High honour bestowed on Alumni

Friday, 14 September 2018

Twenty-seven outstanding leaders across the fields of science, engineering, business, medicine and creative arts have had their career achievements recognised at the 2018 University of Newcastle Alumni Awards.

This year’s finalists and recipients – including Dr Jessica Allen (Doctor of Philosophy (Chemistry) 2011), Mr Bernard Collins (Bachelor of Architecture 1981), Dr Bernard Curran AM (Doctor of Philosophy 1974), Dr John Doyle AM (Bachelor of Arts 1982), Mr Kyle Loades (Master of Business Administration 2015), Mr Peter McArdle (Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) 2009), Dr Gary Quinlan (Bachelor of Arts 1973), Dr Kristopher Rallah-Baker (Bachelor of Medicine 2002) and Professor Richard Wortley AM (Bachelor of Arts 1978) – were announced at a breakfast gala held in the Great Hall this morning.

Dr Bernie Curran, Dr Gary Quinlan, Barney Collins, Kyle Loades, Peter McArdle, Dr Kristopher Rallah-Baker, Dr Jessica Allen, Dr John Doyle

Australia’s first Indigenous ophthalmologist, Dr Kristopher Rallah-Baker, received the Indigenous Alumni Award for delivering quality eye care to Indigenous communities. Dr Rallah-Baker has undertaken work in Alice Springs and Fiji through the Fred Hollows Foundation, and was one of the founding members of the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association.

Dr Rallah-Baker said the Indigenous support unit in the medical school was critical to his success at university.

“For me, the grounding factor was the Indigenous support. It was critical in getting me through. I probably wouldn’t have finished if it wasn’t for that unit, that’s how important it was.”

“I call it the impossible dream. I recall walking into the Great Hall in 1996 as a 17 year old and there were a sea of faces around me. I remember being told that about one in 100 of us would get a place in medicine at university and I thought to myself - someone has to get a place and it may as well be me.”

Emerging young researcher, Dr Jessica Allen won the Beryl Nashar Award for her advancements in the field of clean energy. Graduating with a Bachelor of Engineering (Chemical) in 2008 followed by a Doctor of Philosophy (Chemistry) in 2011, Dr Allen’s research is already being recognised in the field of energy storage, having secured $1.6 million in funding to develop the direct carbon fuel cell (DCFC).

Dr Allen said she was proud to continue to call the University of Newcastle home.

“I completed my undergraduate degree and PhD at the University of Newcastle and now I’m a lecturer here. I love the University of Newcastle, it really is my home.”

“Now that I’m a lecturer I really have a vested interest in making the University of Newcastle great. I aim to make a difference in the world through my research but also through my teaching.”

Renowned actor and comedian, Dr John Doyle, received the Newton-John Award for his contribution to the creative arts. Dr Doyle received a Bachelor of Arts in 1982 and rose to fame as Rampaging Roy Slaven, one half of the duo Roy and HG. Over the last decade Doyle has also developed a very successful parallel career as a writer of serious television drama.

Dr Doyle said his time at the University of Newcastle helped him focus his ideas.

“I wanted to express myself in some way. I knew I wanted to do something that involved the arts, communication and working with others. Each of these things came together in Drama and it gave me absolute clarity on what I wanted to do and it’s been with me ever since.”

Chancellor, Mr Paul Jeans, said the University was proud to welcome back the impressive cohort of star achievers.

“Our remarkable network of alumni are making a difference locally, nationally and globally through their creativity and tireless pursuit of developing new solutions to some of the world’s greatest problems. We are extremely proud of the alumni we honour here today.”

Now in its 43rd year, the Alumni Awards are an annual celebration of the exceptional talent and contributions of finalists across nine categories, drawn from a network of 142,000 alumni working throughout the world.

Meet this year’s University of Newcastle Alumni Award recipients:

Young Alumni Award
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 started at Hunter Water, where he was a Civil Engineer, but he soon moved to apply his expert knowledge to help those in need. He has since worked extensively in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Pacific. The technical and social problems Peter has had to overcome can be exemplified by his most highly regarded contribution managing the Red Cross Ebola treatment centre and burial team in Sierra Leone in 2015. Not only was he faced with demanding work, but he was forbidden with making any physical human contact. In 2017, his efforts were recognised with the Red Cross International Service Medal.

Beryl Nashar Young Researcher Award
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 in the fields of low emission coal, renewable energy systems for biomass and solar thermals, and energy storage. Her research aims to apply electrochemical processes to achieve greater efficiencies and sustainability in energy storage and production. Jessica completed her PhD in 2011 through the CSIRO Energy Centre, with a focus on the hybrid sulphur cycle, which produces hydrogen from water using solar energy. In 2013, she took up a prestigious post-doctoral position at UON in the Applied Electrochemistry group, later being appointed as a Lecturer in Chemical Engineering and as a Principal Researcher for the Priority Research Centre for Frontier Energy Technologies and Utilisation. Jessica has published 19 journal articles and received over $1.7 million in funding from industry partners. This includes $1.6 million from NSW Trade and Investment for the development of direct carbon fuel cells (DCFC).

