The University of Newcastle, Australia

Scientists, entrepreneurs and acting royalty take centre stage for UON Alumni Awards

Friday, 28 July 2017

An outstanding cohort of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, researchers, business professionals and a celebrated actress are among the exceptional talent recognised at the 2017 University of Newcastle (UON) Alumni Awards tonight.

2017 Alumni Awards

Now in its 42nd year, the Alumni Awards recognise the achievements and contributions of finalists across nine categories, drawn from 135,000 alumni working across 139 countries.

Among the award winners are Dr Andrew Bivard, who was named the Beryl Nashar Young Researcher, for his work on the imaging and treatment of strokes. Dr Bivard received his Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Hons) in 2009 and his PhD in 2013 from UON, and now works as an Early Career Research Fellow at the Hunter Medical Research Institute.

One of Australia’s most outstanding actors and UON Bachelor of Arts alumnus (1993), Susie Porter, received the Newton-John Alumni Award. Her acclaimed acting skills have won her successful lead and supporting roles in more than 20 films, 39 television series and 11 theatre productions, both locally and abroad.

The major award, the Alumni Medal for Professional Excellence, was won by Professor Carla Treloar, an internationally-recognised social scientist and director of two research centres at the University of New South Wales.

Professor Treloar’s work guides clinical, policy and community programs to provide Hepatitis C patients with better access to care and support to understand treatment options. She received her Bachelor of Science (Hons) from UON in 1991 and was awarded her PhD (Medicine) at the University in 1995.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Caroline McMillen, said the awards celebrated the outstanding leadership of graduates who inspire others through their local, national and international achievements.

“Our alumni network is a source of great pride for our University. As leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators and agents of social change across all fields, our graduates are making a real difference in their professions and communities.

“Tonight’s awards provide us with an opportunity to showcase the great talents and contributions of our graduates, and to thank our alumni for their remarkable support of the University.”

2017 UON Alumni Award winners


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

Dr Xanthe Spindler (joint winner)
Bachelor of Science (Forensic) (Honours) 2006

Quickly establishing herself as a leading academic in forensic science, Dr Xanthe Spindler has a strong international profile in fingerprint sciences. She is Program Director for undergraduate Forensic Biology, Masters and Honours Forensic Science students at the University of Technology Sydney. Dr Spindler’s research in the efficacy of fingermark enhancement techniques is having a huge impact operationally, with more identifiable fingermarks being detected than ever before, and resulting in more offender identification and arrests.

Dr Spindler has developed strong partnerships in law enforcement both in Australia and internationally, and led preparation of the International Fingerprint Research Group’s – the world-leading research network in the fingerprint sciences – guidelines for the evaluation of fingermark detection techniques, published and adopted by practitioners worldwide.

Dr Malcolm Starkey (joint winner)

PhD (Immunology and Microbiology) 2014

Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Honours) 2008

Immunologist and microbiologist, Dr Malcolm Starkey is a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and Australian Research Council (ARC) Early Career Postdoctoral Fellow. His work is substantially contributing to understanding early-life impairment of a healthy immune system and how this predisposes to chronic diseases such as asthma, emphysema and kidney disease. His research findings have resulted in the identification of novel therapeutic strategies that are under further investigation.

Dr Starkey’s productivity during his short research career has been truly outstanding. He has published 31 journal articles and 60 conference abstracts in top-ranked journals in his field, presented at leading international conferences and world-renown institutions, and obtained over $1.1 million in competitive grants and fellowships. He supervises seven PhD students (four are now completed), post-graduate honours students, undergraduates and summer scholars annually. Dr Starkey is an active science communicator and a chair of the School's Research Higher Degree committee.


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

Dr Andrew Bivard

PhD (Medicine) 2013
Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Honours) 2009

An Early Career Research Fellow at the Hunter Medical Research Institute, Dr Andrew Bivard’s work centres on acute ischemic stroke imaging, and patient selection for reperfusion therapies. Extremely talented at translating his research into clinical practice, Dr Bivard led his team to develop the imaging processing program MiStar with industry partner Apollo. He has subsequently helped over 50 university hospitals worldwide incorporate new imaging techniques along with MiStar into their routine clinical assessments of patients suspected to have an ischaemic stroke.

Expanding his repertoire to design and run both acute stroke and stroke recovery trials, Dr Bivard has completed an interventional study to investigate the effects of long-term fatigue on brain structure and function, and to identify the effect of a common anti-fatigue drug on brain function. During this time, he also established and led an imaging research laboratory, been awarded $3m in research support, published 51 peer reviewed articles, presented at 26 international conferences, supervised five PhD candidates and completed his own PhD and postdoctoral fellowship.


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 Joanne McCarthy

Honorary Degree - Doctor of Letters 2015
Bachelor of Arts 2003

Award-winning Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy’s work transcends traditional journalism to extraordinary depths of advocacy. Delivered under extreme pressure and public scrutiny, Dr McCarthy’s work is empathic, courageous and composed. In 2006, she started writing about child sexual abuse in Newcastle and Hunter Valley institutions, primarily the Catholic Church. In 2012, Prime Minister Julia Gillard acknowledged Dr McCarthy’s role in her decision-making as she announced the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Since then, she has given hundreds of speeches and won many accolades, including the Gold Walkley Award 2013, for her writing on this issue.

