The University of Newcastle, Australia

2018 Alumni Awards

Recognising our innovators, creators and leaders

The University of Newcastle is proud to announce the finalists for the 2018 Alumni Awards. The calibre of nominations this year was extremely high and we are thrilled to showcase and celebrate our 27 outstanding finalists from across the globe.

The UON Alumni Awards celebrate the exceptional leadership and innovation of UON alumni who have inspired others and made a positive contribution to their local, national and international communities. The University is built on the successes of our alumni, and we are rightly proud of their legacy.

We will be celebrating the incredible achievements of all of our finalists at the 2018 Alumni Awards Gala breakfast on Friday 14 September 2018 at Callaghan Campus. Award recipients will be announced at this most anticipated event in the University calendar and tickets will be on sale next week!

Meet the 2018 Alumni Award Finalists

Alumni Medal for Professional Excellence

2018 Finalist - Virasakdi Chongsuvivatwong

Professor Virasakdi Chongsuvivatwong

Doctor of Philosophy (Medicine And Health Science) 1998, Master of Medical Science 1989

Professor Virasakdi Chongsuvivatwong has been with the Prince of Songkla University in Hatyai since 1982. After studying Clinical Epidemiology here at The University of Newcastle in 1984, he returned to set up the Epidemiology Unit, which provides support of health development in southern Thailand. Throughout his career he has often been sought out by national and international agencies as a consultant due to his prolific research output and unique criticism of research methodology.

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2018 Finalist - Charles Omwandho

Professor Dr Charles Omwando

Doctor of Philosophy (Biological Sciences) 1998

Dr Charles Omwandho is a Professor at the University of Nairobi in the Department of Biochemistry. His research, in which he has written over 40 papers, ranges from the effects of endometriosis to the use of mushroom extracts in cancer suppression. Charles is also a patron for many financially disadvantaged medical students.

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2018 Finalist - Gary Quinlan

Dr Gary Quinlan AO

Honorary Degree - Doctor of Letters 2007, Bachelor of Arts 1973

Gary Quinlan is Australia's Ambassador to Indonesia, a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and was most recently Deputy Secretary, and Australia’s Senior Official to ASEAN and to the East Asia Summit.

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Newton-John Award

2018 Finalist - Bill Dowzer

Mr Bill Dowzer

Bachelor of Architecture 1993, Bachelor of Design (Architecture) 1990

William (Bill) Dowzer, is a recognised leader in designing contemporary educational and workplace architecture. He is a Principal Architect of BVN Architecture, based out of their New York office. His projects including the Ravenswood School for Girls, Bendigo Bank Headquarters, and the Linfield Project have received numerous awards and medals from the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA).

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2018 Finalist - John Doyle

Dr John Doyle AM

Honorary Degree - Doctor of Letters 2001, Bachelor of Arts 1982

John Doyle is an accomplished actor and writer for stage and screen, most known for his alter ego Rampaging Roy Slaven, one half of the duo Roy and HG. John's parallel career as a writer and playwright has also been highly acclaimed.

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2018 Finalist - Gordon Hamilton

Mr Gordon Hamilton

Bachelor of Music 2003

Gordon Hamilton is a multi-award winning contemporary composer and conductor that has been described by conductor and broadcaster Graham Abbott as a “powerhouse of musical ideas”. He is currently conducting the WDR Funkhausorchester, the Nürnberger Symphoniker, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

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Exceptional Community Service Award

2018 Finalist - Bernard Curran

Dr Bernard Curran AM

Doctor of Philosophy 1974, Bachelor of Arts 1968

Dr Bernard (Bernie) Curran has played a central role in The University of Newcastle’s community for more than 40 years. In his time he has been a student, rugby player, committed and dedicated sports leader, academic and teacher, community leader, mentor, fundraiser, active alumni leader, public speaker, strategist, donor, researcher and, most of all, a compassionate friend to many.

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2018 Finalist - Douglas Lithgow

Mr Douglas Lithgow

Doug Lithgow has spent decades furthering local environmental activism, and his influence can be seen on the land itself. Doug joined the Northern Parks and Playground Movement  Executive Team in 1962, and his advocacy led to the establishment and protection the Blackbutt Reserve, the Glenrock State Recreation Area, the Barrington Tops National Park, Mt Sugarloaf Reserve, Birdwood Park, Civic Park, Nobby’s Head and the Hunter Region Botanical Gardens, just to name a few.

