Macquarie University Alumni Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of alumni, and provide an opportunity to share their inspirational stories with the University and the wider community. Our alumni are a source of pride and motivation, and they embody the University’s association with excellence.
The award categories ensure alumni from all areas of the community are recognised for their local, national and international achievements.
Congratulations to our 2018 alumni award recipients.
Arts and Culture
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.
Hills graduated from Macquarie with a Bachelor of Arts (1991) majoring in Media and Communications.
Dr Anthony Field AM, Dr Greg Page AM, Dr Murray Cook AM
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 Rob Stokes MP
The reaction from the Honourable Dr 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 interplanning laws 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 Robert (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
Innovation and Enterprise
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).
“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).
Professor Alan Mackay-Sim
Medicine and Health
“My life has been dominated by following my own dreams completely,” says Professor Mackay-Sim, who remains mentally
connected to his alma mater – Macquarie. “I have followed its 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).
Dr Andrew Scipione AO APM
Public and Community Service
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).
Jennifer Star and Shaun Star
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
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).
Dr Abigail Allwood
Science and Technology
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 coleader 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).
Liz Ellis AO
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 sports people 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 with Bachelor of Laws (1997).