Dr McCarthy won her third Walkley Award in 2015 for the Herald’s coverage of the Williamtown RAAF Base contamination scandal, and has more recently turned her attention to the problems affecting thousands of Australian women after surgery to insert a class of products known as transvaginal mesh.


The Alumni Award for Regional Leadership requires demonstration of leadership and/or entrepreneurship initiatives with significance in a regional context.

Professor Jenny May AM

Bachelor of Medicine (Hons) 1985

As Director of the University of Newcastle, Department of Rural Health, Professor Jenny May AM combines a deep passion for clinical work and her drive to improve the health of rural Australians through advocacy and research. She has made a remarkable contribution to the health and well-being of regional communities, and plays a significant role in growing the next generation of health care professionals by training and mentoring countless young doctors and students. A practising GP, Professor May advises governments on rural health issues, and is on the national advisory group on Alcohol and Other Drugs and the National Medical Training Advisory Network. Her recent research focuses on recruitment and retention of the rural medical workforce.

She is past Chair of the National Rural Health Alliance and Chair of the female doctors group of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia. She was named Telstra Rural Doctors Association of Australia Rural Doctor of the Year 2014, and received the Order of Australia in 2016.


The Alumni Award for National Leadership requires demonstration of leadership and/or entrepreneurship initiatives with national reach.

Dr Richard Denniss

Bachelor of Commerce 1993

As Chief Economist and former Executive Director of The Australia Institute, Dr Richard Denniss has helped to shift the national policy debate on a number of central issues including climate change and the need for reform in Australia's retirement system.

A columnist, media commentator and author of numerous books on economics, Richard has become a nationally-recognisable figure who champions progressive economic and social policies, and translates economic issues and technical analysis into a language that all Australians can understand.

Dr Denniss works with politicians from all parties to help interpret complex economic problems and develop policy ideas to solve them.

He also supports community groups with evidence-based research that challenges some of the economic modelling used for large-scale developments, and has been a strong advocate for the economic advancement of women, highlighting the economic barriers preventing women from realising gender equality in Australia.


The Alumni Award for International Leadership requires a nominee to demonstrate 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.

Professor Bryson Bates

Bachelor of Engineering 1978

Dr Bryson Bates is an internationally-renowned leader of research into climate change and variability. He brings together an extensive knowledge of hydrology and statistics to explore the impact of climate change and variability on water resources and climatic and weather extremes.

After a distinguished career at CSIRO culminating in his position as a Chief Research Scientist, he recently retired and is now an Adjunct Professor at the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Western Australia.

He is a member of the United Nations’ World Water Assessment Programme Expert Group on Climate Change and Water, and Expert Group on Scenarios.

Through his long involvement with the CSIRO, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), various universities and industries, Dr Bates has built an international community of practice supporting climate science and its application. He was recognised for his efforts to counter anthropogenic climate change and to reduce the risk of global conflict through his contribution to the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, awarded jointly to the IPCC and Al Gore.


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

Associate Professor Aunty Kerrie Doyle

Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) 1999
Graduate Diploma in Health Science 1993

As a practising nurse, researcher, educator and mentor, Associate Professor Aunty Kerrie Doyle has devoted her life to the care of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. She currently coordinates clinical and research studies at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and takes a lead role in curriculum development across all health disciplines.

Associate Professor Doyle is an allied health specialist and leader in remote and rural health delivery, mental health and midwifery. She has published extensively and her work has expanded knowledge, raised awareness and developed understanding of contributing factors to patient care and the determinants of good health. She has worked internationally in other areas requiring specialist care; including a position with the World Health Organisation in Oman.

Associate Professor Doyle was the first Indigenous Australian woman to graduate from Oxford University, receiving the Graduate Scholar Award from Wolfson College in 2013. She has since been awarded an Endeavour Fellowship by the Commonwealth of Australia, and is due to submit her PhD in 2017.


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

Susie Porter

Bachelor of Arts 1993

With over 20 years of service in the film, television and theatre industries, Susie Porter has a reputation as one of Australia’s most outstanding actors. Her diverse acting skills have won her successful lead and supporting roles in more than 20 films, 39 television series and 11 theatre productions, both locally and abroad. Ms Porter is known for her creativity, courage and innovation in her willingness to delve into new and controversial roles.

She has played alongside some of the most influential names in film, and is credited as one of National Institute of Dramatic Arts’ notable alumni. In recognition of her talent and contribution as an artist, Ms Porter has been nominated for six AFI awards, winning three, including two Best Lead Actress awards, as well as winning a Most Outstanding Actress Logie award. Regarded as a respected spokesperson of the Australian film and television industry, Ms Porter regularly features as special guest speaker at festivals and events.


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

Professor Carla Treloar

PhD (Medicine) 1995
Bachelor of Science (Honours) 1991

Professor Carla Treloar is the leading international social scientist in hepatitis C, an infection that affects many of the most disadvantaged in our society. Her work helps guide how clinical, policy and community programs can support or hinder access to care; and how someone who has injected drugs comes to understand and make decisions about hepatitis C.

Director of two research centres at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Chair of the PLuS Alliance for UNSW, she has published more than 160 peer-reviewed publications and attracted more than $22m in research funding. Beyond a prolific research and teaching career, she is an active adviser to government, health service and community agencies, underlining her commitment to local service delivery and ensuring that the social aspects of life with a chronic and stigmatised condition receive significant attention.

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