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Congratulations to our 2016 Alumni Award recipients!

The UON alumni community reaches all corners of the globe, with more than 135,000 dynamic and diverse achievers in over 120 countries, each making their mark.

The UON Alumni Awards recognise and celebrate innovation, creativity and exceptional leadership of those graduates who inspire others through their local, national and international achievements.

We had an overwhelming response for our 2016 Alumni Awards and are delighted to announce the outstanding recipients for each of our Alumni Awards.

The Award recipients were recognised at our gala dinner on Friday 21 October, we invite you to read more about our recipients below.

The Awards evening is hosted by the University’s Alumni Advisory Committee.

Meet our recipients

The Alumni Medal for Professional Excellence recognises an outstanding record of professional excellence in leadership, knowledge and professional practice.

Professor ER Meng Hwa
PhD (Electrical And Computer Engineering) 1986

Noted as a pioneer and one of the most remarkable engineers of his generation, Professor Er was this year recognised in The Institution of Engineering and Technology’s Top 126 Most Influential Engineers.  Professor Er is the Vice-President (International Affairs) and Professor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Meng Hwa has completed 24 research projects, published more than 250 papers and attracted more than $21 million in grants. He holds five patents, including a computer program patented by UON and the Commonwealth Government of Australia to help submarines filter noise.

Meng Hwa believes that ‘being a good engineer goes beyond being good at engineering’. He actively promotes multi-disciplinary research, including establishing the national centre for digital signal processing research. He serves on the Board of the Singaporean National Institute of Education and chaired the 15th World Conference on Cooperative Education.

In recognition of his outstanding contributions to engineering research, education and public service, Meng Hwa has been awarded Honorary Fellowships and Medals of Excellence from organisations around the world.  He was recognised as the first Singaporean to be conferred an Honorary Fellowship by the London-based Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) in 2005; and in 2006, he was awarded a Public Administration Medal (Gold) by the President of the Republic of Singapore and conferred an Honorary Fellowship by the ASEAN Federation of Engineering Organisations (AFEO).

The Newton-John Award recognises innovation or creativity in any field that has improved cultural life.

Conjoint Associate Professor Douglas Absalom
PhD (Linguistics) 1977
Master of Arts 1971
Diploma in Education 1968
Bachelor of Arts 1967

A passionate and dedicated academic at the University of Newcastle, Douglas Absalom’s innovation has contributed to the development of the English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) program between 1988 and 1994, which significantly contributed to the internationalisation of the University’s student population and overall multicultural transformation.

Douglas was responsible for developing the initial proposal and became the Director of Studies during the amalgamation of UON and Newcastle College of Advanced Education (NCAE).

In implementing this program Doug employed creative solutions to problems for the betterment of student experience, including painting an off-campus building used temporarily to accommodate classes and obtaining a bus licence to transport students to and from class and on excursions. In conjunction with lecturing staff, Doug developed lectures specifically for ELICOS students, later introducing them to mainstream classes when they were better able to integrate with domestic students. He utilised his linguistic networks to provide guest lectures, staff research and multicultural awareness campaigns and processes to improve cultural understanding across the campus.

In the 1980s Doug developed programs to increase the numbers of Indigenous students participating in higher education. Collaborating with the local Aboriginal community, Doug’s approach received Government support and the University hosted a national Aboriginal Education Conference. His initiative sowed the seeds from which the Wollotuka Institute and Umulliko Centre have since emerged.  His creative and innovative approaches to programming have resulted in the increased accessibility of education for Indigenous and international students alike, ensuring domestic students benefit from the resulting cultural exchange.

The Alumni Award for Exceptional Community Service recognises the work of an outstanding alumni member who has made a significant contribution to their community, and has built or enhanced the reputation of the University of Newcastle and its relationship with the community.

Dr Neelam Pradhananga
PhD (Architecture) 2011

Dr Neelam Pradhananga is the passionate founder of several community-based not-for-profit organisations in Australia and South East Asia.

In 2009, she established Guthi Australia, a NFP focused on raising awareness and preserving Newar cultural heritage.  Following this and based on her personal experience of learning Nepali, she founded Sabdamala Nepalese Language School which now has five branches in Sydney and was the first Nepali community language school in Australia.

Neelam set up Clean up Nepal in 2013, after a number of years of research on waste management in Nepal.  Formally establishing and registering the NGO, the aim was to create healthier communities through effective waste management, water, sanitation and hygiene, sustainable livelihoods and research and advocacy.  The organisation has since transitioned to specialise in waste management and training the community in ways to improve this.  The organisation’s annual nationwide clean-ups have involved 74,451 individuals across 38 cities to collect a total of 474,304 kilograms of waste.

