional and Provincial Nonformal Education Centres (NFE) in northern Thailand, and contributed to the distance education rolled out to schools, colleges, universities and non-formal education centres all over the country,” he said. “The alternative of a non-degree program sparked all kinds of new opportunities for university engagement, social responsibility and study for people outside universities.” Dr Panyanuwat advanced this “education for all” approach when he moved to Chiang Mai University in 1992. There, he was appointed Professor in Nonformal Education and used his knowledge of remote services like the Australian School of the Air and the Royal Flying Doctor Scheme to integrate continuing education and humanitarian work. Most notably, he led 130 research projects (involving 25 universities and 464 research staff) to monitor and evaluate flood relief across one-third of Thailand – developing a research model that has since been adopted elsewhere in the world. Dr Panyanuwat also jointly pioneered an adult literacy program that initially saw 1200 non-formal educators and teachers working with more than 300,000 illiterate hill tribal people to help improve their lives, ecological sustainability and economic outlook. He continues to work voluntarily within the Highland Research and Development Institute, the public organisation that grew out of this research, which has expanded to help 700,000 tribal people develop greater self-reliance and self-development through improved language skills. Similar personal and regional advantages have flowed from the research Dr Panyanuwat conducted into an economic corridor along the northern Thai-Myanmar border, which has inspired industrial linkages across Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Throughout an illustrious career in education, and managing people and the environment, Dr Panyanuwat has carried out research at local, regional, national and international scales, and earned a number of awards for his outstanding leadership and efforts to address disadvantage in holistic ways. He also became the first chairman of the University Academic Service Network of Thailand, with its 32 member universities, and has supervised about 1500 master degree graduates and 80 doctoral degree graduates from Chiang Mai and other universities. Upon his retirement from Chiang Mai University in 2016 Dr Panyanuwat was appointed Emeritus Professor in Man and Environmental Management and remains a UNESCO consultant in adult education and literacy for Asia and the Pacific region. He is also still a university councillor or academic councillor for a number of state and private universities. But he’s never forgotten his time at UNE. “UNE demonstrated to me the value of lifelong education and research in program planning and development, and it taught me innovative ways of delivering higher educational teaching and learning,” Dr Panyanuwat said. “Combined with what I had learnt in Britain, this helped me to initiate many innovative projects and programs in Thailand and other Asian countries. It provided opportunities for me to work to improve the lives of others.” And it’s far from over. Dr Panyanuwat still volunteers to help improve his local environment. He is involved in the Higher Education Research Promotion Project, which is training 800 researchers and instructors from about 46 universities to conduct research into the biodiversity of rural and wetland areas nationwide. He is also supporting efforts to integrate knowledge management for sustainability in Upper-Northern Thailand.
Ms Maria Helena (Milena) Lopes de Jesus Pires - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Permanent Representative of Timor-Leste to the UN, United Nations
UNE Qualifications: BA
Living in exile in Australia for 20 years during the Indonesian occupation of East Timor did nothing to quell the young Maria (Milena) Pires’ passion for her homeland. Throughout her studies at the University of New England during the 1980s, the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award winner continued to follow its politics with intense interest and to advocate for independence. That she eventually became a member of Timor-Leste’s first National Parliament and is now Timor-Leste’s Ambassador to the United Nations is testament to the critical role she has played in the rebuilding of her nation. After graduating from UNE with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1990 (with double majors in Sociology and English Literature, and a minor in Politics), and working abroad to raise attention to her people’s right to self-determination, Milena returned home to a country she barely recognised. She soon became an active advocate of women’s empowerment, improved governance and development, and threw herself into working to improve the lives of her people, promoting human rights for women and mental health services. The trauma of having her own brother killed by militia in 1999, and seeing the conditions under which her sister-in-law was forced to live, further steeled Milena’s resolve to advocate on behalf of the country’s most vulnerable. As a policy development officer funded by the Catholic Institute for International Relations, she sought to draw attention to the shocking rates of domestic violence against women and the importance of women’s