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2018 Finalist - Neville Sawyer

Mr Neville Sawyer AM

In 1968, Neville Sawyer, along with some friends, created his own Electrical Engineering Sales and Distribution business in a backyard shed in Newcastle. The company, Ampcontrol, soon became nationally known as a leader in electrical engineering services. Neville is passionate about graduates in Engineering, Science and IT undertaking postgraduate studies in Leadership and Management and established the Neville Sawyer Business Scholarship in 2007.

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Regional Leadership Award

2018 Finalist - Bernard Collins

Mr Bernard (Barney) Collins

Bachelor of Architecture 1981, Bachelor of Design (Architecture) 1978

Barney Collins is an award-winning architect who has shaped the Newcastle landscape. His landmark projects include The University of Newcastle’s NeW Space and the Newcastle Memorial Walk. These structures brought home four awards at 2018's Australian Institute of Architecture Newcastle Awards and the 2016 National Award for Engineering Excellence at the Australian Engineering Excellence Awards, respectively.

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2018 Finalist - Darren Shafren

Associate Professor Darren Shafren

Doctor of Philosophy (Medicine) 1991, Bachelor of Science 1986

Associate Professor Darren Shafren is Viralytics chief scientific officer and founder of the company’s technology which was acquired earlier this year for a record $502 million. Viralytics lead product CAVATAK, is a form of common cold virus which infects and kills cancer cells by awaking the immune system and encouraging anti-cancer activity.

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National Leadership Award

2018 Finalist - Thomas Borody

Professor Thomas Borody

Doctor of Philosophy (Immunology And Microbiology) 2005

Professor Thomas Borody is internationally recognised for his ground-breaking research and innovation in digestive health that has led to hundreds of thousands of treatments, improving the quality of life for countless Australians. In the 1980’s, he was one of the first in Australia to understand the role of microbes and bacteria in a person’s overall health.

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2018 Finalist - Marguerite Haertsch

Dr Marguerite Haertsch

Doctor of Philosophy (Behavioural Science) 2000, Graduate Diploma in Health Social Science 1992

Dr Maggie Haertsch has over 30 years’ experience in the health care industry working locally and overseas. She began her career as a registered nurse and midwife and holds a PhD in Behavioural Sciences in Medicine. Over the past seven years until recently she was the CEO and co-founder of the Arts Health Institute where she introduced a number of initiatives to Australia that influenced the culture of healthcare particularly for the elderly.

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2018 Finalist - Kyle Loades

Mr Kyle Loades

Master of Business Administration 2015, Graduate Certificate in Business Administration 2000

Kyle Loades is currently a non-executive director of Credit Union Australia, Chair of Drive Yello, Chair of Hunter Medical Research Institute and a Conjoint Professor in the Faculty of Business and Law at The University of Newcastle. Kyle has complemented his industry experience with continual professional development through formal education including the completion of an MBA at UON, and a Harvard Business School Certificate in Disruptive Strategy and participation in a Transformation Leadership Program at ANU.

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International Leadership Award

2018 Finalist - Sohel Choudhury

Professor Sohel Choudhury

Master of Medical Science (Clinical Epidemiology) 2005

Professor Sohel Choudhury works in on multiple research projects focused on smoking and cardiovascular disease. Sohel previously worked as a Co-Principal Investigator for a Japanese Centre of INTERMAP study which looked into to the relationship between dietary factors and blood pressure.

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2018 Finalist - Damien Mahoney

Mr Damien Mahoney

Graduate Diploma in Education 1997, Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies) 1992

Damien Mahoney got the idea for his multi-million dollar business, Stackla, while working as a consultant for the National Rugby League. His idea was to create a platform that aggregates User-Generated Content about a single event from multiple social media channels and then integrate that into the marketing strategy for the event. The global company now serves over 450 clients including McDonalds, Red Bull, Qantas and Vogue.

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2018 Finalist - Richard Wortley

Professor Richard Wortley AM

Bachelor of Arts 1978

Over his career of more than 40 years, Dr Richard Wortley has developed an international reputation in the study and prevention of crime. The implementation of his research has led to international changes in situational crime prevention including the creation of the Working with Children Check. Richard started in 1976 as a psychologist In the NSW prison system, where he worked for ten years in a variety of facilities.

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Indigenous Alumni Award

2018 Finalist - Alexander Brown

Professor Alex Brown

Bachelor of Medicine 1995

Professor Alex Brown is an Aboriginal medical doctor and researcher with a focus on overcoming disparities in health outcomes for Aboriginal people, with a particular emphasis on chronic disease, diabetes and heart disease in vulnerable communities. He currently leads a group of over 50 research staff, 60% of whom are indigenous, and has attracted over $40m in research grants as a chief investigator in the last 15 years.

