UQ Alumni Awards

Introducing our 2021 Alumni Award winners

Image of UQ St Lucia campus with Forgan Smith and the Art Museum

UQ Alumnus of the Year

Award created by Alumni Friends

Caroline Frazer
Master of Educational Studies 1997

UQ Alumnus of the Year for commitment to improving the lives of so many Australians through advocacy and philanthropic work.

Caroline Frazer is a world-renowned philanthropist and Co-chair of Not If, When – the Campaign to Create Change. Ms Frazer was integral to the mobilisation of UQ’s community and the achievement of ambitious fundraising targets, making tertiary education an attainable goal for generations of students. Her support and advocacy at UQ and beyond have had an indelible impact on Queensland and the nation.

Educating the community

I was brought up being told I would be a teacher. I used to sit all my little friends in front of the blackboard and talk in front of them from very early on, so I’ve always been a teacher and education is still very important to me.

A well-educated community is critical because a well-educated community is much more likely to make good, rational decisions.

As a philanthropist, you get to make decisions about what is important to you and what you’d like to support and, for us as a family, education is very important. Having the opportunity to help mobilise donors to support students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to go to university: that was something I felt passionate about and was confident I could advocate for.

The more people in the community who know that there are ways to support students and help build a better educated society, the better.

What is your proudest moment?

Being part of the UQ philanthropic campaign is something I’m very, very proud of. I never would have expected to be asked to be part of it and to be able to see the impact that the whole community was able to make together is amazing – I’m really proud of how well it has done and to see how it has helped so many students.

I was a student at UQ many years ago and I benefited from that, my husband is very much involved with the University and my kids have all attended UQ, so it was nice to be able to give something back. 

What’s something we might not know about you?

My husband, Ian, and I like to do Pilates regularly to keep fit for our favourite activity – heli-skiing! We try to go every year, and we love being in the Canadian mountains where it’s peaceful and beautiful. There is no mobile phone service up there either, which is a huge bonus!

Image of Caroline Frazer with a blue top and dark background

Vice-Chancellor's Alumni Excellence Awards

Image of Mr Allan Davies

Allan Davies

Allan Davies

Image of Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea AM

Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea AM

Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea AM

Allan Davies

Allan Davies
Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) (Mining) 1974 – Emmanuel College

Vice-Chancellor's Alumni Excellence Award for outstanding professional achievements as well as commitment to helping others through the Dalara Foundation.

Allan Davies has over 40 years mining experience in the Australian and international coal and metalliferous mining industries, including managing mines in South Africa and Australia on behalf of BP and Rio Tinto. Mr Davies is currently Co-Founder and Chairman of the Australian Rhino Project with the goal of establishing a breeding herd of black-and-white rhinos in Australia to protect the animals from extinction. He is also Chairman of the Board of Qube Holdings Ltd, and a non-Executive Director of XLX Pty Ltd. In 2007, Mr Davies and his family founded the Dalara Foundation which focuses on medical research, education, animal protection and human welfare including Indigenous youth. 

Five generations of mining blood

I grew up in a mining town (Mt Isa) but had and still have a strong love of animals. I had planned to be a veterinarian after leaving school. However, my father took me underground when I turned 15 (in 1966) and ever since that time I was very keen to study mining engineering and work in and manage mines. It is the ultimate technical, people interactive and outdoors style profession with the capacity to work anywhere in the world. While I knew my father had come from a mining family in the Hunter Valley I didn’t know until much later when I was working in the Hunter Valley that I was the fifth generation in our family on my father’s side to do so. My mother’s family also had a history in mining – Mt Morgan, Charters Towers and the NSW gold fields. With such a heritage in mining it seemed appropriate to study and work in that field although I had no pressure to do so from my family.

Words to live by

When I was at primary school in Mt Isa in the 1950’s, students received a diary each year. In Grade 2 I recall a very important quote in the diary about ‘luck’. It went like this: “A little more determination, a little more pluck, a little more hard work: that’s luck!”. I have never forgotten that saying and it is still as true today as it was then.

What’s a surprising fact about you?

When I graduated from UQ, my first job was working as a graduate engineer for MIM at Mt Isa. My hometown. When I was growing up there, I competed at the annual rodeo. After graduation, I again competed in the rodeo and in 1975 in the calf roping and tying. I successfully caught the calf and tied it but wasn’t fast enough to win a prize.

Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea AM

Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea AM
Graduate Diploma in Science 1994; Bachelor of Science 1992; Bachelor of Music 1992

Vice-Chancellor's Alumni Excellence Award for outstanding leadership in the field of science and for commitment to advancing the role of women in STEMM.

Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea AM is internationally recognised as a leading scientist and advocate for women in STEMM – science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine. Her authentic leadership has played a major role in driving positive change for STEMM students and professionals in Australia, transforming opportunities available to women and early to mid-career researchers. She is cofounder and CEO of Women in STEMM Australia; a non-profit organisation that connects women in science across every professional sector at a national level. Dr Evans-Galea is also IMNIS Executive Director of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering.

