Macquarie Alumni Awards
Recognising excellence and achievement
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Macquarie Alumni Award winners
Our awards recognise and celebrate alumni for their local, national and international achievements — congratulations to all our winners!
All of our recent Alumni Awards recipients:
Arts and culture
Liane Moriarty — 2019
Master of Arts, Creative Writing, 2003
All the best stories include a little bit of drama, and if you’re Liane Moriarty, a little bit of sibling rivalry doesn’t go astray either. Especially if you want to publish your first book.
They say inspiration can strike at any time, but for Liane Moriarty, her desire to be a published author came at a particular point in time: when her sister was published first. Her younger sister, no less.
Liane remembers: “My sister Jaclyn Moriarty and I both wanted to be authors when we were young, but she achieved our childhood dream when she published her book first — a brilliant, hilarious, award-winning novel called Feeling Sorry For Celia.”
Not to be outdone — or have her ideas and rough drafts languish — Liane promptly enrolled in a Master of Arts in Creative Writing at Macquarie University. “I wrote Three Wishes as part of my degree, which went on to be published around the world, so it was extremely important time for me,” she says.
“I always remember standing outside Marcelle Freiman’s office and seeing the book covers on her office door. They were books that had been written by her former students and I dreamed of having my own cover on her door one day. I am very grateful to both Marcelle and Rose Moxham for all their support when I was writing Three Wishes.
“I also have such fond memories of my fellow students. We used to read our work out loud each week, and their words of encouragement and constructive criticism meant the world to me. It’s because of my fellow students and teachers that I was brave enough to keep writing until, ‘The end.’”
With eight internationally bestselling novels, more than 14 million copies sold worldwide and screen rights sold to all her books, Liane says, “Most of my career highlights seem to have involved phone calls!
“I remember the call from my literary agent saying she wanted to represent me; the call to let me know Three Wishes had been accepted for publication; and the call, many years later, from my US editor with the news that my fifth novel, The Husband’s Secret, had become a New York Times bestseller. I was at a cafe having breakfast and ordered French toast to celebrate. Now, whenever I hear the words New York Times bestseller, I taste maple syrup!”
And while other career highlights include standing on stage when the HBO series based on her book Big Little Lies won an Emmy and seeing Meryl Streep play a character she had written especially for her, the most important highlight of all remains “hearing from readers all around the world,” says Liane.
Her initial inspiration may have been some friendly sibling competition, but it seems the readers are what keeps Liane writing.
Adam Hills — 2018
Bachelor of Arts, Media and Communications, 1991
Comedian and advocate for the rights of people with disability
Ah, Adam Hills. We all know and like this cheeky and talented comedian, but many may be surprised to learn that beneath the jokes is a sensitive soul with a humble heart.
Genuinely thrilled to receive this award from Macquarie University, Hills says, “This award means more than I can express, especially when I consider the calibre of people who have passed through Macquarie’s hallowed halls. I mean, to be thought of in the same breath as The Wiggles is high praise indeed.”
High it may be, but warranted. Described as ‘effortless’ and ‘brilliant’ by The Guardian (London), and internationally awarded for his work in arts and culture, Hills graduated from Macquarie with a Bachelor of Arts and with some “incredibly strong friendships” that are with him to this day.
“It was an excellent place to grow and learn, and from which to head out into the world. It was a time to find out who I really was, and it gave me the confidence to try comedy.”
Hills still recalls his uni days as an “exceedingly positive experience,” an experience that has not left him. “The last time I drove past Macquarie University, it made me think how far I’d come and how much of what I’d learned there was still with me. I remember working with audio engineering tutor Dave Clark-Duff, who said he worked best when he was passionate about what he was doing. That still rings in my ears, and I always try to follow my passion.”
So, any advice for our current students? “I’d say, soak it all in. Every little drop. Because you never know which bits will be useful in the future,” says Hills. Sound advice indeed.
Gold Logie nominated host of the hit TV series Spicks and Specks, Adam Hills has a string of international awards to his credit. When Hills is not hosting his UK talk show, The Last Leg, he can be found globetrotting as a stand-up comedian and advocating for the rights of people with disability.
Distinguished Professor Marcia Langton AM — 2019
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Human Geography and Anthropology, 2005
Associate Provost, University of Melbourne
Distinguished Professor Marcia Langton AM grew up listening to great Aboriginal orators and experienced firsthand the power of a well-honed argument. Now one of Australia’s most respected Indigenous leaders herself, she still believes education is the most powerful tool for change.
Professor Langton has believed in the power of education since she was at primary school, living in isolated towns and a native camp in rural Queensland. But it was when she moved to suburban Brisbane for high school that the idea really began to take hold.
She explains, “The Aboriginal movement was starting to become noticeable and I was hearing conversations about Aboriginal rights. I also met senior Aboriginal people in the Brisbane community — like Aboriginal poet laureate Oodgeroo Noonuccal and Neville Bonner, the first Aboriginal person elected to the Australian Senate — who were great orators.
“From them I learned the importance of being able to respond to complex issues with the right words, good ideas and a well-argued case. That’s why I pursued degrees in higher education — and why I still believe that education is the most powerful tool for change; for economic empowerment; and for the successful advocacy of intransigent human rights issues, such as the rights of Aboriginal people.”
Indeed, Professor Langton encourages all young people to seek higher education: “In the face of the climate change crisis, their ability to be persuasive will be indispensable, and higher education will hone the tools necessary for this existential struggle.”
With a PhD from Macquarie University in Human Geography and Anthropology, Professor Langton has produced a large body of knowledge in the areas of political and legal anthropology, Indigenous agreements and engagement with the minerals industry, and Indigenous culture and art.
The timing of her degree was pivotal: “When I enrolled at Macquarie University in 1991, it was a year before the Mabo case was decided in the High Court of Australia. It took me many years to complete my thesis because the Mabo decision changed the relationship between Indigenous and settler Australians in such a fundamental way.”
