Nurturing the leaders of tomorrow and introducing landmark social justice, research and public policy initiatives that improve our local and international community are hallmarks of the high achievers recognised in the 2021 Flinders University’s Alumni Awards.
Fourteen Alumni Awards were announced by Flinders University Chancellor Stephen Gerlach AM and Deputy Chancellor Elizabeth Perry AM (also Chair of the Alumni Awards Selection Committee) at a Gala Dinner at the Adelaide Convention Centre, on Thursday 9 December.
Before an audience of 100 guests that included past awardees – most notably Flinders’ first Convocation Medallist from 30 Years ago, Professor Anthony Thomas AC (awarded in 1991, Flinders University’s 25th Anniversary year) – a formidable group of Flinders University graduates were formally recognised for their outstanding contributions to society.
The Convocation Medal, the highest of Flinders University’s alumni honours – established in 1991 to commemorate the university’s Silver Jubilee, recognising substantial and outstanding contribution to the local, national or international community – was awarded to Dr Rosemary Brooks OAM for her work as a legal advocate for refugees and as former Principal at St Ann’s College, a university residential college located in North Adelaide.
During her 35 years at St Ann’s, Dr Brooks nurtured more than 3,000 students, mostly from rural regions but also from overseas and across Australia, while they attended Adelaide’s three universities. At St Ann’s she established tutoring, mentoring and leadership programs that had a profound impact on forging a generation of emerging leaders, scientists, engineers, doctors and artists.
Her ongoing pro bono work as a legal counsel for refugees and Indigenous Australians has been instrumental in helping to remove barriers or obstacles hindering their liberty – and the sum of this work makes Dr Brooks an ideal Convocation Medal recipient.
Dr Brooks was awarded an OAM in 2021 for service to the community yet insists she has much still to do. “There is no greater calling that to provide service to others, so that they can realise their maximum potential,” she says, “and it has been my privilege to serve.”
SA Health Chief Executive Dr Christopher McGowan heads an impressive list of Flinders Distinguished Alumni Awardees, acknowledging his 30 years’ work in the health sector – crowned by his assured leadership through the COVID-19 pandemic – and humanitarian activities that has seen him donate time and money over the past decade to assist poor rural Cambodian villages.
Leanne Liddle, Director of the Aboriginal Justice Unit in the Northern Territory’s Department of the Attorney General and Justice, received an award for her distinguished leadership and commitment to justice through part 30 years, including her work to develop the Aboriginal Justice Agreement for the Northern Territory.
Associate Professor Rosalie Grivell, Director of Flinders University’s Medical Program and a leading educator and researcher in women’s health, received an award for being one of the key advocates presenting medical evidence and data that recently helped change South Australia’s abortion law.
Associate Professor Elspeth McInnes AM received an award for her research, teaching and advocacy on the impact of violence and abuse on children and parenting, which has helped chart improved pathways towards a better future for affected children and parents.
Arts Director Lee Cumberlidge received an award for his creativity and innovative leadership exhibited as Co-founder and Creative Director of the inaugural Illuminate Adelaide festival that lit up the city during winter 2021.
Elizabeth Naumczyk received an award for her international impact as a prominent law librarian, which has seen her establish the International Criminal Court law library at The Hague, The Netherlands, in 2002, and other law libraries in Australia and Singapore.
Richard Stokes Chief, Executive Officer and creator of the Australian Boarding Schools Association, received an award for helping to shape the care of students within Australia’s boarding school industry for 40 years.
Flinders University also issued a series of Early Career Alumni Awards to dynamic alumni who have made significant impact in the formative years of their careers and launched them along a fast track to success.
Sam Ackland, director and founder of Build Clean, was awarded for his innovative business approach to provide professional cleaning services for many award-winning SA building firms. He was awarded 2020 South Australian Young Entrepreneur of the Year after Build Clean grew from 18 to 34 employees, defying a tough economic climate in which many other ventures by young entrepreneurs floundered.
Sculptural installation and printmaking artist Kate Bohunnis received an award for her significant contribution to the visual arts. This follows her $100,000 Ramsay Art Prize with a work about control, which underlines her focus on identity, gender and queer perspectives in her varied artworks in metal, mould-making, textiles and print.
Dr Himal Kandel – a former Study Adelaide International Student of the Year and now Kornhauser Research Associate at the Save Sight Institute, University of Sydney – was awarded for his research that draws attention to patients with keratoconus (an eye condition causing refractive error vision impairment) and improves the quality of life for people with serious vision problems.
Dr Alyce Martin at Flinders University’s Medical Research Institute was awarded for riding at the forefront of the fast-expanding field of innovative gut serotonin research. She is ranked second in the world among published authors on Enterochromaffin Cell biology.
Dr Katharina J Peters, researcher in Flinders’ Evolutionary Ecology Group, was awarded for playing a leading role in wildlife ecology and conservation, with her internationally acknowledged research taking her to remote locations around the world – from the Galapagos Islands to remote parts of Australia and New Zealand.
Ben Tripodi, CEO and Co-founder of both Lumin Sports and Hoap, was awarded for his entrepreneurial success in developing innovative software solutions to support athlete development, and to help monitor wellbeing in response to the pandemic.