Why is it so important for you to be an advocate for women in STEMM?

STEMM is central to all that we do – now and into the future – it is integral to every part of our lives and our careers. We are facing incredible challenges that will impact our planet and our lives. To devise the best solutions to these complex problems, we need to consider every possibility, every angle, from everyone. Women make up half of Australia’s population, and their voice is needed to secure our success.

We all matter, we can all contribute in phenomenal ways, and we must ensure every voice is heard.

Who’s your favourite musician?

I’m a die-hard Billy Joel fan – he was ‘working class’ like me. I found this very relatable, and I respect the breadth and depth of his music, lyrics and genre more broadly. I also love Queen, Beethoven, and many great musicals.

If you could change one thing about the world for the next generation, what would it be?

We must change how things have been done for the past 50 years to create a vibrant, collaborative, diverse and interactive STEMM ecosystem where people feel respected and valued. As our population grows, how we manage food and water security, health and social well-being, particularly in the context of climate change, will be of critical importance. A vibrant research sector will be essential to overcome these challenges. This means ensuring students pursue a higher education in STEMM to provide an enduring research workforce well into the future.

Words of wisdom for fresh graduates

“Head down, tune out the noise and proceed with vigour!” – Professor Peter Doherty AC, Nobel Laureate.

Simon Hewett
Bachelor of Music (Hons) 1997

Vice-Chancellor's Alumni Excellence Award for leadership and generosity in building opportunities for young Queensland musicians, and for commitment to the UQ community.

Simon Hewett is currently the Music Director of the Queensland Youth Orchestra and continues to serve in the role of Principal Conductor with the Hamburg Ballet in Germany and as Principal Guest Conductor at the Canberra Symphony Orchestra for 2021. In 2020, Mr Hewett and his wife Maria initiated with others the Berlin Residency Award, which provides a UQ graduate student with accommodation as well as research and living expenses.

Did you have a mentor while studying at UQ?

Malcolm Gillies AM, the Dean and Head of the School of Music while I was an undergraduate student, was a hugely important mentor and influence. He created a course specifically for me, allowing me to study conducting, introduced me to the Elision Ensemble, with whom I had my first experiences as a professional conductor, supported and encouraged me. After graduating I received a German Academic Scholarship, and since my conducting course in Germany required extensive piano skills, he gave me piano lessons for six months, after I left UQ, for free!!!

Classical music: the only option

I love classical music, and I wanted to be making music in some way every day. It didn’t occur to me to do anything else.

What are you most proud of?

My family. Deciding to put them first has been the best career choice I’ve ever made.

Image of Simon Hewett conducting
Image of Dr Daryl Holmes OBE

Dr Daryl Holmes OBE

Dr Daryl Holmes OBE

Image of Amanda Johnston-Pell interviewing a guest on a chair at Women's College

Amanda Johnston-Pell

Amanda Johnston-Pell

Dr Daryl Holmes OBE

Dr Daryl Holmes OBE
Bachelor of Dental Science 1987 – King's College

Vice-Chancellor's Alumni Excellence Award for leadership in the field of dental care, as well as outstanding commitment to serving others.

Dr Daryl Holmes OBE qualified as a dentist in 1987 and practised as a Dental Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force for three years before commencing private practice in Ayr, Home Hill and Townsville. For several years he operated multiple dental surgeries in the Townsville region before establishing the Townsville Family Dental brand and business model in 1991. For the next 12 years Dr Holmes pioneered and perfected a range of innovative marketing techniques for his dentistry business 1300SMILES. Dr Holmes also tirelessly volunteers on the YWAM (Youth with a Mission) Medical Ships in rural and remote Papua New Guinea.

Share a memorable time from your UQ days

1983 and 1984 when I lived and studied at King’s College. Having just returned home to Australia from an amazingly rewarding ‘gap year’ (Rotary Exchange) in Johannesburg, South Africa, I’d lost touch with many of my peer group from Brisbane Grammar School, so King’s was an incredibly welcoming, exciting and fun place to live. I met so many like-minded and similarly nervous people, making lifelong friends from the first day of ‘Orientation Week’, when every morning at sunrise there was an intercollege event with 100s of others, enjoying weird and wonderful activities.  The blend of intercollege sport, friendships and academia made it a real highlight.

Why was it important to you to help others through dentistry?

It was important to me to give my time and skills as a dentist to those less fortunate. Initially I did some work in the outback with Indigenous peoples. Then along the way I met Ken Mulligan OAM OBE, the Townsville CEO of YWAM Medical Ships and Training – a non-profit, charitable Christian organisation that does development work in disadvantaged communities across the world. The work they do immediately struck a chord with me. They are all volunteers, CEO included, spending 1-5, 10, 20, or 30+ years doing good and helping others: it requires huge depth of character, compassion and selflessness, which appealed to, and inspired me. 

