With over 270,000 alumni globally, the Victoria University (VU) Alumni Awards recognise alumni who are making a powerful and positive difference in our community and our world.
With over 270,000 alumni globally, the Victoria University (VU) Alumni Awards recognise alumni who are making a powerful and positive difference in our community and our world.
2021 VU Alumni Awards winners
Nominations for the 2022 Alumni Awards are now closed.
Thank you to everyone who submitted a nomination so we can celebrate the extraordinary achievements of VU alumni. Your nominations will ensure we put a spotlight on alumni who are achieving remarkable success at work, while also making outstanding contributions to our broader community.
Stay tuned for the announcement of the finalists on Thursday 27 September!
All Alumni Awards finalists will go in the running for the Spirit of VU Alumni Award – our people’s choice award. You, your friends, family and workmates, can vote for who you believe best embodies the VU ethos from Tuesday 27 September to Sunday 2 October.
All award winners will be announced at the Alumni Awards online celebration on Thursday 27 October. We will be going live at 6pm on the VU Alumni Facebook page and Alumni Awards webpage – please join us!
Congratulations to Dr Andi Diamond, CEO, City of Monash – 2021 winner of the Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award.
With a career dedicated to public service, Andi started out as a social worker at the first Sexual Assault Clinic at Queen Victoria Hospital where she worked with very young children who had been sexually abused. Her invaluable experience then saw her coordinating and training child protection workers, psychiatric service staff and Victoria Police in interview techniques with children under the age of six. Since then, Andi has moved from a career in psychotherapy to management in local government.
She has been at a senior manager level at councils including Boroondara and Melton, and has been the CEO of both Yarra and Monash City Councils. As the current CEO of the City of Monash, Andi established a regional forum advocating for social housing in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne that now has councils committed to buy land for social housing and implement the multibillion-dollar State Government social housing program.
Andi has also been the President Metropolitan Fire Brigade Services (MFBS), was part of the inaugural board for Respect Victoria, and Director at St John Ambulance. Known for her passion for people, her CEO office door is always open.
Chief Executive Officer
Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital
Graduate Diploma in Industrial Relations
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.
Chief Engineer of Victoria
Managing Director, Exner Group Pty Ltd
General Manager & Director, Karsta Group
Bachelor of Engineering (Civil)
Dr Collette Burke is Chief Engineer of Victoria, Managing Director at Exner Group and Director at VicTrack.
She has spent more than 25 years in the engineering and construction industry with major contractors. She is an internationally acknowledged researcher, with a PhD in risk management and value for money on major infrastructure projects.
Her passion to give back to the industry has led to the creation of engineering consultancy and education firms Exner Group and Karsta (in the Middle East), where she holds the position of Managing Director. Collette was also the former National Director of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), with a focus on building skills through education for members in the industry.
She has since been appointed a Director of VicTrack and more recently the Chief Engineer of Victoria. Her appointment allows her to provide expert advice to the government on major project design and engineering, including the Metro Tunnel and level crossing removals. Collette is also helping the government to establish a registration system for engineers, ensuring the industry is properly regulated for safety compliance and competency.
Senior Research Scientist – NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute of Technology
Doctor of Philosophy
Space – the final frontier for many, but the workplace for Dr Adrian Stoica! NASA only takes the very best visionaries and scientists and he fits that brief. Recognised as a world leader and innovator in the fields of robotics, human-computer interfaces and space exploration systems, Adrian’s successes have also seen him called upon to advise bodies such as the USA National Science Foundation and the European Space Agency.
A designer of the original, real “transformer” robot, he was part of the NASA team that first promoted the use of humanoid robots for space exploration. Adrian is using this knowledge in a voluntary way to help use robotics to assist the elderly and infirm be independent of human aid. With a range of inventions and patents, he also generously mentors and supports students and other researchers. He is VU’s very own “rocket scientist”, at the forefront of our future.
Head Coach, Sydney Kings
Bachelor of Applied Science (Physical Education)
Described by many as one of the greatest ever Australian basketballers, Andrew Gaze AM is one of the most recognised, respected and leading sporting figures in our nation. He is also a member of the FIBA and Sports Australia Halls of Fame, leader of the Australian team and was a flag bearer at the Sydney Olympics. This five-time Olympian is widely praised on the national stage not only for his own sporting prowess but for his leadership, ability to build a strong team culture, integrity with developing young athletes and his commitment and passion for excellence in everything he does.
Away from the courts, Andrew is highly regarded for the quiet way he goes about supporting a range of charities and community initiatives, using his influence and networks for positive change. This saw him recognised as Father of the Year by the Shepherd Centre in 2015. Among his multiple awards here and internationally, two major awards – the NBL MVP and Australian international player of the year – are named in his honour. These awards recognise Andrew's values and sustained contributions as a leader and inspiration in both the sporting and broader communities.
At Victoria University, Andrew helped pave the way for flexible study options for professional athletes, giving students the opportunity to achieve their sporting career and study goals simultaneously. As a member of the Board of Basketball Victoria and head coach of the Sydney Kings, he champions community development as a key part of sustaining sport, especially as a vehicle to support young people.
VU Honorary Doctorate, Diploma of Business
Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah AO is the visionary founder and chairman of Sunway Group, a leading Malaysian conglomerate. He is also the founding trustee of Malaysia’s largest education-focused social enterprise, the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation (JCF). He supports his passionate belief in the power of education to raise standards of living and making quality education accessible to all deserving students, through creating a legacy of perpetual scholarships with the Sunway Education Group of 16 institutions, which are now a part of the JCF.
Tan Sri is heavily involved in sustainable development through Sunway’s sustainable development town and city creation and construction programs and helping establish public policy think tanks and research. He has gifted US$10 million to establish the Sachs Centre on Sustainable Development, aimed at advancing the UN Sustainable development Goals in Southeast Asia.