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2018 Finalist - Ngiare Brown

Dr Ngiare Brown

Bachelor of Medicine 1991

Dr Ngiare Brown is a proud Yuin nation woman from the south coast of NSW and has spent her career furthering the health and wellbeing of Indigenous children and young people. Her research is focused on demonstrating the ways that culture, resilience and wellbeing are connected. She was the first identified Aboriginal medical graduate from NSW, and one of the first Aboriginal doctors in Australia.

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2018 Finalist - Gail Garvey

Professor Gail Garvey

Master of Education 2001, Bachelor of Education 1987

Professor Gail Garvey is a Kamilaroi woman from NSW and Senior Principal Research Fellow, Menzies School of Health Research in Queensland. She is the principal investigator for an NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence and a Cancer Council NSW Strategic Research Partnership Grant, both in cancer and Indigenous people.

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2018 Finalist - Kristopher Rallah-Baker

Dr Kristopher Rallah-Baker

Bachelor of Medicine 2002

Dr. Kristopher (Kris) Rallah-Baker FRANZCO, a Yuggera/Biri-Gubba-Juru man, is Australia’s first Indigenous Ophthalmologist. He works closely with Indigenous communities by providing quality eye health care that they may not otherwise received. Kris is a founding member  and currently the Vice-President of the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association.

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Beryl Nashar Young Researcher Award

2018 Finalist - Jessica Allen

Dr Jessica Allen

Doctor of Philosophy (Chemistry) 2011, Bachelor of Engineering (Chemical) 2008

Dr Jessica Allen is a young researcher that is making headway in the critical field of clean energy. Her substantial research is already seeing recognition is the fields of low emission coal, renewable energy systems for biomass and solar thermals, and energy storage.

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2018 Finalist - Emma Beckett

Dr Emma Beckett

Doctor of Philosophy (Food Science) 2016, Master of Science Management 2011, Graduate Diploma In Clinical Epidemiology 2010, Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Honours) 2007

Dr Emma Beckett is a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Early Career Fellow at The University of Newcastle, a position that was awarded in her first round of eligibility following her PhD. Her research area is in the field of microbiota, in which she brings her experience in immunology, microbiology, food science, and human nutrition.

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2018 Finalist - Lucy Murtha

Dr Lucy Murtha

Doctor of Philosophy (Human Physiology) 2015, Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Honours) 2010

Dr Lucy Murtha’s PhD research has been integral in the shifting of unhelpful dogma in the area of stroke. Her research found that, contrary to popular convictions, intracranial pressure after a stroke is not caused by brain swelling and can occur with even a minor experimental stroke.

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Young Alumni Award

2018 Finalist - Peter McArdle

Peter McArdle

Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) 2009

Dr Peter McArdle’s work with the Red Cross has been invaluable to many developing communities affected by natural disaster or conflict. Travelling to places including Vanuatu, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Nepal, and Yemen Peter puts his engineering expertise towards Water, Sanitation, and Habitat engineering.  Peter’s professional life starts at Hunter Water, where he was a Civil Engineer, but he soon moved to apply his expert knowledge to help those in need.

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2018 Finalist - Joshua Gilbert

Mr Joshua Gilbert

Bachelor of Commerce 2012

Joshua Gilbert is a Worimi man from the Mid North Coast of NSW, who can trace his ancestry through the lands that he now farms. Coming from a legacy of farming, Josh combines his environmental and agricultural knowledge with Indigenous wisdom and values to support and grow his local community, while tackling the larger problem of climate change. In his professional life he is a manager for PwC's Indigenous Consulting, a company whose purpose is to create meaningful change in Indigenous communities.

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2018 Finalist - Daniel Moller

Mr Daniel Moller

Master of Digital Media 2012

Dan Moller is a Lead Artist at The Mill, one of the world’s most respected visual effects studios. Based in London, Dan sets the artistic standard of each project he manages, such as ground breaking commercials, music videos and virtual reality (VR) experiences. His award wining projects include advertisements for Audi, Opel and Corona and has worked alongside acclaimed directors Baz Luhrmann and Jack Nava.

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2017 Alumni Awards

Since 1975, the University has celebrated the exceptional leadership and innovation of UON alumni who have inspired others and made a positive contribution to their local, national and international communities. Over 130 alumni have been recognised for their professional and personal dedication to making a profound impact on communities worldwide and inspiring the next generation of UON students.

Nominating alumni for a UON Alumni Award is a wonderful way to recognise their impact and contribution to society. For many of our previous Alumni Award finalists and recipients, the nominations process has also been a step in reconnecting with their UON alma mater and embarking on a lifelong journey together with our students, academics and wider University community.

See highlights from the 2017 Alumni Awards

2017 Award Recipients