Yet Professor Langton’s reputation and impact goes well beyond the academic. Awarded the Order of Australia in 1993, she has been inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women and named one of Australia’s top 40 public intellectuals.
Most recently, together with Professor Tom Calma, she was appointed to co-chair the Senior Advisory Group driving the co-design process that will provide an Indigenous voice to government. For Professor Langton, rectifying the absence of an Indigenous Australian voice is key to making the radical changes needed to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are represented fairly.
So what does this Alumni Award mean to her? “This award is a powerful acknowledgement of the role of education in Aboriginal cultural survival and our future. Macquarie University has made a significant contribution to Indigenous studies in recent decades and encouraged and supported Aboriginal students in higher education, including a younger me. I am very grateful for that and am proud to accept this honour.”
Dr Anthony Field AM, Dr Greg Page AM, Dr Murray Cook AM — 2018
Doctor of Literature (Honoris Causa), 2009
Television (The Wiggles)
You know you’re encountering a truth when you receive the same information and sentiment from different sources. This is certainly the case in speaking with Dr Anthony Field, Dr Greg Page and Dr Murray Cook from The Wiggles, who all studied early childhood together at Macquarie.
While much has been made of their extraordinary accomplishments and popularity, Page says “something that usually goes unheralded is the fact that four blokes from Australia got together and created something that didn’t really exist before — and we did it with the knowledge we gained thanks to Macquarie University and the lecturers and tutors who shaped us.”
It may be years since they graduated, but the philosophy imbued in them by lecturers, such as Kath Warren, Alma Fleet, Rosemary Harle and Kathy Griffiths, “really impacted the way that The Wiggles crafted and delivered content for children,” says Page.
“It all worked from a child-centred point of view. We were reflecting their world in our performance,” says Field.
The three each referred to their studies as “the cornerstone” of everything they did. “Understanding the way children think was vital to what we did,” says Cook.
Field continues, “The philosophy behind early childhood education was based on empowering children. As teachers, and later as performers, we always kept that with us.”
Adds Cook, “Just because it was for children didn’t make it any less important. It was the connection with the children that was always so important to us.”
While all three were humbled by the award, Field felt it was “confirmation that we have kept children as our focus and motivation, and kept true to the philosophies we learned at Macquarie.”
Their shared philosophy clearly means everything to these three — the world has truly become their classroom. As children’s entertainers, The Wiggles have enjoyed unprecedented success.
In 2010, they were awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for their ‘service to the arts, particularly children’s entertainment, and to the community as a benefactor and supporter of a range of charities’.
Cook graduated from Macquarie with a Diploma of Teaching, 1991, and Doctor of Literature (Honoris Causa), 2009.
Field graduated from Macquarie with a Diploma of Teaching, 1991, and Doctor of Literature (Honoris Causa), 2009.
Page graduated from Macquarie with a Diploma of Teaching, 1993, and Doctor of Literature (Honoris Causa), 2009.
The Hon Dr Robert Stokes MP — 2018
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), 2008
NSW Minister for Education
The reaction from the Honourable Dr Robert (Rob) Stokes MP on receiving an alumni award isn’t surprising given his history with Macquarie and his passion for the environment and the law. “This award is a humbling encouragement that the hard work to promote the cause for conservation and sustainability is supported by an institution I love,” says Stokes.
It is easy to see how Stokes’ interests and enthusiasm converge when you realise that he studied at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, as well as worked as an academic, at Macquarie. He recalls the influence of those who mentored him as significant, such as Emeritus Professor Patricia Ryan, Professor Zada Lipman, Associate Professor Donna Craig, the late Professor Michael Jeffery QC, John Whitehouse and Professor Ben Doer.
“As an early proponent of interdisciplinarity in education, Macquarie University powerfully influenced my contribution at the intersection of law, education, environment and planning,” says Stokes.
“It also provided me with a decision-making framework to assess the social, environmental and economic implications of major resource projects within an international framework.”
His studies at Macquarie also opened “incredible doors” and “provided opportunities to translate research and thinking into pragmatic policy,” which was beneficial during his time as NSW Minister for Environment (2014–15) as well as NSW Minister for Planning (2015–17).
“I was fortunate to be able to implement a lot of my thinking that I gained at Macquarie University in my professional life. It was a time when it was possible to bring about environmental reforms that focused on principles of ecologically sustainable development to, for example, create national parks and strengthen pollution laws.”
Stokes wholeheartedly encourages those currently studying or considering studying at Macquarie to “use the knowledge that you gain here to make the greatest contribution you can in your chosen field.”
The Honourable Dr Rob Stokes MP started his career as a lawyer and an academic in environment and planning law prior to joining the political arena in 2005. He has a lifelong interest in environmental protection and planning, heritage and sustainability, and continues to be actively involved with Macquarie’s Centre for Environmental Law. He is currently the NSW Minister for Education.
Stokes graduated from Macquarie with a Bachelor of Arts (1995), Bachelor of Laws (1997), Master of Laws (1999) and Doctor of Philosophy (2008).
Innovation and enterprise
Dr Julie Vonwiller and Chris Vonwiller — 2020
Dr Julie Vonwiller (BA 1976, BA (Hons) 1980, PhD Linguistics & Psychology 1989) and Chris Vonwiller (MBA 1975)
Dr Julie Vonwiller and her husband Chris Vonwiller are founders of Appen, a multi-lingual provider of high-quality training data that powers artificial intelligence for some of the world’s most well-known organisations. Appen sells specialised datasets for machine learning and data intelligence that cover almost 200 languages. The technology can be applied to everything from voice recognition to relevance data and computer vision.
In founding Appen in 1996, Julie envisioned a way for linguists to build their careers in a commercial setting. The company, which floated in 2015, is now one of the Top 100 companies on the Australian Securities Exchange, employing over 1000 professional staff and one million contract staff worldwide.