With nine honorary doctorates bestowed by leading international universities, twice recognised as Forbes Asia Hero of Philanthropy, Council member of UN Sustainable Development Solutions network and many other significant roles and awards of recognition, Tan Sri was also awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia for his contribution to strengthening bilateral relations between Malaysia and Australia through education.
Doctor of Philosophy
John combines world leadership in science with business acumen. Motivated by a desire to replace fossil fuel energy with the sun’s limitless supply of clean energy, he built his first prototype solar power plant as a university student and spent the next 30 years working on groundbreaking ways to harness that energy.
John’s innovative thinking and entrepreneurial drive has enabled him to translate widely discussed ideas into simple and easy systems. He has made an enormous contribution to educating, inspiring and raising awareness about critical energy issues.
In collaboration with the CSIRO, John has helped bridge the divide between academia and industry.
Master of Arts, Bachelor of Arts (Recreation)
Deidre Anderson was the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Students and Registrar at Macquarie University. She has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to supporting the development of young people, particularly those involved in sport and recreation. As a sports transition specialist, Deidre is sought-out as a confidante and mentor to some of the world’s best and highest profile athletes.
Deidre is currently President of Australian University Sport, President of Australian Women's Sport and Recreation Association and Director AUSRAPID, a national organisation increasing sporting and recreational opportunities for people with an intellectual disability.
She holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Social Science, Psychology and Sports Management and is currently completing her PhD on Risky Drinking among Young Australians. She has also published widely in national and international peer-reviewed journals.
Deidre is a recipient of the Rotary Paul Harris Fellowship for her contribution to international relations, the Princeton International Business Leaders award and the Eunice Gill Coach Education award.
Diploma of Catering and Hotel Management
Paul is Chairman and CEO of Quest Serviced Apartments and won the highest profile award – the Distinguished Alumni Award. He has more than 35 years' experience and is one of Australia’s true hospitality professionals. He studied a Diploma of Catering and Hotel Management at Footscray Institute (now Victoria University). In 1988 he founded Quest which has become Australia’s largest and most successful serviced apartment group.
Paul has given up much of his time to mentor young people and has provided work placements for VU hospitality students. He has received many awards in his career that acknowledge his dedication and integrity including Ernst and Young’s Australian Entrepreneur of the Year in 2009 and HM Magazine Australasian Hotelier of the Year in 2012.
Master of Business Administration
Kevin graduated from a Master of Business Administration in 1996. He is a strong and ethical leader in business and the community and encourages his peers to join him in philanthropic work. He has contributed to fostering Australia-China relations, in particular promoting VU's relationships in China. Kevin is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Concorde Investment Management Co., and Chair of the Board of Kunlin Advertising Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of Concorde Investment Management. He is President of the Australian Chamber of Commerce – South China, and the Australia China Alumni Association – South China, an organisation open to China-based alumni of all Australian universities.
Master of Business (Accounting and Finance), Graduate Diploma of Business (Accounting) and Bachelor of Business (Accounting)
Kim received the University's first Distinguished Alumni Award for his excellence in leadership and community service. Wells has served as a Member of Parliament for 19 years and been State Treasurer since November 2010. Minister Wells is also the Honorary Patron of the Victorian Homeless Fund, member of the Victorian and National Council of Scouts Victoria, and a Fellow of CPA Australia.
Dr Andi Diamond, 2021 Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award winner
Congratulations to Erin Finnigan, Principal Solicitor, Office for Public Prosecutions – 2021 winner of the Professional Achievement Alumni Award.
Since graduating in 2006, Erin has risen rapidly through the ranks of the Office for Public Prosecutions (OPP) to the role of Principal Solicitor, the highest legal position available at the OPP. Erin has prosecuted the most serious offences on behalf of the state in all courts of the criminal jurisdiction, with a focus on serious sex offences. Her record of success in high-profile cases is testimony to her skill and energy, reflecting her strong balance of compassion and legal rigour as an expert practitioner.
As the first member of her family to graduate from university, Erin understands how daunting it is to seek out career success as a female in what is still largely a male-dominated profession. Erin’s experience as a mentor started with the VU Law School mentor program, and she counts this work as one of her greatest achievements.
Erin continues to mentor young lawyers at the OPP and coordinates the Women in Crime Mentoring program, pairing legal practitioners from across the profession to connect, educate and support female practitioners in criminal law.
Chief Executive Officer
Master of Public Advocacy and Action
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 Foundation since 2011, one of the largest family philanthropic foundations in Australia.
Director, Global Bridge Melbourne
Director, Global Bridge Japan
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Victoria University
Bachelor of Exercise Science & Human Movement, Bachelor of Applied Science (Honours), Doctor of Philosophy
Dr Hanatsu Nagano is the inventor of a shoe insole that prevents falls among the elderly. He was inspired to create the insoles as part of his PhD after two of his grandparents in Japan suffered debilitating falls.
The ergonomic designs of insole based on the specific geometry were patented and named 'ISEAL technology', acknowledging the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living (ISEAL, now the Institute for Health and Sport), where his research was undertaken. Initial sales commenced in May 2018 and close to 100,000 pairs of insole-integrated footwear have been already delivered to people in need. Hanatsu is a recipient of Global Awards in 2017 and 2018 for 'Most Innovative Healthcare Product in the World'.
Hanatsu donates part of the profits from ISEAL Insoles to Peace Boat, a global non-governmental organisation headquartered in Japan.
Founder and Executive Director – Skateistan
Bachelor of Science (First Class Honours)
Born in Melbourne and growing up in PNG, Oliver's travels (always with his skateboard!) took him to Afghanistan in 2007. With no local youth services, Oliver realised very quickly that skateboarding provided a way to engage young Afghans, especially girls and working children. His innovation was born when he then founded “Skateistan”; a grassroots “sport for development” project in the Kabul Streets. This is now an award winning international NGA with facilities, 95 staff and full-time programs operating in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa.