participation in politics and decision-making. On the political stage, Milena’s rise parallels that of her country. She was a founding member of the centralist Social Democratic Party (PSD) and became a member of the Constituent Assembly in 2001, helping to draft the Constitution of Timor-Leste. In 2000 Milena was elected Deputy Speaker of the National Council, established by the United Nations Transitional Administration and became campaign director for President of East Timor, Xanana Gusmão, in 2002. Her abiding passion for justice saw Milena take an active role in compiling the assessment of the justice sector for Timor-Leste’s State of the Nation Report in 2008, before she was appointed as the senior adviser to the Vice Prime Minister, tasked with administrative reform of the Timorese public service. From 2011-2014 Milena served as one of 23 international experts on the UN’s Committee for the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). As well as assessing progress in 186 countries during her mandate with the CEDAW Committee, she also contributed to the preparation of Timor-Leste’s initial report for CEDAW. From 2013-2014 Milena was also the executive director and founding member of the Centre for Women and Gender Studies in Timor-Leste. Even her political opponents have praised Milena’s positive approach to finding solutions to her country’s many challenges based on consensus. As her country sought to rebuild and heal itself following years of military occupation, Milena understood that lasting change could only be achieved through improved policy and laws, both nationally and internationally. Now, as the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Timor-Leste to the United Nations, Milena continues to advocate on behalf of Timor-Leste and to mobilise international support and resources to assist its development. Reflecting on her studies at UNE, Milena said they have proven invaluable. “It equipped me with the analytical skills and ability to empathise that have proven critical in all aspects of my subsequent work – in community development, counselling, program development and coordination, consultancy, politics and now diplomacy,” she said. “UNE helped me to develop a curiosity and interest in learning beyond my chosen subject areas." “Studying English literature and being exposed to various British and Australian authors instilled in me a love of reading that continues to this day and serves me well in being able to get through the endless documents produced at the United Nations.”
Dr Andrew Gardner - Alumni Achievement Award
Position Title: Clinical Neuropsychologist and researcher, NHMRC
UNE Qualifications: BPsych (Hons)
Leading sports concussion expert Dr Andrew Gardner is a regular fixture in dressing rooms and board rooms across Australia, and it all started with a football sports scholarship to study at UNE. For it was in the UNE School of Psychology that the internationally recognised clinical neuropsychologist discovered his passion - a passion that today sees him leading the Hunter New England Local Health District's Sport Concussion Clinic and consulting to elite rugby union and rugby league players. "I came to UNE fresh from school and during my five years of study I experienced the greatest growth in my personal identity," said Dr Gardner. "I look back very fondly on the lectures and tutorials, living in Earle Page College, participating in all kinds of sports in the President's Trophy, working at Sport UNE, and representing UNE at the University Games (in football)." Dr Gardner graduated from UNE in 2006 with a Bachelor of Psychology (First Class Honours) and went on to establish and manage the Macquarie University sports concussion clinic and spend a year as a research associate at the Harvard Medical School. This year he was awarded a National Health and Medical Research Council early career fellowship within the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Newcastle, where he is investigating the link between concussion and neurodegenerative disease in retired athletes. Somehow Dr Gardner also finds time to run his private business NeuroGard, which provides concussion assessment and education. He is a strong advocate for athlete welfare and public education about concussion, and has amassed an impressive body of research, particularly on sports concussion in semi-professional rugby union players. Dr Gardner said his studies at UNE were formative. "My experience at UNE set a strong foundation for me to successfully negotiate the rigours of post-graduate study and to pursue my research interests," he said."Despite spending the first 18 years of my life growing up elsewhere, I sincerely feel like Armidale is my home town." Dr Gardner's contributions have been widely applauded. His Doctor of Psychology thesis received the prestigious award for the Most Outstanding Dissertation for 2011 from the National Academy of Neuropsychology in the US - the first time this honour had been bestowed upon a researcher studying outside the US. In 2013 he was invited by the Australian Academy of Science to the Theo Murphy High Flyers Think Tank on “inspiring smarter brain research in Australia”, and in 2015 Dr Gardner was awarded the Research Australia Discovery Award, which recognises the nation’s most outstanding early career researcher.