Chris Vonwiller, a former senior executive at Telstra, holds an MBA (1975) from Macquarie University and Bachelor degrees in Science and Engineering (Honours) from the University of Sydney. He remains Chairman of the Board at Appen.
Together and individually, they have won numerous awards for innovation and business, and remain committed to the philanthropic Vonwiller Foundation.
Julie and Chris, as founders of Appen, were nominated for the 2018 Innovation Awards sponsored by GQ Australia and are also directors of Vonwiller Foundation doing great work in education, science and technology and healthcare.
Outside of her entrepreneurial activities, Julie has held a research management position in Speech and Technology Research Group in the Faculty of Engineering at Sydney University and a project management position at the Australian National Database for Spoken Language.
Julie is a well-recognised businesswoman who in 2008 won the Prime Minister's Exporter of the Year Award. She has also been awarded the Innovation Hero Award from the Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering at Sydney University.
Elizabeth Gaines — 2019
Master of Applied Finance, 1997
Chief Executive Officer at Fortescue Metals Group
Success compounds. The more you put in, over a greater amount of time, the larger your accumulated reward. As Chief Executive of Fortescue Metals Group and an alumna of the Macquarie University Business School, Elizabeth Gaines believes everyone should have the chance to be as successful as they choose.
Ask Elizabeth Gaines where she would have seen herself thirty years ago, and she may have been hard pressed to tell you: “When I was studying at Macquarie University, did I think I would end up the CEO of a major mining company? Probably not, but I believe that everybody should feel that anything’s possible.
“If your feet always touch the bottom, and you’re not in deep water, you’re probably not going to succeed. But if you’re curious and open to opportunities, and willing to take risks and put yourself in positions where you feel uncomfortable, the sky’s the limit.”
But it’s not all about success. As Elizabeth explains, “You will not only enrich your career; you’ll enrich your life. I love what I do, and I work with a fantastic group of people — there are 10,000 people at Fortescue who are out there every day, mining 170 million tonnes of iron ore and generating $10 billion of revenue; they are the true heroes.”
Elizabeth credits the innovation and success Fortescue has experienced to the diversity in gender and ethnicity of its workforce. “If you have a group of people all with the same background, you won’t get a range of ideas — or change.”
She continues, “Everyone should have the same opportunity to succeed and be empowered to achieve their goals. I wouldn’t have thought when I started my career thirty years ago that we would still be talking about gender inequality today, but I’m one of only three female CEOs in the ASX 50. We’ve clearly still got a way to go.”
In fact, the stats are telling us that it could take another fifty years for the gender pay gap to close, and another eighty before there’s an equal number of women CEOs as men. “That’s far too long,” says Elizabeth.
“We have to have recruitment policies that support equal representation around boardroom tables in C-suite roles and in workplaces around the country, and we have to overcome the unconscious bias that is still so pervasive. By tackling these issues; that’s when we will see an improvement in terms of gender representation — and move forward.”
It may take some time, but if Fortescue’s results are anything to go by, Elizabeth Gaines is on track in more ways than one.
Matt Barrie — 2018
Master of Applied Finance, 2011
CEO and chairperson of Freelancer.com
Matt Barrie embodies innovation and enterprise beyond his impressive LinkedIn profile of nearly one million followers, and talking with him reveals an interested mind and a positive, undaunted outlook.
Admitting that he never went to CEO school, Barrie clearly progressed at his own pace. Having a multifaceted approach to life, learning, technology and business, Barrie is familiar with setbacks, but not deterred by them, and he believes that “it is never too late to reinvent yourself and upskill.”
That was exactly what Barrie had in mind when he enrolled at Macquarie. Barrie was keen to improve his knowledge in finance after what he called a “dark time.” His previous enterprises hadn’t “set the world on fire,” and he was in-between jobs and looking to take time out.
Macquarie’s Master of Applied Finance was to become a piece of the intricate puzzle that makes him what he is today. During his studies, Barrie made interesting and influential connections at Macquarie. Indeed, Professor George Foster, a colleague of Director of Applied Finance Phil Dolan, became a board director of Barrie’s company for six years.
Asked what advice he would give to aspiring entrepreneurs, Barrie’s demeanour instantly lifts, his enthusiasm for sharing is palpable.
“You don’t want life to be handed to you on a platter — forge your own destiny. There is a huge amount of opportunity in the world. Go out there and seize it. Take risks and try things. Most of all, take initiative and recognise opportunities when they arise.”
Clearly, being an entrepreneur is more than a job title; it is a way of being in the world.
Matt Barrie is an award-winning entrepreneur, thought leader, speaker and influencer. He is the CEO and chairperson of Freelancer.com and has a myriad of degrees in engineering and business. He is highly regarded in the fields of entrepreneurship, economics, business and technology.
Barrie graduated from Macquarie with a Master of Applied Finance (2011).
Dr Angela Wai Yung Ng — 2020
Dr Angela Wai Yung Ng (MBA 2003, MMgt 2002)
Dr Angela Wai Yung Ng is a director of A J Green & Wellness Consultancy Limited, a health and wellbeing company which she founded in 2017. Although still a shareholder, she retired as chief operating officer of Chung Tai Printing subsidiary of the Hong Kong listed Neway Group Holdings, in 2015. Neway Group Holdings is predominantly a family-controlled business that includes the printing business of Chung Tai Holdings and the entertainment business of the Neway Entertainment Group. Angela still heads up the karaoke part of the business, which is one of the largest in Asia.
Born in Hong Kong, Angela’s early life was filled with poverty and family kinship. Her mastery of business and management later opened the doors for her to move up to an entrepreneur of a printing factory in 1979. In 1992, the company she started with her husband, Chung Tai Printing was successfully listed on the main board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
Angela also holds an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Business Management from Burkes University in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
She has more than 30 years experience in label and screen process printing business. In 2015, the business has successfully transitioned to the second generation. Since then, her focus has been giving back to the society in areas of education and health.
