Meet our alumni


The Honourable Minister Professor Yohana Yembise, Minister for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, Indonesia, recently visited UON for the purpose of signing an MOU.  Agreeing to increase collaboration, the discussions and agreement focuses on exploring opportunities to cooperate and enable greater participation for women from Indonesia to participate in programs for study, research and training.

An alumna of UON, Professor Yohana Yembise earned a PhD in Linguistics in 2007.  She has maintained links with the university through the UON Alumni Awards,  recognised as a 2014 finalist for the National Leadership Award.  Earlier, in 2013 she was named by the Australian Ambassador to Indonesia as one of the highest achieving Australian Development Scholarship Alumni.  Regarded as a thought-leader in her field, and a recognised advocate of women’s rights, Susana spent three years as Women’s Empowerment Coordinator at the Regional Research Council of Papua Province.

Professor Yohana Yembise commenced her role as Minister for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection (MoWE-CP), Indonesia, in 2014 and in doing so became the first female minister from Indonesia’s most eastern province, Papua.  Prior to this appointment, Professor Yembise had the honour of becoming Papua’s first ever female Professor, in the Faculty of Teacher Training and Education at the University of Cenderawasih in Papua, where she had been an assistant lecturer (1983-1986) and lecturer in language and arts (1987-2014).

B. Ed., Cenderawasih University, Papua
Dip. TEFL, Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), Singapore
M. Ed., Simon Fraser University, Canada

Ph.D, University of Newcastle


Since the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, fifteen UON graduates and students have stepped onto the world’s stage and completed at either the Olympic and Paralympic games.

The 31st Olympiad in Rio played host to three UON graduate athletes representing Australia in athletics, Paralympic sailing and Paralympic track and field.

Christie Dawes

Ms Christie Dawes guaranteed her place in the Rio Paralympic Team by winning the women’s Gold Coast Marathon with a record breaking time of 1:43:45.

Rio was Ms Dawes' sixth Olympic Games - she competed in four events and medalled in one - a silver in the 4x400m relay, adding to a bronze in the 5000m in London (2012) and silver in the 4x100m relay in Beijing (2008).

Ms Dawes graduated from UON in 2006 with a Bachelor of Teaching and a Bachelor of Early Childhood Studies. When she isn’t competing or training, Ms Dawes is a primary school teacher in Newcastle and enjoys communicating with and inspiring young people through her personal story.

Benn Harradine

Mr Benn Harradine competed in the men’s discus throw at Rio, his third Olympic games. He made the discus final at the London 2012 Olympics Games, placing ninth and was 31st on his debut at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Mr Harradine was born and raised in Newcastle and is a proud Indigenous man from the Watjabaluk/Wergia people of the Wimera.

Mr Harradine graduated from UON in 2007 with a Bachelor of Health & Physical Education and a Bachelor of Education.

While he didn't make the finals of the discus throw, he made his mark in Rio wearing his iconic #harrasuit, his themed lycra competition suits.

Liesl Tesch

Ms Liesl Tesch competed at Rio’s Paralympic Games in wheelchair sailing. Rio was Ms Tesch’s sixth Olympic games, and she and teammate Daniel Fitzgibbon won back to back Paralympic gold medals in winning the SKUD18.

Ms Tesch is from Woy Woy on the NSW Central Coast and graduated from UON with a Bachelor of Science in 1991 and a Graduate Diploma in Education in 1996. She is also currently studying her Masters in Special Education so that she can teach youth with intellectual disabilities.

Ms Tesch says she loves teaching her students about diversity, using her Paralympic experience as a case study and is proud to have won a medal from every Olympic Games that her students have been alive.

The following UON alumni played a crucial role in making the Rio 2016 Olympic Games a success beyond the sporting arena.

David Hughes

Dr David Hughes was Medical Director to the Rio Olympic Team.

His role was to provide advice to the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) on matters related to the health and wellbeing of athletes and the execution of medical services provided to the Australian Olympic Team.

Dr Hughes is the Chief Medical Officer at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), and was the first individual to simultaneously fill both the AIS and Australian Olympic team lead medical roles.

Dr Hughes graduated from UON with a Bachelor of Medicine in 1987. He was named a finalist for UON’s 2015 Alumni Award for National Leadership due to his key role in Australian sports medicine and his efforts in championing the integrity of Australian sport.

olympic coins

Ms Bronwyn King designed the commemorative, two dollar Olympic and Paralympic coins. Creating the five designs, Ms King says she took inspiration from the flow of movement preformed in sport and the iconic Olympic rings. Across the five coins there were 32 sport motifs representing the majority of sports Australia competed in.

Ms King graduated from UON with a Bachelor of Natural History Illustration in 2008 and has gone on to be the Royal Australian Mint’s youngest designer.

Images supplied by the Newcastle Herald.


In his home country of Singapore, Dr William Tan is a local celebrity, representing courage, compassion and, above all, the refusal to succumb to life’s obstacles. As a wheelchair athlete, he has conquered both the sports track and some of the toughest marathon terrains on earth, including the Antarctic and North Pole. And as a doctor, and cancer survivor, he’s used these global marathons to raise money and help those in need of urgent medical treatment across the globe.

William’s career as a medical doctor began at the University of Newcastle, Australia, graduating in 2004. He recently returned for the first time to accept the 2015 Alumni of the Year Award for Exceptional Community Service. We caught up with William during his visit, and again at the National Cancer Centre, Singapore, where he still works today. The result is the incredible tale of a young boy who decided never to give in, and the man who never has.

William Tan

What have you been up to since graduating? Are you, or maybe another UON graduate you know, doing something interesting or innovative? We’d love to hear about it! Drop us a line and share your story at