Dr Tanya Tapingkae - Alumni Achievement Award
Position Title: Lecturer, Chiang Mai Rajabhat University
UNE Qualifications: MSc, PhD
From police officers to prison inmates and schoolchildren to farmers, Dr Tanya Tapingkae has taken science into the community and applied it with outstanding results. Tanya completed her Master of Science (Horticultural Science and Plant Biotechnology) and PhD at UNE while holding down senior roles at Chiang Mai Rajabhat University. Although medicinal mushrooms (specifically those of the species Cordyceps) have been her primary research interest, Tanya is widely respected for sharing her broader passion for agriculture and for working to improve the lives of others. Tanya progressively moved up the ranks within the Agricultural Technology faculty at Chiang Mai Rajabhat University, a community-based university that carries out community-service projects and research aimed at developing the quality of local life. She started as a lecturer before assuming roles as head of the research centre, head of the department, vice dean and eventually dean, a position she held until 2015. Along the way, Tanya has earned a swag of awards, including Gold and Bronze Medals from the National Research Council of Thailand in 2016 and 2017, the British Inventors Gold Award from the Association of British Inventors and Innovators in 2016 and 2017, and the Philippine Gold Award for Invention from the Manila Young Inventors Association in 2017. Providing support for Thailand’s rural farmers has taken a number of forms – delivering short courses on plant propagation and mushroom cultivation, and supporting the use of agricultural wastes to reduce pollution from burning in northern Thailand. In collaboration with the Department of Corrections, Tanya also gave training on mushroom cultivation to jail inmates through a program designed to engender good work habits and skills to enhance their employability upon release. She has also helped to train police teachers at border patrol police schools. Colleagues commend Tanya’s contribution to research, teaching and learning, and community service. She says the technical, analytical and management skills she developed while studying at UNE have served her well throughout her career and she continues to draw on this overseas experience. “UNE is a very international environment and during my six years of study it hosted students from all over the world,” she said. “The environment was ideal for studying and Armidale is a wonderful city – beautiful, safe and friendly.”
Mr Benjamin Dunn - Alumni Achievement Award
Position Title: Director, Legal and HR, Medline Australia and NZ
UNE Qualifications: LLB
Completing his Bachelor of Law degree by distance education with UNE has afforded Benjamin Dunn all kinds of career opportunities. For starters, he was able to work full-time as a Legal Associate within a multinational medical company throughout his studies, rising through the ranks to assume increasingly more senior Asia-Pacific management positions. By the time he graduated, in 2014, Benjamin had joined one of the world's largest privately owned medical devices companies, Medline Australia and he has since risen to the position of Director, Legal and Human Resources. Benjamin is also a member of the Senior Management Team, Company Secretary and is the Ethics and Compliance leader for the Asia-Pacific region. Clearly, his employers, like his fellow students, have recognised Benjamin's business and legal acumen, strategic mindset, and extraordinary work ethic. At Medline, Benjamin has sought to apply the principles of simplification and plain speak he learnt at UNE in both his approach and the processes he has introduced. He has transformed the legal department into a more collaborative and proactive team, and championed corporate social responsibility within human resources, forging an inclusive and engaging company culture. In 2013 and again in 2014 Benjamin received Medline's highest honour - the Recognition for Outstanding Service Award. Outside work, Benjamin is a devoted husband and father of three boys. He and his wife Karen work tirelessly to support the special needs of one of their sons, who has autism spectrum disorder, and to raise awareness of autism within the broader community. This year they were finalists for Aspect's Parent Carer of the Year Award. All the while, Benjamin has sought to maintain ties with UNE and has recently been in discussion about developing an intern program for students or alumni wanting experience with a multinational company. "UNE taught me that the effort I put in is directly linked to what I achieve," Benjamin said. "I still remember one UNE podcast about the importance of professionalism; that as lawyers we have an obligation to work diligently for our clients and to exercise our best efforts in the legal services we provide. Often when I am reviewing a legal matter or handling a grievance, I will reflect on that podcast. I like to think that the success I have achieved is directly linked to important lessons learned at UNE, and more specifically that one podcast."