Bradley Jakeman — 2019
Bachelor of Arts, Psychology and Mass Communications, 1989
Founder and managing partner of Rethink Food
Now. More than ever. We need free thinkers. And we need people who are prepared to make a difference in the lives of those who don’t enjoy the privileges many of us take for granted. Brad Jakeman is one such man.
Brad knows the power of advertising and marketing; the power of mass communication. In a global context. Inside out. The former president of PepsiCo Global Beverage Group, Brad has held senior marketing roles at Ogilvy, Citi, Macy’s and Activision Blizzard. In his words, he has been “very fortunate to work with such formidable and well-known brands.”
With the exception of Macy’s, he has always held global roles, but it wasn’t his intention to remain overseas — Brad jokes easily that he left Australia 23 years ago to spend six months in London. Now based in New York, the move has proved “an incredible experience — the scale and impact of being able to shape pop culture and build successful businesses has been amazing,” he says.
But it is not Brad’s impressive CV that strikes you most. Nor is it his involvement in not-for-profits, helping them thrive and fundraise for bigger impact (Brad serves on the boards of The Humane Society and Reporters without Borders and is Co-Chairman of the Board of the New York LGBT Centre). Rather, it is the way all his experience — academic, career, personal — dovetails into a man that is not afraid to stand up for those who don’t enjoy the same privileges as him.
He says, “Some of the traditional apparatus, like government, that we once relied upon to shape and protect society has proven less eager to do so, and groups such as the LGBT community, women and immigrants to name a few, are rapidly losing hard-won civil rights. In this environment, it is important that companies and individuals to step up and fill that void.
“We have the power to shape the kind of society we want to live in. And, it is the responsibility of all of us who enjoy any form of privilege as a consequence of our race, education, gender or otherwise, to pay it forward and help those who don’t enjoy the same privileges.
“This could be by serving on not-for-profit boards, using any platform you may have to speak out in support of marginalised communities, donating your time or money to a charity you believe in, and most importantly, by voting.”
It has been said that when we lift another up, we all rise — Brad Jakeman is one very global citizen who is doing just that by making sure that all voices are heard in a very crowded world.
Bruce Gosper — 2018
Bachelor of Arts (Honours), 1980
Australian High Commissioner to Singapore
“I’m very honoured to receive a Macquarie University alumni award — it doesn’t seem that long since I was at uni, but it’s some 38 years!”
In that time, Bruce Gosper has helped raise a family and been fortunate to find a fulfilling, busy career. He says, “My work and my passion are trade policy and negotiations. It’s taken me to interesting places across six continents and put me in contact with some great people.
“The institutions, rules and norms that keep trade working, and that protect the weakest from the most powerful, have been tremendously important to the relative peace and prosperity of the past 70 years and to Australia’s welfare.
“Being able to play a part in supporting open trade and a rules-based system has given me great satisfaction. There are plenty of challenges to all that now — rising protectionism, the strains on the global system from shifting geopolitics, and the pace of change in technology. There’s plenty more work to do.
“A lot of trade policy is the hard graft of building relationships and trust, and there’s also the high drama and exhaustion of big trade negotiating rounds. What I’m most proud of is the work I’ve been involved in over many years with the World Trade Organization — it’s something worth any lifetime of work.
“My education at Macquarie University was good preparation. The multidisciplinary approach equipped me with different perspectives and ways of looking at issues and problems, which has been invaluable. The rigour of the scientific method supported by an appreciation of history and politics and culture!
“In Singapore, I’ve been pleased to engage with Macquarie alumni. It brings together a great group of people, at different stages of their lives, but with a shared experience. The older, pioneer graduates and the new, younger graduates all have something to offer our gatherings.”
Bruce Gosper is the Australian High Commissioner to Singapore and is also a member of the Asia Society Australia Advisory Council. He was previously CEO of Austrade and Ambassador to the World Trade Organization.
Gosper graduated from Macquarie with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) (1980).
Medicine and health
Dr Dharmica Mistry — 2019
Doctor of Philosophy, Medicine, 2014
Chief Scientist, BCAL Diagnostics
Dharmica Mistry would be the first to sing the praises of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), yet this young woman’s achievements in medicine and science — and let’s not forget business — are making people everywhere sit up and take notice. And her blood test for breast cancer may just change the face of women’s health forever.
At ease with being known for both her research and her transition to business and entrepreneurship from academia, Dharmica says, “I believe we need to have more visible role models in the STEM space because these are the occupations and disciplines that foster change and impact in the world.”
As co-founder and scientific advisor at BCAL Diagnostics, a small Australian biotechnology company that’s developing a revolutionary blood test for the early detection of breast cancer, she speaks from experience.
Mammograms that can detect breast cancer are currently only available to women over fifty (younger women’s breasts are simply too dense for the technology to be able to detect serious changes). But a blood test would be available to all women, of all ages, everywhere as part of their routine health care. Such blood tests could also be used to monitor the progression and remission of breast cancer.
“It changes the ball game in terms of screening,” says Dharmica, whose partnership with Macquarie University began almost ten years ago. She explains, “I had intellectual property that I wanted to bring into the academic environment. Macquarie was ahead of their time in that they wanted to collaborate. As a research institution, they were there to support the academic part of my journey with no strings attached. It was so refreshing.
“During my time at Macquarie I grew exponentially. I was engaged, supported and valued; I found my confidence as a scientist and researcher. This award means that I have done my university proud and that is very special; I feel very humbled.”
Still connected to Macquarie and actively involved, Dharmica says, “I want to pay it forward. And I hope to be a role model for young women considering a career in the sciences — I want to make geeks chic.”
Dharmica is certainly covering a lot of ground fast — and inspiring the next generation of women is just one element to her story; she’s potentially saving their lives, too.