Each Outreach group travel by ship, usually 10-20 hours sail from Port Moresby, into rural and very remote Papua New Guinean villages – many without road access at all, with up to 120 people on-board, and to the many 100s of islands around PNG. The volunteers onboard from all over the world have expertise in medical, dental and ophthalmology, or are just happy to help and ‘give back to others far less fortunate than themselves’.

I’ve volunteered with YWAM for the past 15 years now, encouraging many others to do likewise, and still hold the Ships’ record of 132 extractions in one day! It was an amazing thing to be able to relieve so many people of chronic pain and infection that many had been living with for up to 20 years. I was awarded an OBE for humanitarian services to the people of PNG.

The current YWAM Medical (and Training) Ship purchased by donations in cash and kind, for over $6 million a few years ago, is complete with dental and ophthalmology operating theatres, laboratory for malaria and TB testing, vaccination delivery services and many other facilities on-board that allow even better healthcare delivery into these remote and vulnerable regions.

What are you most proud of?

My family of 5 kids; what I’ve done to help others, and ultimately, building the 1300SMILES business from nothing to a very large enterprise and all the learnings, experiences and challenges that have gone with that.

Favourite quote, motto or piece of advice? Graduate advice….

"You can get everything you want in life, if you just help other people get what they want." - Zig Ziglar

"Life’s full of choices, just make one.

A good life is when you assume nothing, do more, smile often, dream big, laugh a lot and realize how blessed you are for what you have." - Zig Ziglar

What’s a surprising or fun fact about you?

My Dad’s one of four boys, I’m one of four boys and I had four boys (plus the first girl in 90 years!).

Amanda Johnston-Pell

Amanda Johnston-Pell
Bachelor of Human Movement Studies (Education) 1992 – Women's College

Vice-Chancellor's Alumni Excellence Award for outstanding leadership in business, and for service to community, education and private diplomatic initiatives.

Amanda Johnston-Pell is currently serving as the Chief Digital Officer, Vice President Digital Sales across the Asia Pacific and China regions for IBM. In 2012, Ms Johnston-Pell cofounded a New York tech media start-up. Passionate about giving back, she has served with community, education and private diplomatic initiatives including but not limited to the Australia American Leadership Dialogue, the AALD’s Young Leadership Dialogue, Chief Executive Women Australia, the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship and Sparsha Trust, serving underprivileged children in India. Ms Johnston-Pell is a generous business and ‘women leaders enabling women leaders’ mentor.

Moving to the big smoke

A memorable moment for me was being accepted into the UQ Women’s College Community 30 years ago.  For a country Queensland girl who had grown up in the small regional town of Maryborough, the University of Queensland and Brisbane was definitely ‘the big smoke’. My experiences at Women’s really shaped my thinking and perspective around dreaming big, having a world view, living a life of service, the importance of a growth mindset, resiliency and courage, and the power of empowering women networks.

What are you most proud of?

On a personal level – becoming a mother to our son. On a professional level – being resilient, actively leaning into challenges and being invested in inspiring colleagues to achieve more than they thought was possible.

How did you make the transition from studying a Bachelor of Human Movement Studies to moving into business leadership?

I was super passionate about the business world of sport, and the Sydney Olympics decision was around the corner. I had undertaken commerce subjects as part of my undergraduate degree and in my fourth year, I remember going past an expo of sorts on campus where opportunities were being canvassed to apply for an exchange program at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.  There was the opportunity to do an honours program at what was and still is the leading international university for studies aligned to the international world of business and sport. That one-year honours program soon turned into a master’s degree and then a career initially in management consulting within the Olympic movement.

How has the last year changed you?

Our family had planned to relocate to India in April 2020 – well, all of our possessions did move and are currently still in India. COVID-19 got the better of us for our relocation, so it has been a really interesting journey leading a large team across the Asia Pacific, China and Japan markets remotely via video.  It’s made me truly value what is most important, and that is relationships, certainly not things.  It also taught me about the importance of being flexible, when one path closes, how you re-pivot to still deliver impact.

Distinguished Young Alumni Awards

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Dr Bonny Cumming

Dr Bonny Cumming

Image of Dr James Fielding

Dr James Fielding

Dr James Fielding

Dr Bonny Cumming

Dr Bonny Cumming
Bachelor of Veterinary Science (Hons) 2008 – Women's College

Distinguished Young Alumni Award for commitment to serving Australia's Indigenous communities.

Dr Bonny Cumming is an experienced veterinarian and project manager whose work is focused at the intersection of human, animal and environmental health. Since 2013, Dr Cumming's work as a Project Manager for Animal Management in Rural & Remote Indigenous Communities (AMRRIC) has seen her supporting the strong links between Australian First Nations peoples and their animals within the community. With a deep understanding of how the social and cultural determinants of health impact remote communities, Dr Cumming is committed to addressing inequity through genuine partnerships that support and empower First Nations communities to improve their health and wellbeing of their pets, and in turn, the health and wellbeing of their communities and country.

How did you find your passion for pets and place?

