Trailblazers celebrated in 2020 Alumni Excellence Awards

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

A world-leading researcher and advocate for Indigenous health, a 'match-maker’ for species conservationists, a 'Power 50' in the Australian music industry and the co-host of Australia’s first all Indigenous breakfast show are among the 2020 University of Newcastle Alumni Excellence recipients.

Alumni Excellence Awards

Celebrating the triumphs of the University’s global alumni community, the Awards recognise innovation, creativity, and the exceptional leadership of alumni who have inspired others through their local, national and international achievements.

Professor Gail Garvey was awarded the Alumni Medal for Professional Excellence, the highest honour of the University of Newcastle’s Alumni Awards.

A proud Kamilaroi woman, Professor Garvey is Senior Principal Research Fellow at the Menzies School of Health and Deputy Division Leader for the Wellbeing and Preventable Chronic Diseases Division.

Professor Garvey's research career has focused on investigating cancer experiences and outcomes of Indigenous Australians. She has publicly advocated for better prevention and treatment of cancer in remote areas in Australia. Her work in cancer has illuminated critical shortcomings in health system performance for Indigenous Australians affected by cancer and has identified pathways to improve equity of access and outcomes.

The International Leadership recipient is Dr Kira Mileham for her work on species conservation; the National Leadership recipient is former Sydney Water Managing Director Kevin Young; and Special Advisor to the National Suicide Prevention Taskforce Dr Jaelea Skehan, OAM, is the Regional Leadership recipient.

Managing Director of BMG Australia, Heath Johns, received the Newton-John Alumni Medal; Dr Kcasey McLoughlin was named the Beryl Nashar Young Researcher; and Senior Associate at King and Wood Mallesons, Luke Hawthorne, was named Young Alumni Award recipient.

Political Correspondent for NITV/SBS Shahni Wellington is this year’s Indigenous Alumni Award recipient.

A new award introduced this year, the inaugural Convocation Medal for Exceptional Contribution, has been awarded to the Friends of the University.

Established to recognise individuals or groups who have contributed to the advancement of the University of Newcastle as influencers, advocates, advisors or supporters, the Convocation Medal recipient is selected by the Vice-Chancellor.

For nearly 40 years, the Friends have fostered a connection between the University and the wider community and have supported many important initiatives including the Student Scholarships, collectively raising more than $1m.

The Friends connect the University to the community through a program of volunteering enabling fundraising, community events, and by forming a bridge between the general public and the University’s social and academic life.

Nominees must demonstrate an outstanding contribution to the University of Newcastle, enhancing its commitment to be a world-leading University for all its regions through the values of excellence, equity, engagement and sustainability.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alex Zelinsky, AO, said the Alumni Excellence Awards were an opportunity to acknowledge the influence and achievements of the University’s thriving alumni community, which now totals more than 148,000 graduates across 144 countries.

“This year’s recipients are impressive and demonstrate our alumni are contributing to improving different fields in vastly different ways.

“As wonderful ambassadors for the University of Newcastle, our alumni also serve as an inspiration for others to follow in their footsteps.

“This year’s recipients are no exception. I thank them for their professional and personal dedication to making a profound impact on communities worldwide and to inspiring the next generation of students.”

Since 1975, the University of Newcastle’s Alumni Excellence Awards program has recognised more than 170 alumni recipients.

In lieu of a public gala celebration this year due to COVID-19, the 2020 recipients have been acknowledged in a special video tribute.


Medal for Professional Excellence
Professor Gail Garvey
Senior Principal Research Fellow, Menzies School of Health Research

Newton-John Alumni Medal
Heath Johns
Managing Director, BMG Australia

International Leadership
Dr Kira Mileham
Global Strategic Partnership Director, IUCN Species Survival Commission

National Leadership
Kevin Young
Retired (former Managing Director of Sydney Water)

Regional Leadership
Dr Jaelea Skehan
Special Advisor, National Suicide Prevention Taskforce

Indigenous Alumni Award
Shahni Wellington
Political Correspondent, NITV/SBS

Beryl Nashar Young Researcher
Dr Kcasey McLoughlin
Senior Lecturer, Newcastle Law School

Young Alumni Award
Luke Hawthorne
Senior Associate, King and Wood Mallesons (KWM)

Convocation Medal for Exceptional Contribution
Friends of the University

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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.