The unique focus of Skateistan is combining skateboarding with educational outcomes. Now, each week there are over 2000 children attending these “skate schools” and 50% are girls. Using skateboarding, the programs attract children currently out of the public school system and provide safe learning spaces for girls, children with disabilities and those facing social exclusion. Oliver has worked with a range of international media and agencies including the UN to share the program learnings.
Director, AQA Victoria
Graduate Diploma of Project Management
Recipient of the Order of Australia and Victoria’s Pride of Australia Medal for Courage, David Jacka firmly believes that “limitations can be overcome when you 'Do It Differently'.” From the time that a devastating motorbike accident left a 19-year-old David with only 6% physical function and no movement below his armpits, he has been doing just that. As a qualified engineer, David adapted a small light airplane to accommodate his quadriplegia and in 2013 took a solo 38-day trip around the coast of Australia. In 2016, David paddled 2, 226km down the Murray River to highlight the true potential of the human spirit.
A member of the Australian National Wheelchair rugby team at the 1996 Paralympics, David also finds time to be an SCI Peer Support Volunteer and speak to schoolchildren about the importance of setting goals and persisting on your path. He is also a Board Member of the Australian Quadriplegic Association, and the founder of NFP organisation On a Wing and a Chair. David continues to push the limits of what can be achieved and inspires others – with or without a disability – to do the same.
Bachelor of Business
Paul is one of VU’s 90 Legends, having been involved in leadership roles with VU during his student days – including as General Secretary of the National Union of Students, Victoria and a member of the VU Council – and throughout his career. He has maintained a strong interest in VU, instigating the Booth Medal in 2002 in the College of Law, and supports the Award with an annual donation.
His work, primarily in the finance sector has seen him hold very senior leadership roles at a young age. His roles include being appointed Head of Citi Global Data Services by the age of 35 and now his role at BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest asset manager with approximately US$5 trillion of assets under management, by age 44. Paul also volunteers his time and expertise in Board roles including with Surf Living Saving Sydney. He was awarded a Commonwealth Commendation for Bravery for his role as a volunteer lifeguard in 2001.
Erin Finnigan, 2021 Professional Achievement Alumni Award winner
Congratulations to Lauren Richardson, Senior Policy Officer, Screening & Cancer Prevention, Victorian Department of Health – 2021 winner of the Rising Star Alumni Award.
Lauren always wanted to be a vet, but, after a science teacher told her she would never amount to anything in science, she left school at the end of Year 10.
Lauren completed a Bachelor of Health Science, Dermal Therapies at VU. She developed a passion for medicine during her time at VU and pursued a career in medicine while working full time as a beauty therapist. She studied hard, volunteered at the hospital and completed her bachelor and master degrees in medical research and public health/global health while living in Sydney.
In 2020, 20 weeks pregnant, Lauren went to work with the epidemiologists in the Department of Health working on Victoria’s COVID-19 response. She returned to work four months after giving birth, and, with two children under five at home, was quickly promoted at work to Senior Advisor. She works closely with the Chief Health Officer, drawing on strong technical expertise to provide authoritative public health advice and analysis of policy, reasoned recommendations and innovative solutions to complex and sensitive issues.
“It’s never too late! I have always felt VU gave me the opportunity to realise my own potential and I attribute my success as a future leader in public health to VU.”
Blood Cancer Support Coordinator, Leukemia Foundation
Bachelor of Science (Biomedical Sciences)
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.
Sport & Recreation Manager, Disability Sport & Recreation
Bachelor of Exercise Science & Human Movement / Bachelor of Psychological Studies
Proud to represent the best of the west, Ayden has always been inspired by the diversity and connectedness of the western suburbs, where there is such a rich tradition and support for sport. Recognising the ability of sport to create and strengthen community and its ability to empower others, it seems only natural that Ayden would strengthen this personal link when studying a dual degree of Bachelor of Sport Science and Human Development along with a Bachelor of Psychological Studies.
Since graduating, Ayden has thrown himself into a variety of sports and community building initiatives, including the Western Bulldogs Community Foundation, and Relay for Life as Community Engagement Coordinator. He is currently the Co-Chair of Connectwest, a membership-based network aimed at enabling the connections and collaboration of community groups, leaders and volunteers in Melbourne’s western suburbs.
Currently he is the Sport & Recreation Manager for Disability Sport and Recreation and is managing the sport of Wheelchair AFL and establishing the first ever Robert Rose Foundation Victorian Wheelchair Football League. Ayden believes that, “As long as you have dedication and enthusiasm for what you do, you will succeed.”
Co-founder, Proud2Play Inc.
Lecturer, Western Sydney University
Doctor of Philosophy
Dr Ryan Storr is a Lecturer and Academic Course Advisor in Sport Development at Western Sydney University. His research focuses on diversity and inclusion in community sport, with a focus on LGBT+ inclusion. He is the co-founder and director of Proud 2 Play, a LGBTI+ sport charity in Australia.
He recently completed his PhD at Victoria University, Melbourne. He was awarded an international PhD scholarship attached to an ARC Linkage project entitled 'Participation vs Performance: Exploring how community sports clubs respond to diversity', and his thesis explored how volunteers in community sports clubs engaged with diversity work.
Prior to moving to Australia, he held a Graduate Tutor Position at Northumbria University in the UK, where he taught the Sport Development program within the School of Life Sciences. His current research projects include: an exploration into LGBT+ supporter groups, and working with LGBT+ young people to engage them in sport and exercise.