For people living in remote communities, accessing veterinary services is much more challenging than for those in towns and cities. Many communities are hundreds if not thousands of kilometres from the nearest vet clinic and, for some communities, the wet season can cut road access for months at a time. Remote communities typically only have one shop, which often doesn’t stock effective animal health products. Furthermore, for some residents of remote Indigenous communities, English may be a fourth or fifth language, making engagement with veterinary services – almost exclusively delivered in English – an additional barrier.

Despite these challenges, dogs (and increasingly cats) play important roles in remote communities. They are valued companions, confidants and protectors of both physical and spiritual intrusion. Some are proficient hunting aids. Many have cultural significance – creation of stories, songlines and ceremonies featuring dogs continue to be practiced across our vast continent, and some animals will be incorporated into the family’s kinship system, granting them special reverence and familial significance.

I feel exceptionally privileged to have the opportunity, through my work with Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities to address socioeconomic, geographic and cultural barriers, and assist remote communities to access visiting veterinary services.

What would you say to new vet science graduates?

The veterinary profession is an inherently compassionate profession, however our love for animals can sometimes blinker us, preventing us from considering the complexity of others’ lives and how social determinants of health – things like race, gender, housing, income and culture – impact both people and animals together. More compassion, less judgement makes for a happier work life and improved quality of care for both our clients and their animals.

Something we didn’t know about you

I travelled to Antarctica in 2011/2012 as part of my Master’s Degree. I was the veterinarian on a project sedating and tracking elephant seals as part of a broader climate change monitoring project. 

Dr James Fielding

Dr James Fielding
Bachelor of Business Management 2010; Bachelor of Science 2010; Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery 2014; Graduate Certificate in Executive Leadership 2014

Distinguished Young Alumni Award for entrepreneurial leadership and service to UQ through the Ventures program.

Dr James Fielding is the Founder and CEO of Audeara, Founder and Director of Robotics Engineering Research Laboratories, Founder and Director of Yumm! Confectionary and Founder and former Director of Field Orthopaedics. He worked in a range of fields before pursuing medicine. Dr Fielding was based at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital before leaving full time clinical medicine to focus on the founding and development of his start-up, Audeara. Audeara headphones are the world’s first full-fidelity headphones with a built-in hearing test. The company has grown from a small, crowdfunded project in 2017 to a publicly listed company valued at $21M in 2021.

Favourite place on campus

Wordies Café – it’s where I met my wife.

Hearing the difference

We originally set out to make a medical device to perform hearing tests on people in a simple and effective way that would increase the availability and utilisation of hearing tests. Realising the capability of the platform we’d built, we became passionate about giving people an incredible sound experience regardless of their hearing health. Hearing aids focus on the spoken word but don’t offer a truly rich sound experience. By offering this enhanced and personalised hearing profile we can use entertainment as the hook to inform people about the importance of their hearing.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A concierge, I thought it would be cool to be the person that can get anything and have your finger on the pulse, Michael J Fox style.

Did you have a lightbulb moment during your degree that guided you on your career path?

My career path is slightly curvy and I was at UQ for 10 years, but during that time I was working in a hedge fund in New York choosing what I was going to nibble on for afternoon tea from the extensive office menu while my wife was working at the Brooklyn District Attorney Special Victims Unit bringing her own pencils and trying to stop cruelty and injustice. I realised I wasn’t in the right place and I came home to study Medicine.

Bri Lee

Bri Lee
Bachelor of Arts 2014; Bachelor of Laws (Hons) 2014; Master of Philosophy 2020

Distinguished Young Alumni Award for advocacy for survivors of sexual assault and for law reform, and exceptional achievements as an author.

Bri Lee is an author, editor, freelance writer, speaker, researcher, qualified (though non-practicing) lawyer, and PhD candidate. She is one of Australia’s most impressive rising literary talents and a leading voice for reform of Australia’s consent and sexual assault laws. She turned her journey as a young associate to a Queensland judge, and the childhood trauma that this experience forced her to revisit, into the award-winning memoir Eggshell Skull. Ms Lee was awarded the 2019 Ned Kelly Award for True Crime, the 2019 Davitt Award for Best Debut True Crime Book, and Biography of the year at the 2019 Australian Book Industry Awards. Ms Lee’s novel, Who Gets to be Smart, is also longlisted for the Nib Award for research in writing.

What are you most proud of?

I have received countless messages from people who have read one of my books then made real change in their lives. There is no more satisfying feeling than knowing your work is having an impact like that.

Giving a voice to sexual assault survivors

I don’t want to overstate my individual influence or voice – I’ve always been directed and led by the tireless work of organisations such as the Women’s Legal Service Queensland as well as the activists and academics who came before me. What I will say about voices like mine specifically is that in the conversations about law reform, survivors aren’t treated as ‘experts’. Lawyers are really good at minimising the ‘reliability’ and ‘credibility’ of perspectives that don’t suit their cases. 

What’s a surprising fact about you?