Through Clean up Nepal and following the 2015 Nepal earthquake, Neelam rallied to mobilise $100,000 in funding to provide food and drinking water to 19,000 people, constructed 300 temporary shelters and distributed 2000 hygiene packs to families across Nepal.

Neelam’s work has been recognised through the Netherlands Fellowship Program she was selected by the US Department of State for the Community Solutions Program and was also awarded the 2016 Outstanding Young Australian Alumni Award by the Australian Embassy in Kathmandu.

The Alumni Award for Regional Leadership recognises a nominee who demonstrates leadership and/or entrepreneurship initiatives with significance in a regional context.

Andrew Donaldson
Bachelor of Architecture 2005
Bachelor of Design (Architecture) 2001

Andrew Donaldson Architecture & Design (ADAD) was established just as Andrew completed the transformation of Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art in 2012.  At the pinnacle of his career and having achieved national and international industry recognition, Andrew’s entrepreneurial spirit kicked in as he launched ADAD, a cross-disciplinary architectural practice that specialises in bespoke residential construction and public art gallery design.

His recent work has won many industry awards.  Among multiple awards for his work in designing the University of Newcastle’s student-run Watt Space Gallery, Andrew received the Blacket Prize, an annual award presented by the Australian Institute of Architects to the most outstanding architectural work in NSW outside of Sydney.  Shining a light on Newcastle, this significant piece of architecture promotes the city to a national audience.

Providing ongoing support to University students through his mentoring, Andrew actively encourages the next generation of graduates and also employs exceptional students within his practice. Andrew is actively involved in Archikidz, an international organisation that delivers programs encouraging children to consider how the built environment can create better communities. He delivers speeches to audiences ranging from pre-schools though to peak industry bodies and is committed to sharing his passion and enabling others to be involved in design.

ADAD collaborated with the City of Sydney and Lochbuild to create Wis(c)h, the William Street Creative Hub where the ADAD studio is now located.  This multi-functional space transformed a vacant building to an accessible and collaborative launch-pad for the next generation of creativity.

The Alumni Award for National Leadership recognises a nominee who demonstrates leadership and/or entrepreneurship initiatives with national reach.

Dr Andrew Walker
Bachelor of Medicine 1987
Bachelor of Medical Science 1985

Dr Andrew Walker is co-founder and Executive Chairman of Aspen Medical Pty Ltd, established 12 years ago to provide outsourced healthcare solutions for governments and other large organisations. Today, Aspen Medical is a highly successful international company employing more than 2,000 staff in Australia, the Pacific, West Africa, the Gulf region, UK and USA.

Serving in the Army until 1990, Andrew then spent the next 13 years starting 10 successful companies in Australia.  Since its beginnings, providing orthopaedic care to more than 10,000 patients across the UK, Aspen now provides comprehensive on-base healthcare to all of Australia’s 52 Defence sites, is the largest supplier of Indigenous healthcare to the Australian Government, and the first private company to provide ambulance services to an entire country following the establishment of the National Ambulance Company in 2010 to service the UAE.

In 2010 Andrew and his business partner Glen Keys, also a Novocastrian, co-founded the Aspen Foundation, a charity focused on improving the health of Australia’s Indigenous community in remote and rural settings.

Andrew led Aspen Medical’s development of the Australian Government response to the West Africa Ebola crisis in 2014 and 2015. In 2006, Andrew was named EY’s National Entrepreneur of the Year (Service Category) and in 2014 he was inducted into EY’s Entrepreneurs Global Hall of Fame.

The Alumni Award for International Leadership recognises a nominee who demonstrates that their role extends beyond the shore of the country in which they reside to produce positive outcomes, or that their position has international influence.

Dr Suzanne Hill
Graduate Diploma in Epidemiology 1997
PhD (Medicine) 1994
Bachelor of Medicine 1982

With a career spanning more than three decades, Dr Suzanne Hill’s work for the World Health Organization (WHO) is focused on public health to improve the quality of care and quality of life to the people under the purview of the United Nations. Based in Geneva and currently WHO’s Director of Essential Medicines and Health Products, Suzanne plays a vital part in the implementation of internationally significant legislation serving the public interest and its health needs.

Her work impacts billions of people.  Suzanne’s work on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines provides support to countries implementing this list by providing a list of minimum medicine needs for a basic healthcare system and a list of essential medicines required for priority diseases.  It means she is working on the gold standard for care in a variety of health systems, all focused on promoting a better quality of care and of life and to limit the spread of disease.  Suzanne was also previously team leader for the WHO project Better Medicines for Children, and chaired the Guideline Review Committee, which is responsible for setting quality assurance and standards.