Professor Alan Mackay-Sim
Doctor of Philosophy, 1980
Biomolecular Scientist (stem cell research)
“My life has been dominated by following my own dreams completely,” says Professor Mackay-Sim, who remains mentally connected to his alma mater. “I have followed Macquarie’s success from a pioneering institution in the early 1970s when I attended to the powerhouse it is today.”
At school, Mackay-Sim was interested in how the brain works, so he chose to study at Macquarie because it allowed him to choose his subjects, rather than being limited to a defined set of subjects at other universities. “I was interested in physiology, biology and psychology — what is known as neuroscience now — but back then, it wasn’t a subject as such. So I deliberately chose Macquarie, which was tiny, just 3000 students.
“It was a great decision because, although I moved away from psychology, it gave me really good training in experimental design and statistics. My first research projects were in behaviour and subsequently cell biology, which I have continued to pursue.”
Although he believes his time at Macquarie was formative and provided a strong foundation for his later work, he is careful to balance this belief. “University is just the beginning of a lifelong education. Life and careers do not follow a straight line. The same has been true of my research.”
So how has Mackay-Sim navigated a nonlinear yet extraordinary path? “Be aware of opportunities, know they are there and don’t be afraid to educate or re-educate yourself.” Most of all, “learn to take risks if you want an interesting life,” he says.
And that’s something we can all aspire to. The 2017 Australian of the Year, Emeritus Professor Alan Mackay-Sim is a biomolecular scientist who has dedicated his life to stem cell research. His groundbreaking work in the treatment of spinal cord injuries has miraculously changed the lives of many, and it has been described as the scientific equivalent of the Moon landing. A major proponent of the importance of funding for the sciences, Mackay-Sim is known for his inquiry, persistence and empathy.
Mackay-Sim graduated from Macquarie with a Bachelor of Arts (1973), Bachelor of Arts (Honours) (1974) and Doctor of Philosophy (1980).
Pauline Wright — 2020
Pauline Wright (BA/LLB 1985)
Central Coast attorney Pauline Wright made her mark on the changing face of Australian law as the 2020 President of the Law Council of Australia.
Pauline, of Gosford-based firm PJ Donnellan & Co, is only the fifth woman to hold the top job in more than 87 years, and the first Central Coast lawyer to ever hold the position. The role gave Pauline a voice in the creation and development of new laws and regulations, Australian Government initiated, or otherwise. Her election, by a panel of her peers, is the latest achievement in a distinguished career in criminal and environmental law, which includes holding the title of President of the Law Society of New South Wales in 2017.
Pauline is Executive Director, Law Council of Australia and Immediate Past President of the Law Society of New South Wales. She has worked in private practice since 1985 and held leadership roles with the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, the Law and Justice Foundation, Public Interest Law Clearing House and the Legal Aid Commission of NSW. She specialises in environmental, local government and planning law with an extensive background in criminal law and policy. She is passionate about the performing arts. Her practice at PJ Donnellan & Co is mainly in Criminal Law and Environmental Planning and Development Law, in which she is an accredited specialist and she chairs the Law Society’s EPD committee. She also chairs the Law Society’s Public Law Committee and sat on its Diversity and Inclusion Committee. She also sits on the Law Council’s Equality of Opportunity in the Law, Access to Justice and National Criminal Law committees.
Public and community service
Greg Mullins AO AFSM — 2019
Master of Management, 2000
Former Commissioner, Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW)
For those who are called to serve, retirement is rarely the end of the job. And for Greg Mullins AO AFSM, former Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW), who at the time of writing had just returned from fighting fires in Grafton and was heading to a burning California to speak about climate change, now is not a time to rest.
During summer as a child, Greg Mullins used to watch his father come home from work, answer a phone call, then pull on his firefighting overalls before heading out on the local fire truck. “I would stand on top of our old Vauxhall and look at the orange glows in the bush surrounding Terrey Hills, wondering which fire Dad was fighting.
“I fought my first large fire on 1 October 1971 with Dad — a huge fire was scorching its way from Bobbin Head through to Duffys Forest — and joined the local bushfire brigade the year after at just 13.”
It was to be a lifelong career; and one that is practically unmatched in FRNSW. When Greg retired in 2017, he was the longest-serving commissioner for more than a century, and the second longest-serving since the inception of the organisation in 1884. During his time as commissioner, he represented Australian fire services nationally and internationally on issues concerning emergency management, managing the consequences of terrorist attacks, and urban search and rescue.
He also implemented a range of operational, governance and cultural reforms in FRNSW, including 50/50 male/female recruitment (FRNSW was the first and only fire service in Australia to take affirmative action); an Indigenous employment pathway; and the introduction of water-saving, compressed-air foam systems, robotics, drones and real-time satellite tracking/dispatch of fire engines.
And none of that experience or knowledge is going to waste. In retirement, Greg is focusing on climate change and the environment. In his words, he is “extremely concerned about the major changes to fire danger caused by a heating world.”
To that end, in March this year, Greg acted on his sense of duty to the public. Together with 22 former chiefs of Fire, SES, Forestry and National Parks agencies from every state and territory, he formed the group Emergency Leaders for Climate Action to draw attention to the worsening extreme weather that it is driving intensifying heatwaves, bushfires, flooding, cyclones and storms.
He explains, “Based on peer-reviewed, credible scientific papers, there is absolutely no possibility that climate change is being caused by anything other than human activity — specifically the burning of oil, coal and gas. The science is clear. And alarming.
“Forming Emergency Leaders for Climate Action has taught me that public service does not end when the paycheque stops — it is a duty and a personal calling based on a deep commitment to the greater good; whatever the personal cost. All of us should seek to make a difference and leave behind a better, safer world.
“I have noticed there is an innate trust of people who have spent their lives in various areas of public service, and hope our high profile will raise awareness of climate change and contribute to helping people force our government to step up and deeply cut emissions.”