Victorian State Secretary – Rail, Tram and Bus Union
Bachelor of Business (Event Management)/Bachelor of Arts (Sports Administration)
At 23, Luba was elected to the Hobsons Bay City Council and became a lightning rod for the push to support more young women getting involved in Local Government. Just five years later, she was the first elected female State Secretary of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, the youngest ever State Secretary. In 2012, she successfully negotiated the first Domestic Violence leave clause in Victoria into Metro Trains & V/Line Enterprise Agreements, setting new benchmarks which saw her become the recipient of several awards including the ACTU Jenni George Award in 2014.
In 2018 Luba was invited to represent the ACTU at the UN Commission for the Status of Women event in New York. Active in politics, her leadership credentials continue to build, as does her commitment to helping shape a future of universal inclusion, respect and opportunity. She works with political leaders to address “what needs to be done” and work for it. With Luba, change happens!
Personal Injury Lawyer, Slater and Gordon
Bachelor of Laws
As the Chairman of the South Sudanese Community Association of Victoria, Kot provides countless hours of advice on a wide range of legal matters. He works tirelessly to lead by example, bringing together his legal knowledge with his understanding of the importance of culture and community connections.
A recipient of the Law Institute of Victoria’s Rising Star Award, Kot has also been recognised with the 2016 Victoria Multicultural Award for Excellence Certificate of Merit, and the 2016 African Media Australia Award for Excellence in Community Leadership.
With his own personal experience living for 12 years in a refugee camp in Kenya, he brings a firsthand knowledge of what it meant to receive support for education and also learnt the importance of perseverance. Now “paying it forward”, he helps provide education to young people in juvenile detention: uses YouTube and Facebook as platforms to educate young people about topical issues and the importance of education, employment and mentoring; and has introduced work placements at Slater and Gordon for year 11 and 12 students. Kot is truly an inspirational young leader.
Bachelor of Education
Despite having a severe congenital heart condition, Christian initially pursued his passion for sports and captained Australia’s junior lacrosse team. However in trying to qualify for the London Olympics in archery it became clear his health required him to pursue a different path and he traded the sporting field for a classroom. Success followed this move, being recognised as the Victorian/Tasmanian Teacher of the Year and a Young Australian of the Year finalist.
His innovative classroom activities include running a real café as a social enterprise, and creating an IPhone app to teach kids about healthy eating and exercise. For these approaches he was one of only 2 teachers in Australia to be picked from 8,000 applicants across 148 countries to be a finalist in the “Nobel Prize of Teaching” – the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher prize. Christian also continues to meet with children who have congenital cardiac conditions, inspiring them to dream big and fulfill their ambitions.
Master of Business Administration, Bachelor of Arts – Sports Administration
Maxwell is a sports administrator with a wide array of business, political and community expertise. After working in a number of roles at Football Federation Victoria, he was appointed CEO of Basketball ACT in 2014. He is currently the CEO of Football Federation Victoria.
Having worked in sports business for more than eight years, Maxwell has successfully managed all aspects of sporting operations, and has experience in not-for-profit and professional sport organisations.
Throughout his career, Maxwell has developed a range of expertise and skills that has prepared him for a role as a CEO. He is a proven team leader with strategic vision and business acumen, and possesses flexible and decisive work-style.
Maxwell has made an exemplary contribution to Victoria University. He is an avid supporter – employing graduates, hosting interns, advocating on behalf of the University. In a previous role, he was instrumental in the creation and funding of two Achievement Scholarships.
Master of Business Administration
Kandeban is currently Channel Head of Sri Lanka's number one Tamil language radio station, Shakthi FM. Over the past 12 years Kandeban has been a pioneer in the world of media, sales and marketing for Indian and Sri Lankan radio and television. Today he is more widely known as the host of the Sri Lankan game show ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’
In 2008 Kandeban was youngest Station Head of a leading radio station in India while completing his Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Victoria University; a testament to his energy and multitasking skills. He is known to be an inspiring corporate leader with high integrity and the ability to envision and create successful outcomes in complex business situations. He is also a motivational speaker, leadership trainer and the only Sri Lankan media professional on the Grand Jury of the New York Festivals.
In February 2014, Kandeban was recognised by the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) as a winner in the category of 'Australian Alumni Excellence Merit Award 2014 for Business Administration' at the Australian Alumni Excellence Awards in Sri Lanka.
Master of Business (Finance), Bachelor of Accounting, Banking and Finance
Samuel currently works as an Accounts Officer for the National Sterling Group, however his journey has been one of hardship. As one of the ‘lost boys’ of South Sudan, Samuel was among thousands of young children forced to flee during civil war. He spent 12 years in refugee camps in Kenya from age 9 to 21, before he received an offer to resettle in Australia in 2004.
In Australia, he worked by day and studied at night. While Samuel completed a double degree in accounting, banking and finance and a Master of Business at VU, he never forgot his community in Rumbek, nor the countless South Sudanese children missing out on their own chance for education after 21 years of war.
Samuel is determined to make his dream a reality. Inspired by the education he received at Victoria University and the support of local and international Rotary, Samuel is raising funds to build a community primary school in his former hometown of Rumbek.
Bachelor of Applied Science (Sport Science)
Well known women’s golfer Stacey Keating has completed a Bachelor of Applied Science (Sport Science in Golf) at Victoria University. When Ballarat born Stacey was introduced to golf at age 12, she showed immediate promise, scoring her first hole-in-one and soon reduced her handicap to 8.
Stacey moved to Melbourne at 18 to focus on her game and enrol at Victoria University. She was named VU’s Female Athlete of the Year in 2006 and 2010 for her many outstanding sporting achievements. In 2006, she won her first nationally ranked tournament. Since turning professional in 2010, Stacey has won the French Open and the Spanish Open in 2012, and was one of only five Australians to contest the 2013 US Women’s Open.
