2020 Winners

Excellence Awards 2020

Community Engagement Award Winner

Aunty Shaa Smith, Uncle Bud Marshall, Neeyan Smith, Sarah Wright, Paul Hodge and Lara Daley


Yandaarra (Shifting Camp Together), as a Gumbaynggirr-led research collaboration, has become an Industry best practice exemplar of outstanding Indigenous-led university-custodial engagement (Woodward et al 2020). Through a successful ARC Linkage Grant, the collaboration is modelling how creation stories inform and guide natural resource management (NRM) responses to environmental change. In 2019, the collaboration supported the successful founding by custodians of Gumbaynggirr Jagun Aboriginal Corporation enabling Gumbaynggirr custodians to further engage landholders to help heal Country.

Global Engagement Award Winner

Ravi Naidu

Faculty of Science

Professor Ravi Naidu leads the Global Centre for Environmental Remediation (GCER), a centre with research partnerships across Australasia-Pacific (including China, India, Bangladesh, South Korea and Thailand), USA, UK and Europe. GCER, which houses $15-million world-leading laboratory facilities, develops better ways to manage, clean-up and prevent environmental contamination. Over the last ten years, Professor Naidu has raised over $250 million for collaborative research projects, enhanced the Science Faculty’s profile, and attracted over 100 high-calibre international students.

Industry Engagement Award Winner

Richard Fletcher

Faculty of Health and Medicine

Associate Professor Richard Fletcher has spearheaded two major industry-engaged initiatives over the last five years that have filled a gap in health services, provided a method of engagement with services, and generated a model of care that is emulated around the world. In leading industry partnered and funded projects worth more than $3 million, Fletcher has developed a model of care and engagement relevant to all Australian fathers and their families.

Research Supervision Award Winner

Mitch O’Toole

Faculty of Education and Arts

Mitch O’Toole currently supervises 28 doctoral education students and he has seen 21 through to completion. Mitch’s approach with students is supportive, collaborative, educative and tireless. He is able to supervise a very large number of students because he genuinely and visibly loves the work and is committed to his students’ success. In everything he does, Mitch is a teacher and his wholistic, educative approach to supervision is a model for our University’s academic community.

Early Career Researcher Award Winner

Andrew Gardner

Faculty of Health and Medicine

Associate Professor Andrew Gardner is a nationally recognised sports concussion clinician research. He leads a global team of multidisciplinary researchers and clinicians, together with national and international sport leagues/governing bodies, and industry partners to conduct translational research that advances knowledge and improves health care for current and retired athletes suffering from concussion and other secondary physical, cognitive, mental, and psychological problems. His research output is outstanding, and has already had a significant impact on contact sports policy.

Sessional Academic Teaching Award Winner

Levi Tegg

Faculty of Science

Mr. Levi Tegg has been an outstanding laboratory demonstrator and tutor, who has been singled out by many students in SFC comments. In Semester 1, 2020 Mr. Tegg took on the course coordination and lecturing for PHYS1205. The potential disaster of COVID on a laboratory based course cannot be understated. In this very challenging environment he not only far exceeded the student satisfaction of previous years, but outperformed his more experienced colleagues teaching in similar.

Teaching Award Winner

Bobae Choi and Doowon Lee

Newcastle Business School

Bobae Choi and Doowon Lee contributed to developing and facilitating an innovative curriculum and technology-empowered learning resources that create a bridge between classrooms and the real-world for Accounting and Finance students. 1,500+ students from 15 cohorts have benefited from our initiatives, leading to a 46% increase in the overall satisfaction score from student feedback. In recognition of this contribution, Drs. Choi and Lee were awarded the Faculty of Business and Law Teaching Excellence Award in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Student Experience Excellence Award Winner

Ruth Pring, Lisa Nelson, Hannah Rizzo and Tamara Tancred

Student Success Partners Program

This team has developed and implemented the innovative Student Success Partner Program, which targets 'at-risk' commencing students to guide and equip them with the academic skills and confidence for success through discipline-specific partnerships with high-achieving senior students. This unique, peer-to-peer mentoring program has seen great outcomes, with improved retention and success rates as well as enhanced grade distribution, while simultaneously developing student employability skills.

Individual Award Winner

Adam Koppers

Research and Innovation Division

Adam Koppers has been instrumental in establishing the administrative framework for the new ARC Centre of Excellence for Enabling Eco-Efficient Beneficiation of Minerals at the University of Newcastle, with $35M in ARC funding, involving 18 organisations. Adam has arguably created the “blueprint” for establishing major Centres of this kind within the University, providing outstanding service to diverse stakeholders, while successfully implementing an outstanding and novel initiative of significant benefit to the University.

Professional Team Award Winner

Kate McKenny, Jessica Colefax, Bree Knight, Alex Heim, Tom Knox, Alex Matthew, Louise McGufficke, Jack Meek, Terry Moore, Lizette Olivier, Lisa Puddephatt, Vaida Shaw, Nicole Shelford, William Wallace and Alexandria Yates


During the Pandemic when the University transitioned largely to working and studying from home, the ASKUON team were tasked with the difficult challenge of maintaining frontline services across all campuses and service points whilst considering social distancing, heightened stress and fear from the student community. The ability to respond and adapt to the changes seamlessly meant we were able to continue to maintain customer expectations and business continuity for frontline student engagement.

Rising Star Award Winner

Adrian Mereles

Academic Division

Adrian Mereles demonstrates capability and professionalism far beyond his years. He displays a high level of proficiency in his work, with an aptitude for understanding where extra value might be added beyond initial project scope. Moving beyond small web applications, Adrian has taken on projects of increasing magnitude with the Learning Design and Teaching Innovation team, and in 2020 he was central to the development of two of the University's enterprise-wide COVID-19 response initiatives.

Leadership Excellence Award Winner

Amy Maguire

Faculty of Business and Law

Amy Maguire is a human rights lawyer who inspires others to advance justice. She is shaping the future by promoting equitable opportunity. Her public engagement enhances the University’s reputation and influences policy. She works collaboratively and mentors others to their full potential. Amy strives for excellence as one of Australia’s most outstanding university teachers and a nationally recognised research leader. She sets a courageous example and supports others to positively shape the Australian legal system.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award Winner

Jill Duncan

Faculty of Educations and Arts

Dr Duncan exemplifies excellence in equity, diversity and inclusion of people with disabilities. She recruited and supervises a PhD candidate with dual sensory impairment; developed and now coordinates the Deaf Education specialisation; and engaged industry to provide case studies of deaf children for the specialisation. Dr Duncan is chair of Aussie Deaf Kids, a member of the NSW Disability Council advising the Hon Minister Ward and has been invited to speak before Joint Standing Committees.

Health, Safety and Wellbeing Award

Natalie Evans

Vice-Chancellor's Division

Natalie Evans is an exemplary contributor to the Health, Safety and Wellbeing of the entire University community during the COVID-19 health crisis as the architect of, and powerhouse behind, our Health.Response email account. Her dedicated support offered through this positional account has provided a lifeline for the University, its staff and students and our broader community. She has provided a host of accurate, practical and timely advice in a fast changing and often uncertain environment.

Values Award Winner

Jessica Bennett

Faculty of Health and Medicine

Jessica Bennett, is a Proud Gamilaroi Woman from Kootingal, devoting herself to improving the health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Jessica exemplifies the University of Newcastle’s (UON) values of Equity, Excellence, Engagement and Sustainability. Jessica is Course Coordinator of UON Nursing and Midwifery courses, a Neonatal Nurse, strives for equity and community engagement, and is producing positive change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and communities, within the Universtiy and beyond.

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.