As Greg reflects on these issues in light of his Master of Management from Macquarie University, he can see all the threads coming together. “My studies taught me to question and seek evidence, and helped me to understand cultural drivers and blockages, how to plan and direct organisational strategy, and the vital importance of workplace communication and workforce participation.
“Macquarie definitely helped to shape my thinking and personal philosophy, and in turn, helped me to have a more fulfilling, productive life. I feel very humbled to receive this award because there are so many people doing so many interesting, worthwhile things in many fields of life and endeavour.
“This award, I believe, recognises not just me, but each and every one of those 7000 selfless men and women across the state whom I was so privileged to serve and lead. People who are out there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, rushing in to help people, often on the worst day of that person’s life.”
And just like the valiant firefighter he is, he will continue to confront danger head-on. Whether it is a fire surrounding his local Terrey Hills or bringing awareness to the greatest threat of our time, climate change, Greg Mullins will be there.
Dr Andrew Scipione AO APM — 2018
Doctor of Literature (Honoris Causa), 2013
Former NSW Commissioner of Police
Servant first, leader second. It may not have been the most popular leadership style, but it was a natural fit for Dr Andrew Scipione — one that he was challenged to define while studying the Master of Management at Macquarie.
Prompted to consider what underpinned his management style, Scipione says, “There are different ways of engaging people — my studies led me to a servant leadership style. I was a Christian before I was a leader, and this style of leadership was consistent with my values.”
Scipione undertook his masters as part of a development program with NSW Police — an organisation he dedicated four decades of his life to — and the congruence between his values and purpose, which is evident in both his personal and professional life, shines through his conversation.
“We are all called to be leaders,” says Scipione. “Whether that is within our families or within our professional lives, there are people who are looking to us. It is important to be part of an ongoing commitment to excel, and this style gave me the direction to do better. And it allowed me to invest in those working alongside me so that they could achieve their best too.”
Scipione found his masters to be invaluable in his work as time went on, yet he acknowledges the huge commitment it entailed. “I couldn’t have done it without my wife and children, and I will be forever grateful to them.”
Scipione also recognises former NSW Fire and Rescue Commissioner Greg Mullins (Master of Management, 2000), with whom he has a lot in common. While he describes the award as an honour, he is quick to recognise others who, like him, have worked exceptionally hard and says this award is shared with them.
Always a humble servant, Dr Andrew Scipione retired in 2017 after a lifetime of police service and nearly 10 years as NSW Commissioner of Police. His time as Commissioner was one of unprecedented change across police operations. His contribution was far-reaching, and his leadership style was highly respected.
Scipione graduated from Macquarie with a Master of Management (1998) and Doctor of Literature (Honoris Causa) (2013).
Susanna Matters — 2020
Susanna Matters (BA/DipEd 2012)
Susanna is a primary educator with a background in advocacy and international development. In 2010, she was an Australian delegate to the 54th United Nations Commission into the Status of Women. Together with her colleagues at the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, she lobbied for the International Day of the Girl Child, which was implemented in 2021. Susanna is also a former UNICEF Australia Youth Ambassador.
During her BA/DipEd (2012) at Macquarie University, Susanna went to Kenya as a volunteer teacher and, in response to the situation where girls were missing up to a quarter of their education due to lack of access to sanitary products, she founded Goods for Girls. Susanna was awarded The Australian Women’s Weekly inaugural Women of the Future scholarship for her work, and Goods for Girls has directly contributed to increasing girls' attendance rates at school in Muhaka, Kenya, by 44 per cent.
In 2015, Susanna received the Teachers’ Guild of New South Wales Certificate of Excellence for Early Career Teachers. In 2017, she was awarded a Master of Education (Gifted Education) with Excellence from the University of New South Wales and named the Australian College of Educators NSW Young Professional of the Year. In 2018, she was accredited as an experienced teacher and, most recently, has completed a Professional Certificate in Educational Neuroscience from the University of Melbourne. Currently teaching at Abbotsleigh in Wahroonga, New South Wales, Susanna leads from the heart to create a positive ripple effect for young girls everywhere.
Joshua Ross — 2019
Bachelor of Applied Finance, Bachelor of Commerce, 2011
Co-founder and director of Humanitix
You could say Joshua Ross likes to do things a little differently. But there is a method to his madness. And it has certainly worked for him so far — and for Humanitix, the company he co-founded with best friend Adam McCurdie that redirects booking fees to end poverty, suffering and education gaps.
Joshua Ross tells the story of how, with a scholarship from Macquarie University, he attended an International Youth Leadership Conference in Prague. As he had been backpacking throughout Europe for six months prior to the event, he arrived in shorts and thongs. “Everyone else was in suits,” recalls Josh. But playing the game a little differently ended up working in his favour — and the same can be said for his global social enterprise, Humanitix.
Joshua says, “We are passionate about disrupting the events ticketing industry and redirecting 100% of profits from booking fees to projects that address the education gaps affecting the most disadvantaged children in Australia and overseas. We believe that education is a ticket to opportunity and that every child has the right to reach their potential.”
Smart. Not least because Joshua believes in something he calls effective altruism. He explains, “to maximise your impact in the world, rather than relying on an emotional decision to make a difference, use your core competency or skill set to drive the most social impact for the causes you believe in.”
And it’s working for financial analyst Joshua and tech co-founder Adam. By employing a Silicon Valley tech model in a charity structure, Humanitix has secured funding from the NSW Government and the Google and Atlassian foundations, so far providing 52,000 days of education for girls; 1700 days of scholarships for indigenous students; and 150,000 meals for disadvantaged kids. And more besides: Humanitix is now the market-leading ticketing platform providing accessibility to events for people with disabilities.
It’s something Joshua gains great satisfaction from: “Humanitix is core to my life’s purpose,” he says, rightly proud of his rebel ticketing platform that is disrupting an industry dominated by multinationals. Even more to the point, he says, “Meeting some of the Indigenous students whose scholarships we fund through Humanitix, who come from all over Australia and have had such a different upbringing to my own, really brought home the meaning of the work we do day-to-day.”