Bachelor of Laws
Innovative young lawyer, Nussen Ainsworth, has demonstrated significant early achievement in his legal career through his passion for technology and social media, and how he incorporates them into his profession. Nussen is a popular and regular speaker on the topic, and has presented at the Victorian Bar and the Law Institute of Victoria about the importance and benefits of modern technology, taking into account the profession's concerns about security and client confidentiality. Before he graduated, Nussen helped develop an application that allows barristers to store and retrieve casework on an ipad. This application is now being used by many in the profession. Earlier this year, Nussen was nominated for the 2012 Law Institute of Victoria President's Award in the Rising Star of the Year category.
Certificate IV in Business
Chelsea Hatherall volunteered her time and skills in many community organisations and charities, including Amnesty International, the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation, the Cancer Council, the Victorian Flood Appeal and the Laverton Community Kitchen. As Marketing and Communication Coordinator at Footscray Community Arts Centre, Chelsea has a keen interest in offering the diverse communities of Melbourne's West a place for cultural expression. She was named Hobson Bay Council's Young Citizen of the Year, and Maribyrnong City Council's Emerging Community Leader in 2012.
Bachelor of Communications (Public Relations)
Cr Carter was elected mayor in 2010 at the age of 32, the youngest woman to ever hold the position. In her role, she has developed creative partnerships, particularly around issues of good governance and sustainable planning. She is also on the boards of LeadWest, Western Melbourne Tourism, and several other organisations.
Bachelor of Education
Human rights advocate Jacinta has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of the less fortunate, both in Australia and overseas. She is currently in Papua New Guinea working on The Crimson Campaign, a program she co-founded to help young women in developing countries around issues of menstruation.
Lauren Richardson, 2021 Rising Star Alumni Award winner
Congratulations to Abiola (Abi) Akinbiyi, registered nurse, nurse educator, IT professional and entrepreneur – 2021 winner of the Spirit of Victoria University Alumni People's Choice Award.
While working as a Personal Care Attendant (PCA) in residential aged care, Abi developed a passion for nursing. When an opportunity came up to study a Bachelor of Nursing at VU, Abi quickly enrolled. Though it was hard balancing family, work and study, Abi tells us she felt VU supported her to study while raising a family. Since then, Abi has forged a career in nursing, which has also progressed to clinical teaching.
Since 2012, Abi has been CEO of T-Glam events, winning the 2018 Afroshine Award (Business and Entrepreneurship) as well as recently completing the Foundation Directorship course with the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD). She has sat on the the Board of Directors at Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria (ECCV) since 2019 and, in September 2021, was appointed as the first Community Representative Commissioner of Nigerian descent with the Victorian Multicultural Commission.
In her community, Abi also coordinates the annual African Day Gala Dinner – the largest African–Australian gala dinner in Victoria. As Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee leader with Wyndham Harbour Rotary Club, she was part of a team project with primary school children about peace. As the founder of the Changeprenuers group, her passion project, she mentors young African–Australian women.
Deputy Director, East Timor Development Agency
Graduate Certificate in Vocational Education and Training
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.
Senior Advisor – Industry & Networks, AGL
Graduate Diploma in Marketing, Graduate Diploma in Public Sector Management, Master of Business (Marketing)
Mark Riley has a career in Australia’s Energy Industry spanning more than 30 years across distribution networks, wholesale gas market development and retail market development. His roles have included engineering, operations, energy market design and regulation as well as work on the Victorian wholesale gas market and the national gas short-term trading market.
He has been active in community groups throughout his life, starting with the Queenscliff Parish Council, Apex Clubs (including holding Secretary and President offices) and Blue Light Disco Committees. He volunteers for organisations such as Williamstown Little Theatre, The Royal Melbourne Philharmonic, Melbourne Singers of Gospel, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Melbourne International Jazz Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival, Midsumma and Melbourne Queer Film Festival.
Mark is an active VU alumnus who has previously chaired the Alumni Events Committee and the Alumni Advisory Group. He also supports the VU Mentoring program and College of Business.
Principal, executive coach, author, speaker and trainer – Carol Fox and Co
Bachelor of Applied Science (Physical Education), Master of Arts
A pioneer for women in sport, Carol Fox was Victoria’s first professional Surf Lifesaver, breaking through after she was told at a young age she could not be a lifesaver because of her gender. She has a rich and elite sporting background, competing at state-level across three sports and has been a leading light in making a positive impact for women in the world of sport for many years.
Carol now runs a successful consultancy business as a performance coach, speaker and trainer for over 20 years with sporting, government and corporate forums. She is President of Women Sport Australia and is involved in influencing government and sporting organisations on growing opportunities for women and girls. Her research in this area has been extensively used by the Australian Sports Commission in setting policies and she has helped pave the way for many of the changes we see today.
Teachers Aid – Wilsontin State High School Toowoomba
Bachelor of Arts (Recreation)
A true legend of Australian Basketball with sustained success as player, coach and administrator, Danny Morseu was the first Torres Strait Islander to represent Australia at the Olympic Games. Playing in two Olympic and one Commonwealth Games, Danny is an NBL Legend and All Star, Championship player and Coach of the Year and a NBL, VU Sport and Queensland Basketball Hall of Fame member.
His passion and breadth of service in empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (ATSI), including his work to establish academies has seen him receive a number of Community Awards. He has been Director of the National Indigenous Basketball Academy, member of the National ATSI Sports Council and coach of the National Indigenous men’s basketball teams – the first national indigenous team to tour Canada and the USA in 1988. For over 30 years Danny has worked tirelessly in using basketball as a vehicle to build people up and help achieve their dreams, helping many individuals and communities along the way (in addition to his day job).
Bachelor of Screen Media
Amy Marks’ energy, passion, creativity and success knows no bounds. In 2016, Amy received a Westpac Bicentennial Foundation scholarship in the Young Technologist category for her talent in technology and innovation. Amy is passionately pursuing a career in media because of its capacity to effect social change and transcend cultural barriers.