I have two rescue guinea pigs! Louis and Eddie are a father and son “bonded pair” from the Queensland Guinea Pig Refuge – a fantastic organisation who always need more foster carers and donations!

Your favourite quote?

This advice from a commencement speech by British author Neil Gaiman in 2012 has served me really well:

“People keep working, in a freelance world, and more and more of today's world is freelance, because their work is good, and because they are easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don't even need all three. Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. They'll forgive the lateness of the work if it's good, and if they like you. And you don't have to be as good as the others if you're on time and it's always a pleasure to hear from you.”

Honestly, I still stick by this advice – you’ve gotta be two of the three.

Dr Bavahuna Manoharan

Dr Bavahuna Manoharan
Bachelor of Science 2007; Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery 2012

Distinguished Young Alumni Award for leadership in the medical field as Queensland responds to the COVID-19 crisis.

Dr Bavahuna Manoharan is the State Clinical Director of the Queensland Vaccine Command Centre & COVID-19 Vaccination Taskforce. In this position he plays a vital leadership role in navigating Queensland’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. Dr Manoharan is also the current Australian Medical Association Queensland (AMAQ) Vice President and member of the AMAQ Board of Directors where he continues to advocate for doctors working across the public and private sectors as well as the health of the Queensland population. He strongly urges all of you to get a COVID-19 vaccination!

How has the last year changed you?

The biggest change for me in the last 12 months is having to learn to manage uncertainty – none of us have had a choice in this- we have all had to do it in this pandemic. For my part, I have had to find ways of taking my team on the journey and building resilience so that we can continue to be flexible and adapt without breaking. I have really had to confront my own limitations in this regard and understand that asking for help and support is not a sign of failure, but rather a must in surviving though this.

What inspired you to pursue a career in leadership in the medical field?

In medical school I put my hand up to be part of the UQ Medical Society and that introduced me to a world of leadership opportunities that has led to where I am today.

When I finished medical school, I had an avid interest in surgery and quickly progressed into a surgical training program. I enjoyed learning the technical skills and surgical pathology of disease and enjoyed being able to improve patients’ lives. However, I found myself thinking about how often we operated on diseases which were progressions of preventable disease and chronic disease, and ways to improve surgical outcomes for entire populations. I thought we needed to refocus our efforts to preventative health as my best patient would be the one who I would never have to operate on.

This led me down the path of health policy and advocacy. I found working on the Australian Medical Association Council an excellent way of influencing health policy and seeing the broad ranging impacts of successfully implemented policy really cemented my interest in this as a career path.

What are you most proud of?

There have been a lot of proud moments for me – more focussed in what I have been able to achieve as part of a team than personally, but the proudest has to be my involvement in efforts to improve the workplace wellbeing and mental health of young doctors. We have been able to advocate for amendments to mandatory reporting requirements of doctors suffering mental health conditions, improving workplace and training environments for our health colleagues and improved industrial relations coverage. We also developed the Resilience on the Run program- now called the Wellbeing at Work program for young doctors, and implemented a strategy of data collection through personal experience surveys across junior doctors and medical training programs to support positive change for them.

Mikhara Ramsing

Mikhara Ramsing
Bachelor of Economics (Hons) 2015; Bachelor of Laws (Hons) 2014

Distinguished Young Alumni Award for outstanding commitment to serving others.

Mikhara Ramsing is the founder of Miks Chai, a social enterprise that funds suicide prevention through sales of chai tea, and Ethnic LGBT+, a national resource platform for culturally and linguistically diverse LGTBIQA+ communities. She was Young Australian of the Year QLD Finalist 2019, one of Australian Financial Review’s Top 100 Women of Influence 2019, and a Westpac Social Change Fellow, 1 of 10 Australians chosen to invest in to grow as a community leader in 2018.

Thank you, Nana

My grandfather (my Nana) was my inspiration to become a social entrepreneur. Growing up as a fifth generation South African Indian, I saw my Nana use business during the apartheid era as a tool to provide scholarships to attend university for those who weren’t able to access it. I knew growing up, I wanted to do the same. I even did a Tedx Talk at UQ on my Nana’s impact on my life.

How did you get to where you are?

I loved my economics degree at UQ, particularly the subjects that pushed us to think about the social and political impacts of different economic models. I met like-minded peers in these classes and a group of us started Queensland’s first youth-led and focused social enterprise conference – IMPACT – that inspired 300 young people into social enterprise where they can then use business as a tool for social impact.

What are you most proud of?

Creating the representation I need as a young queer woman of colour through my not-for-profit networking organisation: ethnicplus.org

Favourite quote

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou

Image of Bri Lee

Bri Lee

Bri Lee

Image of Dr Bavahuna Manoharan

Dr Bavahuna Manoharan

Dr Bavahuna Manoharan

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Mikhara Ramsing

Mikhara Ramsing

Indigenous Community Impact Award

Kevin O'Brien

Kevin O’Brien
Bachelor of Architecture 1995; Master of Philosophy (Architecture) 2006

Indigenous Community Impact Award for his contribution to improving understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by designing spaces that connect with the history of the Country on which they are built, and for his advocacy for this approach in the design community and beyond.