So what does this award mean to Joshua? “It’s a great compliment to the team and everyone who has donated their time and effort to making Humanitix a reality — there are a lot of people to thank!”
No doubt. And it’s thanks to this new generation of start-ups and entrepreneurs using their skills for good that we may just be able to effect real change in the world. Bring it on.
Jennifer Star and Shaun Star — 2018
Bachelor of Arts (Honours), 2010
Manager, Professional Learning (India), Australian Council for Educational Research
Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Laws, 2011
Assistant Professor and Assistant Dean at the Jindal Global Law School.
Distinguished alumni Jennifer (Jen) and Shaun Star, who met at Macquarie, are a force for good in the world. They are often reverently referred to as a “powerhouse couple” but “rising stars” reflects their alumni award, their surname and their aspirations to help others.
Jen lives in Delhi, India, and runs Tara.Ed, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes quality education in rural and remote areas of India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan through teacher training and capacity building, infrastructure development and resource distribution.
Jen says, “Seeing the Tara.Ed model — which was once just a 21-year-old’s dream — become a success and make a sustainable impact on the lives of vulnerable kids in India is really special. To date, we have changed the lives of over 17,500 students.”
Jen has dedicated her life and career to women and girls who have not had the same freedoms and privileges she has enjoyed, and she has received many awards for her work in this space.
Yet, she says a Macquarie alumni award means a great deal to her: “The continued support and recognition from Macquarie University for all my pursuits is greatly appreciated.”
Shaun agrees that “being part of the Macquarie community has been an extremely rewarding experience and provided great value to both our lives.” He, too, has found his calling. His focus has been on building connections and strengthening people-to-people links between India and Australia through the Australia India Youth Dialogue, which he co-founded; and between Indian and Australian lawyers through the publication of a comparative legal volume. He is the director and founder of the Centre for India Australia Studies.
Over the past year, he has hosted immersion programs for Australian students and has found it gratifying to witness firsthand the impact international exposure has had on their lives. Their belief in the power of compassion and altruism is inspirational. We wish Jen and Shaun continued success with their important global work that impacts the lives of others so positively.
Jennifer Star is the founding director of Tara.Ed and is currently the Manager, Professional Learning (India), Australian Council for Educational Research. Shaun Star is an Assistant Professor and Assistant Dean at the Jindal Global Law School.
Jennifer Star has represented Macquarie University and Australia in Judo. Star graduated from Macquarie with a Bachelor of Arts (2009) and Bachelor of Arts (Honours) (2010).
Shaun Star graduated from Macquarie with a Bachelor of Commerce with Bachelor of Laws (2011).
Science and technology
Dr Larry Marshall — 2019
Bachelor of Science (Hons), 1985, PhD, 1990
CEO, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
Collaboration, says Dr Larry Marshall, Chief Executive of CSIRO — Australia’s national science agency and innovation catalyst — is where the magic happens.
Ironically, it was during his time at Macquarie University in the 1980s that Dr Larry Marshall was first introduced to CSIRO as a summer intern. He says, “I had no idea that one day I would become the chief executive leading the organisation. I feel honoured to be surrounded every day by scientists who stand tall globally in research excellence; we’re so lucky to have this incredible national brains trust.”
A scientist, technology innovator and business leader with a wealth of experience in creating new value and impact with science, Dr Marshall invented the eye-safe laser, which enabled lasers to be used safely in public. Honoured as a Federation Fellow and later as an ATSE (Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering) Fellow, Dr Marshall is a global leader in laser research and holds a PhD in Physics from Macquarie University.
He says, “This award is a great honour, and I’m very humbled to receive it. Macquarie inspired me. Professor Jim Piper was my lecturer and mentor during my degree, inspiring me to seek the purpose of science, and in particular, to ensure that what we did became relevant in the everyday world.
“He took us to pre-eminent overseas conferences where he convinced us we were every bit as good as the great laser researchers at places like Stanford; it was transformational for young PhD students to be inspired in that way.”
With a strong network of global luminaries, Professor Piper sought to matchmake them with his young students to ensure they would integrate into the wider global community. “He connected us into Oxford, Stanford, Cambridge, Princeton... In my case, he connected me with Prof Bob Byer, Dean of Research at Stanford and convinced him to be my PhD examiner. This led to me being offered a post-doc at Stanford, which would never have happened without Professor Piper. Pretty much every one of his students could tell a story like this.”
Above all, Dr Marshall says, “I would not have been inspired to try and start my first company — Light Solutions, which invented the world’s first solid-state green laser for the treatment of blindness in diabetics — without Professor Piper’s enthusiasm and passion. He taught me that science can solve many of the world’s problems; I’ve never lost faith in that power of science.”
And with CSIRO being charged with solving Australia’s greatest challenges through innovative science and technology, it would seem the country is in good hands indeed.
Dr Abigail Allwood — 2018
PhD in Earth Science, 2007
Astrobiologist and co-leader of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission
Is there life on Mars? It’s a question many ponder, but few are qualified or engaged to answer this timeless question. That is, unless you are Dr Abigail Allwood, first female and one of seven principal science investigators to lead NASA’s next mission to Mars, scheduled for 2020. She will also be the first Australian to lead a NASA team searching for signs of life on Mars, and she hopes that this exceptional achievement will light a path for other women.
To be part of NASA’s next mission to Mars, Allwood and her team pitched the inclusion of the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry, or PIXL for short, a NASA-funded instrument that scans rocks for chemical signatures of life. To Allwood and her team’s delight, she was accepted. PIXL will be operated remotely from Earth and will be able to analyse specimens in greater detail than ever before.
But Allwood is no stranger to Martian life. As an early-career academic, she explored Australia’s Pilbara for signs of life from Mars. It took three years, but she and her husband identified seven different-shaped fossil stromatolites that date back 3.4 billion years.