In 2017, Amy was one of only five national winners selected by video entry to make a short film with the theme “my unique identity” for SBS. Amy, who lives with Cerebral Palsy Spastic Diplegia, created her film as an authentic representation of her life, to help reduce the assumptions that she is either extremely tragic or inherently inspirational.
Amy is also Secretary of VU Access Collective and volunteers at SYN media as Social Media Coordinator. She also helps organise student events and is a great example to others of how to get the most out of life at Uni.
Abiola (Abi) Akinbiyi, 2021 winner of the Spirit of Victoria University People's Choice Alumni Award
The following award categories are not running in 2022.
This award recognises an alumna or alumnus who has – in a voluntary capacity – made a significant positive contribution to the VU community and/or the broader community.
The eligibility criteria for this award was that the nominee must:
Councillor, Wyndham City Council
Deputy Chair, Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust
Director, Think Pink Foundation
Bachelor of Business
First elected in 2005 to 2012, Cr McAliney was Wyndham’s Mayor for 2007–8 and 2011–12 and Deputy Mayor in 2009–10 and 2016–17.
Kim is a current serving Councillor at Wyndham City Council and holds Council’s Safer Communities Portfolio, which covers perceptions of safety, justice, family violence, gender equity and emergency management.
While raising two sons and with a career spanning over 25 years, Kim has worked at accountancy firms, in the aged care and retirement sector, a multi-national company and a National Crisis Counselling service. She has held numerous board directorships including chair of Salvation Army Melbourne Central Division, State Social Command Victoria, and City West Water.
Kim is a current Trust member of the Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trusts (GMCT), a member of the Victorian Veterans Council and recently appointed Director of The Think Pink Foundation.
Her greatest joy and passion is serving the community, helping others and her family.
Project Engineer – Mount Alexander Shire
Bachelor of Engineering (Civil)
Daniel and his friend Maki Issa received the 2014 Young People’s Human rights Medal from the Australian Human Rights Commission, for challenging racism and racial profiling which culminated in an historic court case with Victoria Police – opening the door for positive change. Daniel continues to be a champion against racism and is involved in a number of activities and groups working to help disadvantaged youth reach their full potential.
This includes his leadership roles with the Tigrian Community Association of Victoria, the Youth Arts Reference Group of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Kids off the Kerb, local amateur theatre and his work with African – Australian Voice. In 2013 he was recognised by Africa Media Australia as the most inspiring African-Australian, for his work in representing his community. In his spare time he is also a volunteer CFA firefighter.
Owner/Director/Osteopath, Western Region Health and Osteopathy
Bachelor of Health Science (Osteopathy), Master of Health Science (Osteopathy)
The owner and director of Western Region Health and Osteopathy – recognised as one of the largest osteopathic focused clinics in the world – Dr Jade Scott remains at the forefront of the osteopathic profession by providing the highest standards of care and respect for both patients and staff; as has her reputation for her integrity, respect and generosity in her relationships with clients, staff and students.
Jade has forged an extraordinary ongoing partnership with Victoria University. Using her business as a platform for hands on training, she established an internship program now running for several years. She also provides a financial bursary and scholarship program.;
Dr Scott has employed over 60 Victoria University alumni in her practice. She also runs regular voluntary mentoring for new alumni, to help them be successful in their own clinics. It is no wonder she is regularly engaged to speak to students as a clear and inspirational role model for her profession.
Certificate III in Hairdressing
Nasir became Victoria University Polytechnic’s Ambassador in 2015. Whilst training at VU, Nasir began offering homeless people complimentary grooming services, and respectfully learned their stories. Through realising the influence he could have on the self-esteem of others, he became “The Street Barber”. On his days off he takes to the streets to give free haircuts to people who are homeless and/or experiencing socio-economic disadvantage.
His integrity, compassion and works are followed globally, including in Russia where a local barber chain brought him to Russia and together they visited various homeless shelters and hospices providing free haircuts. Nasir has also travelled to Philippines to do the same type of volunteer work. Nasir was one of 5 people profiled as part of the Kenneth Cole Courageous Class Campaign in New York, which celebrated individuals who have overcome life’s challenges to become inspiring role models.
Master of Education, Bachelor of Social Work
Kon is the CEO and founder of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), the largest asylum seeker organisation in Australia.
Proudly Greek, the struggles of his parents and his own experiences of racism growing up ignited his passion for human rights.
He has worked at the grassroots with marginalised communities as a lawyer, social worker and teacher, and in 2001 founded the ASRC.
The ASRC is an innovative, one-stop shop that delivers 23 programs across the pillars of aid, justice, empowerment and community. A team of more than 800 volunteers and 40 staff have assisted more than 10,000 asylum seekers and provided in excess of 2.5 million hours of free assistance – all without Federal Government funding.
Kon’s work has been recognised with an Order of Australia Medal, a Churchill Fellowship, and as a finalist for the Human Rights Medal and Australian of the Year in Victoria. He was invited to participate in the 2020 Summit, was voted one of Australia’s 20 Unsung Heroes, and is one of Melbourne’s 100 Most Influential People.
Bachelor of Health Science (Paramedics)
Following a serious accident and experiencing the pre-hospital healthcare system in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Ahmed had a vision to improve healthcare in his country. He studied the Bachelor of Health Science (Paramedic) at Victoria University and after graduating in 2007 Ahmed returned to Abu Dhabi and played a pivotal role in the development of the UAE’s ambulance service.
Ahmed is currently Deputy CEO of the National Ambulance Company, an organisation that aims to be the leading national provider of emergency pre-hospital care in the UAE. National Ambulance now serves all five of the Northern Emirates as well as Abu Dhabi, providing emergency healthcare to a population of approximately 70 million.