Exceptional Community Service
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. Bernie worked as a lecturer at The University of Newcastle from 1976 to 2001, teaching classics. During these years he was heavily involved in the culture of the University, and from 1989 to 1996 he established, and was the Foundation Warden for, Evatt House, a residential college for country students. In 1983, he became the University Rugby Club President and held the position for five years. He was awarded Life Membership of the Club in 1987, with a University Colour in 1988 in recognition of his exceptional contribution. Bernie still wanders down to watch games at Number 1 Oval, affectionately referred to as the Bernie Curran Oval by the rugby club.

Regional Leadership Award
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.

Along with his work on NeW Space, which quickly sparked the remaking of the physical and cultural heart of Newcastle, Barney wrote the conservation management plan for University House, on the corner of Auckland and King Street. NeW Space has given Newcastle a focal point and has become a great gathering space, allowing the University to add to the life of inner-city Newcastle.

In 1989, Barney headed the team that restored Newcastle Christchurch Cathedral, bringing his inner-city redevelopment and religious building design expertise to the repair and restoration of the earthquake-damaged building. Barney has been Director at EJE Architects since 1987.

National Leadership Award

Kyle Loades (joint recipient)
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. Just last year, Kyle completed a three-and-a-half-year term as Chairman of the NRMA, a role in which he led significant cultural and operational change. By his guidance, the NRMA became one of Australia’s foremost providers of transport and tourism services, and membership grew. Part of his strategy was to lobby on planning and policy, resulting in the NSW government legislation requiring petrol stations to provide real-time fuel prices, and the development of roads and transport infrastructure in NSW.

Thomas Borody (joint recipient)
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 1980s, he was one of the first in Australia to understand the role of microbes and bacteria in a person’s overall health. He developed the Triple Therapy process, which is still the gold standard for treating ulcers and stomach cancer today. People from all over the world seek treatment in his Centre for Digestive Diseases (CDD). At the CDD, Dr Borody performs Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT), a technique that he spearheaded in 1988. Today, medical research has now proven that by depositing healthy bacteria from a donor stool sample, the gut flora of people with unhealthy guts can be improved. Today, FMT treatments could potentially cure chronic diseases such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s disease.

International Leadership Award
Professor Richard Wortley AM
Bachelor of Arts 1978

Over his career of more than 40 years, Professor 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. Richard started in 1976 as a psychologist in the NSW prison system, where he worked for ten years in a variety of facilities. Following the 1976 to 1978 Nagle Royal Commission into prisons, Richard was able to contribute to the redesign of management practices. From here he began thinking about how immediate environments promote or constrain criminal activity.

Richard was part of a team in the mid-2000s that pioneered the application of situational crime prevention methods to the problem of child sexual abuse. The NSW Commission for Children and Young People drew on these methods to create the ‘Working with Children Check’ and The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has also adopted the concepts in its public hearings and research concerning child safe organisations.

As head of the University College London Department of Security and Crime Science he has been at the forefront of developments in crime prevention, including world-firsts in the anticipation and prevention of future crime. In January 2018 Richard was made a Member (AM) of the Order of Australia, for significant service to criminology and psychology through the development of security and crime science education.

Indigenous Alumni Award

Dr Kristopher Rallah-Baker
Bachelor of Medicine 2002

Kristopher (Kris) Rallah-Baker, a Yuggera/Biri-Gubba-Juru man, is the first Australian Indigenous Ophthalmologist. He works closely with Indigenous communities by providing quality eye health care that they may not otherwise received.

Kris sees diabetic retinopathy and cataracts as two areas of preventable and potentially reversible blindness within Indigenous communities. Research in these areas are critical as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults over 40 experience six times the rate of blindness than non-Indigenous Australians.

While training at the University of Queensland, Kris had the opportunity to work with the Fred Hollows Foundation in Darwin and go into remote communities. He has been awarded the Fred Hollows Foundation Fellowship, which will see him work three months in Alice Springs and three months at the Pacific Eye Institute, based in Suva, Fiji. Kris was also one of the founding members of the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association and is currently Vice-President.

Newton-John Award
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. Starting with a radio show in the 1980s, This Sporting Life, the duo have gone on to produce shows including This Voting Life; The Cream; and The Dream, a late-night Olympic commentary show resulting in their inclusion by Australian Olympic Committee in the closing ceremony. John’s parallel career as a writer has also been highly acclaimed. His first play, commissioned by the Sydney Theatre Company and debuted in 2008, was The Pig Iron People. John’s first drama program for television was a World War 2 mini-series for the ABC, Changi. The series received an AWGIE and a Logie for Most Outstanding Drama. John’s second AWGIE award came with his follow up series Marking Time, which also won an AFI and the NSW Premier’s Literary Award for Script Writing.

Alumni Medal for Professional Excellence
Dr Gary Quinlan
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. He was Australia’s chief negotiator with Timor-Leste on maritime boundaries. He has served as Principal Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Defence and National Security, and has held senior positions in DFAT responsible for North Asia, the Americas and Europe. He has previously served overseas as Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, New York; Australia’s Representative on, and President of, the United Nations Security Council; Deputy Head of Mission, Australian Embassy, Washington; and High Commissioner to Singapore.

As a skilled and proven diplomat, Gary was selected and appointed as the Australian Representative on the United Nations Security Council for the 2013 - 2014 term, representing Australia on matters of international peace and security. In 2016, Gary was part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours, being awarded the Office of the Order of Australia. In 2007, his exemplary achievements were recognised by The University of Newcastle with an Honorary Degree Doctor of Letters.

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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.