Adjunct Professor Barbara Chambers - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Adjunct Professor of International Research and Community Development, University of Canberra
UNE Qualifications: BA DipEd BEd (Merit) MEd(Hons)
Professor Chambers has had a significant career in education, including as Head of School of Community Education, then later as Associate Dean of Education at the University of Canberra. She is internationally respected in the field of collaborative methodologies, including participatory action research, anti-racism and the impact of gender mainstreaming on women's participation in agriculture and food security. She was the foundation director of the Australian Institute for Sustainable Communities at the University of Canberra. This Institute aims to use partnership in research and development to build sustainable environmental, social, cultural and economic capacity. Barbara has worked with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) to conduct research which has the ability to significantly improve the rights and opportunities of women in Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam. The purpose of her work has been to enable women and girls to participate fully in the horticultural supply chain, and assist men to appreciate the value to the household economy of empowerment of women. Her research has also touched on human rights issues confronting women and girls in the Indian Ocean-Asia Pacific region. Barbara’s most recent research, undertaken with Professor John Spriggs, investigated strategic collaboration to improve rural livelihood systems and strengthen pro-poor value chains in Pakistan. She now advises on gender equity in international development projects and is co-writing a monograph for ACIAR on the role of social research in demand-led international development.
Professor Snow Barlow - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Professor Emeritus The University of Melbourne. Formerly Executive Director of Climate Change Research Strategy for Primary Industries and Chairman of the Victorian Endowment for Science, Knowledge and Innovation
UNE Qualifications: BRurSc(Hons) MRurSc
Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering Fellow of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology Australian Medal of Agricultural Science 2009
Professor Snow Barlow is a voice for science in the public, academic and business spheres for one of the most important issues of our time: climate change. A plant physiologist and agricultural scientist, Snow’s research encompasses plant water use efficiency, viticulture and impacts of climate change on agriculture, water management and global food security. Snow is an outstanding science educator and a scientist with knowledge of the effects of greenhouse gases. He contributes to his profession and business at local and national levels, working with others on such projects as 'New industries for future climates'. In a career in academia and government he has served on the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council and the Minister's NGO Roundtable on Climate Change. Together with his partner, Winsome McCaughey, Snow operates a commercial vineyard, grazing and farm forestry enterprises in the Strathbogie Ranges in NE Victoria and markets premium wine under the Baddaginnie Run label.
Professor Kym Anderson AC - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: George Gollen Professor of Economics, University of Adelaide and Professor of Economics, Arndt-Corden Department of Economics, Australian National University
UNE Qualifications: BAgEc(Hons)
2015 Companion (AC) in the General Division of the Order of Australia
Professor Kym Anderson is an exemplary researcher, teacher, consultant, editor and advisor who, through various roles, has been able to influence global trade and agricultural policy and practice. He has undertaken significant international roles including Lead Economist (Trade Policy) in the Research Group of the World Bank in Washington DC and Deputy Director of the Economic Research Division of the GATT (now World Trade Organisation) Secretariat in Geneva. He has a strong interest in the economics of wine production, and is co-founder of the American Association of Wine Economists and co-editor of its Journal of Wine Economics, and foundation Executive Director of the University of Adelaide’s Wine Economics Research Centre. Kym’s eminent service to higher education as a leading academic and researcher, particularly in the field of agricultural economics, to the study of international trade and poverty reduction in developing countries, and in the wine industry was recognised by the Australian Government in 2015.