Through the dedicated work of Ahmed and his colleagues, the service is able now able to reach patients in remote areas, thus reducing response times and saving lives.
Bachelor of Recreation Management
Timothy is founder and director of Purple Soup, a unique internationally recognised organisation that offers challenging activity-based programs such as camps, day programs and hospital visits for children and their families affected by serious illness.
He developed the organisation in 2002 after realising that more than 75,000 young Australians affected each year by chronic illness were only partly being treated by health professionals who looked after their physical needs. Timothy melded theory with practice by running year round adventure therapy camps during his eight years of study. It was during this time he met the leaders of adventure therapy and worked toward his goal of creating camps for children affected by chronic illness.
Purple Soup runs programs in more than 40 countries and is recognised internationally for its creativity and programming excellence. Timothy has been awarded a number of local and international awards recognising the exceptional service that he and his organisation, Purple Soup provides.
VU Honorary Doctorate, Bachelor of Applied Science (Hons) (Physical Education and Recreation)
Campbell has made outstanding contributions as an elite sportsman and a sports administrator. After representing Australia in yachting at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, he combined his sporting success with his entrepreneurial skills to take up the helm of many organisations including the Victorian Yachting Council and the Melbourne Major Events Company. Campbell joined the Western Bulldogs as its Chief Executive in 2002 and managed a successful major turnaround for the club that included the redevelopment of Whitten Oval. Under his leadership, the Bulldogs formalised a partnership with Victoria University, reflecting Campbell’s strong commitment to education and to the use of sport as a vehicle to address economic and social disadvantage. He received an Honorary Doctorate from VU in 2005 for his services to sport, sports administration and the community.
Master of Business in Professional Accounting
Kim Swee has demonstrated a strong commitment to VU alumni and the broader Singapore community.
In addition to being a proud Singaporean he is also a proud Australian graduate who celebrates this connection. In 1997 Kim Swee was instrumental in developing the Singapore Chapter of the VU Alumni. He dedicates enormous energy to raising the University’s profile in Singapore.
He received the Australian Government’s Distinguished Alumni Service Award for his services to the broader Australian Alumni community, and VU recognised him as one of its 90 Legends during the University’s 90th anniversary celebrations.
Master in Business (Marketing), Graduate Diploma in Marketing, Bachelor of Arts
Long-time public sector employee, Mr John Thompson, is a three-time graduate of Victoria University and an active contributor to the VU Alumni Community, a past member of the Alumni Advisory Group, and a mentor to current students in the University's Career Bridge Mentoring Program. For seven years he worked at the Urban Land Corporation assisting in the development of sustainable housing for Victorians of all ages. For the past 10 years, John has focused his career on helping make Victoria's roads safer as Senior Manager of the Transport Accident Commission's road safety and marketing campaigns, which has resulted in a significant decline in Victoria's road fatality toll. He also volunteers at Global Road Safety Partnership, an organisation that has helped develop road safety programs in Vietnam and Thailand.
Footscray community legend Wally Hopkins, a graduate engineering apprentice in 1939 from VU's original predecessor institute, Footscray Technical School, has organised annual class reunions since 1988 when a group met to mark their 50th anniversary at the school. Mr Hopkins also has a remarkable 75-year involvement with the First Footscray Scout Troop, receiving the Silver Kangaroo, the highest award in Australian Scouting. For his community service, he received an Order of Australia Medal, and was named a Maribyrnong Citizen of the Year.
Bachelor of Business (Retail Management)
Community-minded entrepreneur David Southwick, MLA, Member of Parliament for Caulfield, has demonstrated endless enthusiasm, community spirit, and entrepreneurial flair while remaining a passionate advocate for VU. He helped establish the University's Executive Education Unit and set up its first Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) group to showcase the entrepreneurial skills of VU students at national competitions. He continues to host VU's Business Breakfast Series and guest-lectures.
This award recognises a current student who has demonstrated the attributes of a future alumni community leader; through commitment to achieving positive outcomes in both their academic work and their community related work/volunteer endeavours; and be an inspiration to fellow students.
This award will now be offered through the Student Leadership Awards program.
Masters of International Community Development
Pragya helps other students in a variety of ways, including as part of the VU Vollies, a V4U project team leader, transition mentor and leader within VU student clubs and societies. As a mature-age international student, she uses her initiative to help other international students get easy information about events, activities, supports and extracurricular opportunities, so that they can get involved and be a part of VU life. Pragya has been recognised with a Student Leadership Award and nomination for the 2017 Victorian International Student of the Year Award.
Holding strong social justice values, Pragya also volunteers outside VU at the Asylum Resource Centre and also with Rotary. She has been involved in a number of voluntary programs including taking older people to Christmas lunches, refugee families on holidays and teaching women who are new arrivals to Australia how to swim. All the while, she works hard and maintains a High Distinction average in her studies!
Bachelor of Business
One of the first students to be awarded a Victoria University Chancellors Scholarship, Keary has consistently shown outstanding commitment to the VU community.
In his first year at VU, Keary became President of the VU Greek Society and over the past 3 years has driven its growth from 7 members to become a thriving and active society with over 200 members. Putting in practice and ethos that you can make a difference wherever you are; during Greece’s economic crisis, Keary organised to raise over $1,000 for orphanages and boxes of winter clothes for the Greek Salvation Army.
Keary was the first head mentor for the VU Early University pathways program, working with secondary school students from low socioeconomic areas to give them a positive taste of and encouragement for ambition and entry to University. Keary is also President of NUGAS, the largest Greek Youth organisation globally outside of Greece. In this role he leads a variety of networking events and volunteer work in aged care centres. Keary’s respectful and generous attitude are widely regarded by others and show him as a strong role model especially for new students.
Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Business (Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management)
Arriving in Australia in 2010, Ancy has pursued excellence in studies and in her community and student leadership activities. A valedictorian at graduation and recipient of the VU International Research Scholarship due to her academic results, she has also been heavily involved in supporting other students.
In this area she has been an English language facilitator, Resident Assistant supporting international students in the Student Village, organiser of social events that brought together students, and also a Senior Rover, supporting new students with their academic endeavours and ability to access VU resources. Her kindness and professionalism have touched and supported many fellow students.
Bachelor of Science (Biomedical Science) Honours
James has been widely acknowledged for both his academic and student leadership achievements, including the 2015 VU Individual Student Leadership Award for his commitment and demonstration of leadership through multiple roles at VU; and being the recipient of the 2016 Vice Chancellors’ research scholarship.
Whilst achieving High Distinctions and First Class Honours, he also co-founded the College of Health and Biomedicine Society, was elected to the role of General Secretary of the VU Student Union, and served on the VU Council. James also actively promotes VU, presenting to both careers teachers and students. His Honours’ research has been published in top tier journals and received international acclaim for its innovative approaches.
Doctor of Philosophy, Bachelor of Science (Honours) (Psychology)
After a decade as a hairdresser, Adam realised he wanted to achieve more intellectually and professionally, and decided to pursue tertiary education.
Most universities however, did not welcome him. He was advised that he was aiming too high and if accepted, he would most likely struggle and fail. Victoria University encouraged Adam to sit an entry exam, and he earned a place in the Bachelor of Science (Psychology).
He initially considered dropping out, but a mentoring program helped him build confidence in his academic ability. Through hard work and dedication he received an award as VU’s most outstanding first-year student.
Adam completed his degree with 23 high distinctions and first-class honours. He received a Dean’s High Achievement Scholarship, and in 2014, was awarded the College of Arts Dean’s Scholar Award.
Adam is now a Psychology PhD student holding an Australian Postgraduate Award Scholarship. He also teaches psychology to dental students at Charles Sturt University – a rare honour for a student at graduate level.
Doctor of Philosophy
Catherine is a PhD candidate at Victoria Institute of Strategic Economics Studies in the College of Business, and a committed advocate for international students.
In 2013 Catherine was recognised as the state of Victoria’s international postgraduate student of the Year for her many contributions to international students. She has served as president of the International Students Association, and Postgraduate Association, and is a member of the Council of International Students Australia; the Council of Australia Postgraduates Associations; and the Victorian Association of Chinese PhD Students and Scholars.
Catherine has been vocal on many issues that affect the lives of international students, including transport concessions, student accommodation, professional development and engagement.
She was recently appointed a VU lecturer in supply chain logistics within the College of Business.
Master of Business (Finance) and Master of Business Administration
Jirayu demonstrates integrity and consistently maintains high ethical standards through being an exemplary role model to other students and through his passion to help others. He has been involved in many extracurricular activities since he commenced his double Masters degrees at Victoria University in 2013. Jirayu’s leadership ability and initiative saw him promoted to the President of Accounting, Finance and Investment Student Society (AFISS) in 2014.
As President, Jirayu has overseen an enormous growth in membership and created new engagement opportunities through social media. He also tutors small groups of students in the subject of Business Finance Through this role Jirayu has also established relationships between students and leading financial organisations to secure mentoring opportunities, career information sessions for students and financial sponsorship for AFISS.
Jirayu was a recipient of a Team Award as part of the Victoria University Student Leadership Awards in 2014.
Bachelor of Laws
Brittany has excelled in her academic and professional pursuits since her first year at Victoria Law School (VLS).
Her academic excellence was rewarded in 2012 when she was inducted into the Golden Key International Honour Society. The honour recognises the top 15 per cent of university students worldwide.
As a legal assistant to a distinguished Melbourne barrister, Brittany has effectively and consistently raised the profile of the VLS among barristers at the Victorian Bar. She also participates in the VLS’s mentoring program and is strongly involved in the Law Students’ Society. Her passion for community service is demonstrated at Community Support Frankston and Peninsula Community Centre.
Bachelor of Exercise Science and Human Movement
In addition to being an outstanding student, Jacinta is the current under 21 world champion and among the world’s top water-skiers.
Since joining the sport of water-skiing at age 10 and setting a goal to become a world champion at age 14, Jacinta has been determined to be the best in all she does. She was named Victoria University’s 2012 Female Athlete of the Year for her sporting achievements, VU’s highest sporting accolade. In June 2013, Jacinta won the 54th US Masters Waterski and Wakeboard Tournament.
Despite the considerable training she puts in to remain at the top of her sport, Jacinta is ably fulfilling the academic requirements for her degree with plans to pursue postgraduate studies
Doctor of Philosophy
PhD Candidate, Mr Garry Kuan, originally from Malaysia, is a high-achieving student in many ways. He is a world-class musician who has performed as first violinist with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and is a well-respected sport psychologist. His PhD research – which looks at how music and imagery can improve athletic performance – was recently used by some of Australia's elite weightlifters and air-pistol shooters to prepare for their events at the London Olympics. In early 2012 Garry was named Australia's International Student of the Year for his academic excellence and his contributions to the community. These contributions include the free weekly violin lessons he offers at VU, as well as fundraising activities with his local church for children's music therapy programs at refugee camps in Burma.
Bachelor of Exercise and Human Movement
Cross-country running champion and Olympian, Liam Adams of Moonee Ponds, is the University's most decorated current student athlete. For his success in national and international competitions, he was twice named VU's Male Athlete of the Year (2008 and 2010), and in those same years, received the prestigious Australian University Sport (AUS) Male Athlete of the Year. In 2010, the AUS established the Australian University Sport Honour Roll, into which Liam was inducted. The AUS is Australia's peak governing body of university sport, with 41 member universities representing more than one million students. He recently placed first in the Sydney City2Surf competition against 80,000 runners.