Given the number and range of specimens, even those most sceptical were in no doubt of the validity of her discovery, and it is still the oldest — and most widely accepted — record of life on Earth. But this was not the end of the story. Allwood won a coveted position at the California Institute of Technology, where working under geologist John Grotzinger (lead scientist for the 2014 Mars Curiosity rover) would become a key link in her own Mars expedition.
Allwood began developing PIXL by reducing the size of a similar instrument used in the Pilbara and waited for her dream to be confirmed — PIXL would be going to Mars. One small step for PIXL. One giant leap for womankind.
Dr Abigail Allwood, astrobiologist and co-leader of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission, has a strong interest in the early Earth, microbial sediments, evaporites and the oldest record of life on Earth, and has been outspoken on the need to invest in — not cut — funding for the sciences in Australia.
Allwood graduated from Macquarie with a PhD in Earth Science (2007).
Social impact and service
Sally L Begbie AO — 2020
Sally L Begbie AO (BA 1973)
Sally Begbie AO is co-founder of Crossroads, an non-government organisation (NGO) based in Hong Kong that gathers and sends humanitarian aid in Hong Kong and throughout the world. Sally and her husband, Malcolm, have served developing nations since 1979.
Having worked with NGOs for more than three decades, Sally is a humanitarian who is also the co-founder of the Crossroads Foundation, a Hong Kong-based organisation bringing people and organisations together to combat global need.
In 2012, Sally received the Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) award for her outstanding service to the international community in the provision of humanitarian relief, particularly through the Crossroads Foundation, and as a significant contributor to the United Nations efforts to connect business organisations with those in need. The Begbies’ work with Crossroads began in 1995, when they sent humanitarian aid to flood victims in China.
Today, they routinely ship to scores of countries, helping orphans, refugees, disaster victims and people in medical, educational or economic need.
The Crossroads Foundation has four main initiatives for improving the lives of impoverished people around the world: Global Handicrafts-a fair-trade marketplace, Global Hand- an online matching service partnering NGOs with corporations, Global Distribution- a service distributing donated computers, medical equipment, educational toys and clothing to those in need globally, Global Village (Global X-perience) - a simulation for school children and business leaders to experience situations of global need.
Sally was also awarded the Australia China Alumni Association award for Women in Leadership for 2018.
Tina McKenzie — 2019
Bachelor of Arts, Diploma of Education, 2011
Three-time Paralympian athlete (wheelchair basketball)
Elite athletes ahead of the game prepare for life after sport, but speaking to Tina McKenzie, you get the feeling that there is more to her, way more, than her sporting achievements.
Sure, Tina’s personal drive and ability to set and achieve goals can’t be underestimated. And it no doubt played a significant part in her representing Australia in wheelchair basketball — notably three times as a silver- and bronze-medaled Paralympian as part of the Gliders — as well as the recipient of a number of awards and scholarships.
But it is her desire to inspire those around her to become their best too that belies her true nature. It certainly influenced her decision to study primary teaching at Macquarie University under an elite athlete scholarship: “I have always wanted to give back, and it was important to me for children to see that people with disabilities can play an active role within their community.”
Reflecting on her time at Macquarie University, Tina says some very influential people come to mind: “Deirdre Anderson (Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Macquarie University and CEO of MQ Sports at the time), imparted lessons that I have incorporated in my career and life in general.
“Caroline Kennett, lecturer and maths guru was incredible, showing us the way to teach creatively and confidently. And Neil Harrison, who was passionate about Indigenous education, reminded us to always incorporate Indigenous peoples and stories across the whole curriculum.
“Although I’m not teaching directly at the moment, I still strongly believe in giving people the tools to achieve their own goals and experience success. My teaching degree has provided the foundation for me to do that in many ways over the course of my career, particularly in my roles in inclusion and equal opportunity, and through speaking events.”
For someone who jokes they weren’t very sporty as a kid, Tina says “sport became an essential part of my life to sustain both my mental health and my physicality after my accident. I liked basketball because of the tenacity and resilience required, and I enjoyed being part of a dedicated team. I am honoured to be acknowledged for my sporting achievements, and proud to receive this award.”
It would seem Tina’s commitment to success has paid off handsomely, flowing through all areas of her life and inspiring others along the way. She has indeed given back.
Liz Ellis AO — 2018
Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Laws, 1997
Former Australian netball captain and champion, broadcaster and media commentator
Liz Ellis’ reputation as one of Australia’s greatest netball players often precedes her academic achievements and other interests.
You may not know that she has a double major in Ancient History and Politics — and is a history buff.
“I still love it,” Ellis says. A happy pastime and relic from her time as a student is devouring history books and downloading podcasts. In light of the load of her law studies, she says “history kept me sane.”
Although it has been 20 years since she left university, she says she is still grateful to the passionate lecturers and tutors who shaped her brain. “What I was taught didn’t give me answers; it showed me multiple ways of coming to an answer. “When I analyse an issue, I try to bring another perspective. Things aren’t always black and white; there’s a whole lot of grey.”
It would seem the combination of history, law and politics complemented each other, and held her in good stead for the work she now does in general and with government. “I have an understanding of how things work, the mechanics behind the political process and the critical thinking skills to analyse a situation.”
Of course, all sportspeople have to prepare for life after the game, and Ellis has found that her studies have informed her media work too, where she is able to “look at an audience, see what’s being said, and pick up on what others might be missing.”
It would seem that all the threads of her life so far are now coming together. Happily ensconced in northern New South Wales, Ellis says of the award, “I am humbled. It’s a real honour for your old university to still want to claim you and continue the relationship.”
Former Australian netball captain and champion, broadcaster and media commentator, Liz Ellis was awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia for her “distinguished service to netball as an elite player and coach, through support and advocacy for young women, as a contributor to the broadcast and print media industries, and to the community” in 2018.
Ellis graduated from Macquarie with a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws (1997).