For the four years to 2015, Suzanne also chaired the Australian Department of Health and Ageing’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC).  During her time as Chair, the PBAC recommended many important new and innovative medicines for conditions including hepatitis C, advanced melanoma, and cystic fibrosis, improving the quality of life of thousands of Australians.

The Indigenous Alumni Award recognises the contributions, outstanding talent and achievements of an Indigenous graduate in their chosen field.

Professor John Maynard
PhD (Aboriginal Studies) 2003
Diploma in Aboriginal Studies 1996

Professor John Maynard, a Worimi man, is recognised as the foremost Indigenous historian in Australia, revealing previously missing, yet important chapters in Aboriginal history.

Credited with unearthing the links between early African-American and Aboriginal politics, John's comparative study on Native American and Aboriginal issues surrounding land, politics and children during the early 1900s has gained global attention.

John’s research has concentrated on the intersections of Aboriginal political and social history, and has made significant contributions to the research fields of Aboriginal race relations and sports history on both a national and international scale.  His work has been published and he is the critically-acclaimed author of several books, including Aboriginal Stars of the Turf, Fight for Liberty and Freedom and The Aboriginal Soccer Tribe.

The value of John’s work has been recognised with a number of prestigious fellowships and awards, including the Aboriginal History (Australian National University) Stanner Fellowship in 1996; and board membership including as Director of the Wollotuka Institute of Aboriginal Studies at the University of Newcastle, and Deputy Chairperson of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS). Additionally, his work has been funded by grants to the value of $2 million from the Australian Research Council, the University of Newcastle, AIATSIS and various Government organisations.

The Beryl Nashar Young Researcher Award recognises the research achievements of early- and mid-career researchers.

Dr Andrew Gardner
PhD 2015

Dr Andrew Gardner is a clinical neuropsychologist and researcher ranked in the top 2% of concussion researchers worldwide according to Expertscape.

Andrew’s research focus is to establish a better understanding of post-injury neurological changes and the reasons why some at-risk athletes in the football codes go on to develop dementia later in life.  As part of his studies, he created a tool designed to assist club medical staff in recognising players who may have sustained a concussion. He has extended this research program overseas with colleagues in the United States and Wales.

Andrew’s research has always been notable, his PhD thesis received the Most Outstanding Dissertation award for 2011 from the National Academy of Neuropsychology (USA) – the only time this award has been bestowed on a researcher who has studied outside of the USA. In 2015, he was awarded the Discovery Award, the nation’s most outstanding early career researcher award by Research Australia.  Andrew has been invited to contribute to the prestigious Australian Academy of Science’s Think Tank on 'inspiring smarter brain research in Australia'.

Andrew has obtained nearly $250,000 in research funding; published two book chapters and 20 journal articles as well as presenting at multiple national and international conferences. His expertise has led to collaborative research relationships with world leaders in the field at prestigious institutes including Harvard Medical School, Cardiff University, University of British Columbia, and the University of Melbourne among others.

The Young Alumni Award recognises outstanding achievements and contributions by a young graduate.

Dr Vincent Candrawinata
PhD 2015
Bachelor of Science (Food Technology) (Honours) 2011
Bachelor of Food Science and Human Nutrition 2010

Dr Vincent Candrawinata is a researcher and innovator in the field of food, health and nutrition. His postgraduate work saw him invent an extraction technology which allows for the natural phenolic compounds in horticultural produce to be used within an innovative nutraceutical product. These phenolic compounds are one of the most potent combinations of antioxidants known and are linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases and even cancer when consumed.

Vincent is also the founder of Renovatio Bioscience, a company he developed to capitalise on his research with the aim to provide people a better, healthier and happier life. He has successfully raised significant equity from investors, developed a product line and established an international distribution network. In August 2016, his product line entered the market in Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea and Japan.

Vincent has published many research papers in international peer-reviewed journals which have contributed to new knowledge in the field. In 2015, he was recognised by the Australian Government as an Individual with a Distinguished Talent in Research and Academia, and is the youngest ever to have received this honour.

About the Alumni Advisory Committee

The AAC is an advisory body established under provisions of the University of Newcastle Act. It is a group of alumni elected by their peers to represent the UON alumni community.

The Committee has an advisory role to the University Council on all matters relevant to alumni and partners with the Office of Alumni and Philanthropy to support alumni development.