Kevin O’Brien is a leading Australian architect who places Indigenous knowledge of Country at the centre of his practice. In 1997 he became a founding member of the Merrima Aboriginal Design Unit of the Government Architects Office of New South Wales and worked on institutional projects with NSW Aboriginal communities until 2001. In 2007 and 2008 he served as a Director of Architects Without Frontiers, a non-profit organization providing architectural services to disaster areas around the globe. Mr O’Brien established his own practice, Kevin O’Brien Architects, in Brisbane in 2006, which in 2018 merged with international firm BVN, where Mr O’Brien currently works as a Principal Architect. Mr O’Brien has also been a Professor of Design for the QUT School of Architecture and Built Environment, Professor of Practise at the University of Sydney and is currently an Adjunct Professor at the University of Sydney.

Who has inspired you as an architect?

The late Peter O’Gorman, a well-known UQ lecturer, was the most influential teacher during my undergraduate architecture degree at UQ. Upon graduation, I assisted Peter in the building of the Mooloomba House on Minjerribah/Stradbroke Island. This moment confirmed my desire to become a practising architect.

The late Rewi Thompson was the most influential advisor during my postgraduate degree at UQ. Rewi was an architect of Maori heritage and we shared an understanding of the importance of culture. Rewi drew out of me an awareness of Country as an origin for thinking about architecture.

Always experimenting

In 1983, in my family’s backyard, I set out a pattern using petrol ending at the BBQ. Upon lighting it, I was delighted to see the flame race around and then to my horror, blow up the BBQ. My mother was not impressed. In 2012, in Venice at the opening of my exhibition, I took a blow torch to the central exhibit – an 8x3m drawing of Brisbane – and burnt it.

Launching my Finding Country Exhibition at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2012 was one of my proudest moments.

Words of wisdom for new graduates

It’s worth reminding ourselves of what we belong to (as opposed to what we own).

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Kevin O'Brien

Kevin O'Brien

International Alumnus of the Year

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Dr Ryan Taft

Dr Ryan Taft

Dr Ryan Taft

Dr Ryan Taft
Doctor of Philosophy 2009

International Alumnus of the Year for outstanding contributions to medical research of rare diseases, and commitment to serving others through advocacy and philanthropy.

Dr Ryan Taft is currently the Vice President, Scientific Research at Illumina in San Diego. Dr Taft led a global team that discovered a new disease: HBSL. This disease discovery arose after a chance encounter put Dr Taft in contact with the family of a boy suffering from a mysterious developmental disease: Massimo Damiani. Dr Taft sits on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Mission Massimo Foundation and is a member of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Board of Global Genes, a leading rare disease advocacy organisation. Dr Taft is Chair of iHope, a philanthropic consortium of member institutions who have committed to providing whole-genome sequencing to underserved families.

Taking Massimo’s case

As an international student who travelled from the US to study for my postgraduate degree, UQ made an immediate impression on me. From the warm Aussie community to the immediacy of nature on campus, it was a beautiful and welcoming place to study.

I was drawn to the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at UQ, however, because of a single individual, Professor John Mattick. I hoped to investigate the full extent of the information encoded in the human genome, and the Mattick Laboratory provided an environment where new ideas were explored, and discoveries made, on an almost daily basis. I learned a great deal during my time with Professor Mattick, but perhaps the most important lesson was to be creative and courageous in the pursuit of scientific insight.

The moment at UQ that reshaped my life was a phone call on 3 February 2011 with Stephen Damiani, the father of a young boy, Massimo, with an undiagnosed neurological disease. Stephen had taken the extraordinary step of having his son’s genome sequenced but was having difficulty finding scientists to analyse the data. With my training in genomics I took the call hoping I could offer some rudimentary advice, but Stephen’s goal was to get me to “take the case”. I had no way of knowing that phone call would lead to the discovery of a disease new to medicine, a connection to a global network of researchers and clinicians dedicated to cases just like Massimo’s, and the launch dozens of programs to help rare genetic disease patients that continue to this day.

A favourite quote

“Chance favours the prepared mind.” – Louis Pasteur, French chemist and microbiologist.

Failure is implicit in science, but it isn’t the part of the journey we mythologise. For every discovery a scientist makes, there are thousands of excursions down blind alleys. Those failures are central to preparing the mind for the next breakthrough. To know which path to take, which chance piece of data is interesting, why that outlier is the one worth following, you must have read, observed, watched, tried and failed. When I was working on Massimo’s case I came up empty night after night, finding what I thought were disease causing mutations that were in fact red herrings. Those missteps were not the end of the path, but the gateway to discovery.

What is your top read and why?

To be reminded that putting something larger than yourself at the centre of your decision-making is the path to happiness and personal success: Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl.

Colleges' UQ Alumni Award

Scott Young
Bachelor of Arts 1987; Graduate Certificate in Executive Leadership 2017
King's College

Colleges' UQ Alumni Award for outstanding contributions to the international sporting community and commitment to improving University life at King's College.

