Congratulations to the 2020 Alumni Awards finalists!

You’ve heard it said that extraordinary times call for extraordinary people. The VU Alumni Awards recognise alumni who are making a powerful and positive difference in our community, and our world. As 2020 is showing us, these are those times, and our alumni are those people! 

We are thrilled to share with you the finalists for our 2020 Alumni Awards. These remarkable finalists have excelled in their chosen careers and are shaping the world around them. Victoria University is built on the successes of our alumni and we are proud of the contribution these finalists are making to the West of Melbourne, to our nation and on the global stage.

View the winners and join us us at the Alumni Awards Online Celebration at 6pm, Thursday 22 October 2020 via the VU Alumni Awards page or the VU Alumni Facebook page.

Finalists for the 2020 Alumni Awards

Read about the Alumni Award finalists in three different categories.

Lifetime Achievement Award finalists

Leslie Collins

Leslie Collins - Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award Finalist

Leslie Collins graduated as an electrical engineer from Victoria University’s predecessor institution Footscray Institute of Technology. Applying his engineering skills and following his passion for performance engines, Les has built one of Australia’s iconic Motorsport businesses, Les Collins Racing. Les’ thriving business building custom engines and transmissions played a leading role in elite rally and off-road competition from the 80s to today.

John Stanway

John Stanway - Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award Finalist

John Stanway was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital, one of the world's leading children's hospitals, in 2017. Prior to this he was the Chief Operating Officer for more than ten years. Under John’s leadership, the hospital has increased the efficiency and quality of patient care. John has a Graduate Diploma in Industrial Relations from Victoria University’s predecessor institution Footscray Institute of Technology.



Professional Achievement Award finalists

Maria Turnbull sitting outside in a garden.

Maria Turnbull OAM - Professional Achievement Alumni Award finalist

Maria Turnbull received an Order of Australia Medal in 2018 for service to the community through social welfare organisations. Through her work as a financial counsellor and lawyer, Maria’s professional objective is to empower people and communities to influence decisions affecting them. Maria has two degrees from Victoria University – Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Arts, and she works as a Senior Financial Counsellor for The Salvation Army.

Vedran Drakulic

Vedran Drakulic OAM – Professional Achievement Alumni Award finalist

Vedran Drakulic OAM arrived in Australia in 1995 as a refugee from Bosnia, having worked for the Red Cross as a logistics officer, interpreter, and press officer during the conflict. In Australia, Vedran has continued to work for the benefit of the community with Australian Red Cross and Oxfam Australia, while also completing a Masters of Public Advocacy and Action from Victoria University. Vedran has been the CEO of Gandel Philanthropy since 2011, one of the largest family philanthropic foundations in Australia.

Deborah Borg

Deborah Borg - Professional Achievement Alumni Award finalist

For more than 20 years Deborah Borg has held successful management roles in multinational companies, including her current role as Chief HR & Communications Officer at Bunge, a leading marketer of and processor of oilseeds and grains with 30,000 employees in more than 45 countries worldwide. As a senior executive, she promotes diversity and advocates for those who are unable to do so. Deborah holds a Bachelor of Business Management in Human Resources and a Master of Training and Change Management from Victoria University.

Januario Mok holding a trophy in front of a wall with drawings and writing.

Januario Mok – Professional Achievement Alumni Award finalist

Januario Mok is the Deputy Director at East Timor Development Agency, a not-for-profit training centre in Timor-Leste. Januario works with displaced youth on skills training, job support, and earning power. He was accepted on a scholarship to complete the Graduate Certificate in Vocational Education and Training at Victoria University, which he completed in 2013.

Greg Warnecke

Greg Warnecke – Professional Achievement Alumni Award Finalist

Greg Warnecke has had a life in sport as a coach, team manager, and administrator. Greg received his Masters of Sport Business from Victoria University, laying the foundation for his distinguished global career of over 20 years. Now living in London, Greg was the Director of Operations for the successful 2019 ICC Men's Cricket World Cup, COO of the 2017 World Masters Games and Head of Sport for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Rising Star Alumni Award finalists

Mohamed Al Sallal in a suit with many different flags standing behind him.

Mohamed Jamal Al-Sallal – Rising Star Alumni Award finalist

Mohamed Jamal Al-Sallal is a Bilateral Affairs and Partnerships Coordinator for the United Arab Emirates Mission to the United Nations. In his role, he fosters international cooperation and serves as program manager to advance the role of women in post-conflict reconstruction. He volunteers at the Association of the UN Interns and is currently the president of the organisation. He studied a Bachelor of Business (International Trade & Marketing) at Victoria University. 

Sameerah Arif pictured outside, under a tree and in front of an apartment building, at night

Sameerah Arif – Rising Star Alumni Award finalist

Sameerah Arif is a Blood Cancer Support Coordinator at the Leukaemia Foundation and a Medical Radiation Therapist, after having obtained a Bachelor of Biomedical Science from Victoria University. Sameerah has held many leadership roles in community and student programs. She has organised fundraising events and managed charity projects both in Victoria and overseas to support children and provide health care to those in need.

Sarah Oleksiuk

Sarah Oleksiuk – Rising Star Alumni Award finalist

Sarah Oleksiuk has completed a Master of Project Management and Master of Business Administration at Victoria University. She works as a Program Advisory Manager at Aurecon (Engineering) and has experience spanning various fields, including aviation, education, health, government and construction project management. Sarah is a strong advocate for the inclusion and respect of women in this traditionally male-dominated industry and has held many volunteer roles to give back to the community.

Nathalie McLean

Nathalie McLean – Rising Star Alumni Award finalist

Nathalie McLean is a pioneer of change in the arts industry, supporting and creating opportunities for First Nation artists. She studied a Bachelor of Creative Arts Industries at Victoria University and draws on her Indigenous and Scottish backgrounds to inspire her work as an actress, director, cultural consultant and artist. Nathalie combines her creativity and passion for storytelling to run her two businesses: Junjurri Workshop, which teaches primary school students about the world’s oldest culture; and Yarning Circle Events, a cultural consultancy and First Nations events company.

Mark James Sacco

Mark James Sacco – Rising Star Alumni Award finalist

Mark James Sacco studied a Bachelor of Business (Accounting & Information systems) at Victoria University and is now the Chief Operating Officer at Light Project, a lighting solutions company. In his successful career, he has been recognised for his management skills, and has  consulted and mentored clients one-on-one, striving to improve company processes and increase revenue. In his free time, Mark is a breakdancing performer and teacher for local dance schools and community events.

Award categories

Found out more about the award categories and view the winners for the 2020 Alumni Awards on the Alumni Awards page.

Award recipient recognition

The winning award recipient in each category will receive:

  • a trophy
  • recognition within the VU and wider community for their outstanding achievements
  • an invitation to participate in VU events during the year of their tenure.

Contact us

For any queries, please contact the Alumni Relations Team at [email protected].