Dr Seweryn Ozdowski AM - Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Chair, Australian Multicultural Council, Hon. Professor, University of Sydney, Director of Equity and Diversity, WSU
UNE Qualifications: PhD
Member (AM) of the Order of Australia 2016; Solidarity Medal (Poland) 2006; Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit (Poland) 2007
Dr Sev Ozdowski is a human rights advocate, educator and social researcher, former senior civil servant and Australian Human Rights Commissioner and Disability Discrimination Commissioner. He is a passionate defender of the human rights of refugees, especially child asylum seekers and people with disabilities and mental illness, and advocate for multiculturalism in Australia. He authored the ground-breaking report, National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention: A Last Resort?, which ultimately led to policy reform and children being released from mandatory detention. He also influenced reform in the mental health sector and the implementation of robust industry standards and practices in the disability sector. Sev’s service to the Polish community and to furthering Australian Polish relations was recognised by the Australian Government in 1995, and his significant service to the community, particularly to human rights education, social justice and multiculturalism, and as an academic in 2016.
Mr Peter Carter - Alumni Achievement Award
Position Title: Former CEO of ISQua
UNE Qualifications: BA DipEd MEdAdmin
Mr Peter Carter was instrumental in the significant growth and influence of the International Society for Quality in Health Care (ISQua), an organisation that drives improvement in the quality and safety of healthcare worldwide. Peter’s strong leadership and vision enabled education and knowledge sharing, supporting health systems, innovation, and connecting people through global networks in over 100 countries. Peter was previously CEO of the specialist medical colleges of Psychiatrists and Surgeons of Australia and New Zealand over a period of sixteen years.
Dr Irawati Chaniago - Alumni Achievement Award
Position Title: Senior Lecturer and Head of International Office, Andalas University, Indonesia
UNE Qualifications: MRurSc PhD
2012 Fulbright Senior Scholar program
Dr Irawati Chaniago's significant international study experiences have led her to encourage others to study abroad. In her role as Head of International, she is instrumental in supporting incoming and outbound students to gain the most from their programs. As well as this, her academic work is supporting the Indonesian government in food security and food diversification. She is a keen advocate of collaborative and interdisciplinary studies to resolve agricultural problems.
Mr Sam Levy - Alumni Achievement Award
Position Title: Theatrical producer and creative consultant
UNE Qualifications: BA BA(Hons)
Mr Sam Levy’s diverse work experience as an intern at CNN, researcher with the team investigating police corruption in NSW, gay rights activist, and marketer for an organisation dealing with homeless people with HIV/AIDS has given him an insight into the lives and motivations of people from many different walks of life. He is currently a successful theatre producer in New York, with recent productions including The Mentalists (West End, 2015) starring BAFTA and Golden Globe winner Stephen Merchant; and the upcoming Come From Away (Broadway, 2017). He is one of the most prominent Australians in the industry who has given many artists their first break.
Dr Manit Arora - Young Distinguished Alumni Award
Position Title: Clinical Researcher
UNE Qualifications: GradDipApp Anatomy by Dissection
Asia Pacific Orthopaedic Association’s Young Ambassador 2014; Torrens Young Scholar 2015
Dr Manit Arora is a pioneer of research in the field of burnout as it affects Australian medical professionals. He has considered burnout in the context of orthopaedic surgeons and trainees as well as emergency medical professionals. His work has appeared in several notable orthopaedics journals, including the “World Journal of Orthopedics”, “Australian and New Zealand Journal of Surgery” and the “Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery”. He has also presented widely at both national and international conferences. Manit has held academic roles at a number of universities. He has undertaken fellowships with international orthopaedic and arthroscopic societies, ISAKOS (International Society of Arthroscopy, Knee Surgery and Orthopaedic Sports Medicine) and ESSKA (European Society of Sports Traumatology, Knee Surgery and Arthroscopy).