Scott Young attended King’s College in 1984 to 1986 and since then, has spent time on the College Council and as Chair of the Foundation Advisory Committee. Mr Young is a highly experienced business and sports leader and former international rugby union referee. He has worked in the corporate, sporting, educational sectors and at Yalari, a not-for-profit that offers secondary school boarding educational scholarships to Indigenous children from remote, rural and regional communities. Mr Young has refereed at three Rugby World Cups, the Commonwealth Games, and in 25 test matches and 49 Super Rugby matches over his career. His strong skills as a world class referee meant was involved as a High-Performance Coach for officials in the lead up to the 2016 Olympic Games, when Sevens rugby made its debut.

The heart of UQ

To me, the Great Court epitomises UQ – it was a place where you met your friends, chilled out, but most importantly it was where you dared to dream. It’s a special place to me. To live on campus at King’s College was the ultimate – the college environment is a springboard to success given the culture, sport, and friendship it stands for.

What inspired your passion for making education accessible for young people?

My passion for education comes through my experience travelling the world. As an international rugby union referee, officiating at the highest levels including Rugby World Cups (1999 and 2003) and the 1998 Commonwealth Games I was on the road for 10 years. During this time, I was fortunate to visit many countries where I witnessed how a good education can transform a young person’s future. I became passionate about charitable work that helped young people achieve their dreams and became involved with Yalari, a not-for profit organisation that provides Indigenous children with access to scholarships for their education.

Through my friendship with Yalari’s Founding Director, Waverley Stanley, an Aboriginal man whom I was fortunate enough to go to school with, I began raising funds to support this important cause.

Tunes that make you hum.

Growing up in the 70’s and early 80’s, Abba was huge – so it was hard not to get involved in Abbamania! But that all changed when I went to UQ with the huge number of Aussie bands that played at the old refectory – Aussie Crawl, Mental as Anything, Hoodo Gurus, Eurogliders, The Cockroaches and Icehouse just to name a few. I’m passionate about anything Australia produces!

Photo of Scott Young in front of sandstone in the Great Court

Gatton Gold Medal

Daniel Kelly AM
Diploma in Applied Science 1974; Bachelor of Applied Science 1975

Gatton Gold Medal for outstanding leadership and service to international humanitarian emergency response work.

Daniel Kelly AM began his career in farming in Ayr, Queensland before moving to Southern Sudan in 1983 amidst the threat of civil war to help establish an agricultural program. Following this, he began work in humanitarian aid organisations, and settled at World Vision in 1995 where he remained until 2017 when he stepped down from his senior role as Partnership Leader/Vice President – Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs, World Vision International (WVI). Mr Kelly managed the WVI responses to 40 major emergencies in 16 years, including devastating droughts across African nations, to Hurricane Katrina in the US, to Ebola and Zika viruses worldwide.

What are you most proud of?

Assisting refugee communities in their hour of greatest need, specifically refugees in South Sudan, and Chadian refugees in Darfur in the eastern Sahara. My team and I were able to help save many lives, including from malnutrition, disease and insecurity. While these communities were often viewed as ‘victims’, l have always been amazed with their resourcefulness and dedication to rebuilding their lives despite seemingly impossible circumstances.

I led a process that built an effective emergency response mechanism with global reach for humanitarian disasters - expertise, funding and relief supplies, logistic systems, and importantly, incorporated mechanisms that addressed accountability and protection.

I worked to develop a cadre of humanitarian leaders, ensuring they had the requisite skills and experience to successfully lead humanitarian activities in increasingly complex and chaotic environments. Even in retirement, I have continued to see humanitarian leadership as a priority through coaching of selected up and coming leaders.

Connecting the dots in every context

I do have to confess that there were times during my pursuit of my Rural Technology degree when I questioned the relevance of some course materials to where I thought I was headed in the field of rural enterprise. Biometrics, agricultural chemistry, entomology, hydrology, etc. But how wrong I was!

In a nutshell, I came away from my studies with a preliminary understanding of the value of managing from a ‘whole of context’ perspective. Being able to draw on a broad range of skills and experiences proved essential to managing successfully in a diverse range of very complex and challenging humanitarian contexts. Being able to ‘connect the dots’ and maximise a range of resources has been critical.

Share a fun fact about you?

My wife and I were married during my first year at UQ Gatton Campus, and recently celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. We have four children and 10 grandchildren.

If you could change one thing about the world for the next generation, what would it be?

Promote greater respect for our fellow human beings to the extent that we each prioritise the needs and wellbeing of others, even above our own personal interests.

Image of Dan Kelly

UQ Graduate of the Year

Award created by Alumni Friends

Image of Jessie Harper

Jessie Harper

Jessie Harper

Jessie Harper

Jessie Harper
Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Hons) 2021

During her Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Hons), Ms Harper received a University Medal, was Valedictorian of the School of Agricultural Science and received several Dean’s Commendations for Academic Excellence in every semester of study.  Ms Harper is now undertaking a PhD at UQ on a prestigious Westpac Future Leaders Scholarship. In addition to her academic achievements, Ms Harper has tutored across a wide range of courses at UQ and is also an elite athlete in track and field, currently training under the Head Jumps Coach of Australia. She has represented Australia at international competitions such as the World University Games in 2019 and the Oceania Games in both 2019 and 2017.

What inspired your passion for improving productivity and sustainability of food production?

I grew up in rural Queensland where my family has a small beef cattle farm in the Lockyer Valley. This instilled a passion for agriculture and an appreciation of where food comes from, as well as the issues surrounding the livelihoods of farmers. These experiences growing up and working in agricultural research for two years following high school have helped shape my passion for agriculture as well as the importance of family and community.

Food security in perspective

Attending a study tour to Indonesia, as part of my undergraduate studies, prompted a realisation of the importance of sustainable agriculture globally. This was a pivotal experience for me that changed my career aspirations and provided all students on the tour with a global perspective. Agricultural research is such a valued discipline overseas, while we tend to take food security for granted in Australia.

Seeing the small scale of Indonesian farms and the generosity of the farmers to the Australian students ignited a desire to improve their productivity and livelihoods. We saw firsthand the challenges of food security facing the world and highlighted to me the importance of agriculture in alleviating poverty. I believe helping improve agriculture in developing countries leads to positive social change through building capacity of farmers and scientists.

Tell us about your morning ritual

At 5.30am my cat wakes me up to be fed, then I prepare for track and field training. While driving to training from Gatton to Brisbane, I learn Bahasa (a language spoken in Indonesia) through audio books. I then train for 2-3 hours each morning, six days each week, then I travel back to Gatton and start my work.

What’s a surprising or fun fact about you?

Over summer, after graduating and before starting my PhD, I decided to buy a bonsai plant to practice keeping plants alive for experiments in my PhD. This started a small obsession with plants, and I’ve been collecting rare aroids. My current favourite is an Anthurium ‘Silver Blush’.

UQ Sportswoman and Sportsman of the Year

Natalie Grider

Natalie Grider
Current student – Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science (Hons)

Brisbane Lions’ AFLW grand finalist Natalie Grider is the first Australian Rules footballer to win the Sportswoman of the Year Award.  The Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science (Hons) student was drafted into the Brisbane Lions in 2018, and had a breakout season in 2021, being named the Club’s ‘Most Competitive Player’.

What inspired you to take up AFL?

I grew up in a pretty passionate AFL household and while my mum and dad tried to convince me to support their favourite teams St Kilda and Carlton respectively, I never swayed from my hometown team: the Brissy Lions. My older sister Chelsea was quickly convinced by our dad to take up the sport given his lack of sons, and after watching her from the sideline for a year or so I was ready to join in. I started at the age of 11 but back then there were no younger teams for girls, and I wasn’t too keen on playing with the boys. I was lucky enough to be a part of the Under 15 girls’ team with my sister (I did wear a non-contact bib for a while there until I put on a bit of size and height, though).

What are you most proud of?

Winning the AFLW Premiership with the Brisbane Lions AFLW team is definitely a proud moment that won’t be forgotten anytime soon, with the post-game celebrations coming in a close second.

What’s your favourite quote?

“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” – Babe Ruth

I love the idea that failing is normal. Personally, I have never regretted something I have done just because I didn’t win or succeed as planned but I have definitely regretted not being involved in something because of the fear of failure. I believe this quote is empowering and one I try to remember when getting anxious about letting myself or my team mates down.

Callum Davies

Callum Davies
Current student – Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science (Hons)

Callum Davies is an outstanding AIC cross country and track and field athlete. As a middle-distance runner Mr Davies was one of only two athletes chosen to represent Australia at the 2018 World Under 20 Athletics Championships in Finland. In 2020, the Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science (Hons) student became the first male athlete to win the Queensland State Open 1500m, 3000m and 5000m titles in the same season. 

Describe a memorable moment, place or person that has impacted you while at UQ

Walking into the Advanced Engineering Building for my first anatomy lecture and seeing over 500 like-minded people really resonated with me. Being surrounded by that many people with similar interests and goals, knowing that we were all there for the same reason, was the first time I felt truly part of the UQ community.

As for a person, Associate Professor Craig Engstrom. Craig is so passionate about his work and what he teaches, and it emphasised to me that you must enjoy what you’re doing; it’s less of a challenge if you enjoy it. I try to take this mindset into both my sport and study, and have found it really beneficial for both my mental wellbeing and performance.

What inspired you to take up middle-distance running?

I see running as a way of improving myself and pushing to see how good I can be. 

What’s a surprising or fun fact about you?

I’m related to Hector Hogan, the last Australian male to win an Olympic medal in the 100m.

Image of Natalie Grider

Natalie Grider

Natalie Grider

Image of Callum Davies and others running on a running track

Callum Davies

Callum Davies