Eight UNSW graduates have been honoured with Alumni Awards in 2023, recognising their remarkable contributions in art, culture, innovation, entrepreneurship, professional excellence, research and social impact. This year, 135 alumni from diverse backgrounds and disciplines were nominated. A playwright, a Chief Justice, academics and entrepreneurs are some of the alumni UNSW acknowledged at an event at NIDA last night.
UNSW Chancellor David Gonski AC said the event celebrated the excellence of the University’s graduates and their enormous contribution to their communities.
“Alumni Award winners are some of UNSW’s finest supporters, role models and ambassadors ... showing us what is possible, not impossible – how to solve problems and challenges, not create them, and how to spark passion and achieve big goals,” Mr Gonski said.
“My challenge to you is to continue to have huge ambitions to create change – defining your extraordinary vision and delivering it gives us all something to aspire to and to be very proud of.”
UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Attila Brungs said he never ceased to be amazed by the calibre and achievements of the University’s graduates, particularly those who are recognised at the Alumni Awards.
“We have more than 370,000 graduates in more than 160 countries, and one of the most passionate and engaged alumni communities in Australia.
“Our Alumni Award winners, whom we acknowledge and celebrate tonight, exemplify what we strive for as a university, and what we hope to instil in our students – the drive to have a positive impact in the world around us. You are trailblazers and changemakers,” Prof. Brungs said.
Art & Culture
Suzie Miller is a Tony-award winning playwright, screenwriter and novelist. She graduated with a Bachelor of Laws in 1990, a Master of Arts in 1997 and a Master of Laws in 1998.
Ms Miller is drawn to complex human stories, often exploring justice, such as the widely acclaimed RBG: Of Many, One and Jailbaby. There have been more than 40 productions of Ms Miller’s plays around the world and they have won multiple awards, including the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2023 for Prima Facie.
"I am deeply touched to receive this award. It is an extremely honourable award and I feel very humbled by it," Ms Miller said.
"UNSW is a uniquely forward-thinking university and, in each of its departments, its students are exposed to not onle the world's leading theorists and thinkers, it is committed to rigor in academia and a campus truly reflective of the modern community. So too are its values of investing in ideas, dialogue and international conversations, woven into the experience of academic staff, undergraduate and postgraduate students alike.
"UNSW is a place where I learned the value of ideas and giving voice to those ideas … It equips students with the skill sets to embark upon large-scale projects and worldwide change."
Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Frances Atkins is a co-founder of givvable, a platform that validates supplier sustainability performance and practices and ultimately leads to better purchasing decisions. She graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Laws in 2005 and completed an MBA (Exec) in 2020.
A multi-award-winning platform, givvable is used by companies and governments to search, screen and track verified sustainability and environmental, social and governance (ESG) actions, attributes and credentials of suppliers. It helps thousands of companies around the world spend with impact.
The Honourable Chief Justice Lucy McCallum
Lucy McCallum is Chief Justice of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court.
She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1984 and a Bachelor of Laws in 1986.
Chief Justice McCallum took silk in 2005 and was appointed to the Common Law Division of the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 2008 after a celebrated career working in administrative, commercial and criminal law. She was appointed as the sixth Chief Justice of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court in 2022.
“UNSW Law School had a commitment to community legal centres and that strong commitment to social justice and community was a very powerful influence for me,” Chief Justice McCallum said.
“I am always proud of the fact that I went to UNSW and proud to be a UNSW alumna. I think it was a very rich campus that taught people to have the enthusiasm and the energy to go out and do the things you might dream about as a student … to actually achieve those objectives and to live a life of commitment to social justice and not just learn about it as the ideal of a university student."
Professor Leon Flicker AO
Research and Teaching Achievement
Leon Flicker AO is a Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Western Australia. He graduated with a Bachelor of Medical Studies in 1981.
Prof. Flicker’s research focuses on the major health issues of older people, including falls, depression and cognitive impairment. His work has made an enormous contribution to geriatric medicine and dementia prevention and care.
Professor Si Ming Man
Research and Teaching Achievement
Si Ming Man is a Professor and CSL Centenary Fellow at the Australian National University (ANU). He graduated with a Bachelor of Medical Science in 2008 and a Master of Science in 2010.
Prof. Man’s work in immunology has been crucial to our collective understanding of new ways to fight drug-resistant bacteria and of how to harness the body’s natural defence mechanisms to fight diseases.
“I came to UNSW as an 18 year old who was lost, and I didn’t know who I was meant to be or where I belonged. In those six years I spent at UNSW, it wasn’t just the degrees I was getting, I was learning to find myself, my purpose and my role in society. And I think that’s a powerful gift from UNSW,” Prof. Man said.
“I remember during my summer internship and my Honours year at UNSW, my supervisors and mentors really provided this firsthand experience to teach me what it’s like to be a scientist and a mentor. They are my role models and my inspiration, and I was really proud to see my first PhD student graduating just a few years ago.”
Michael Brosowski AM
Social Impact & Service
Michael Brosowski AM is founder and Strategic Director of Blue Dragon Children's Foundation. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education in 1996 and a Master of Education in 2002.
After moving to Vietnam, Mr Brosowski registered Blue Dragon in 2004, initially to assist Hanoi’s street children. As the organisation’s CEO, Blue Dragon became the country’s leading non-government organisation (NGO) fighting human trafficking and child exploitation.
"Why did I choose UNSW? It's a really good question because Australians are spoiled for choice, we have some great universities.
"At the time I was living in northwest NSW and my family was very, very poor. For some years I lived in a caravan on a block of land off the grid, while I went to high school. So, for me to go to university was a huge decision. It was a risk for me: what if I failed? The cost of me going to study more and me not going to get a job was huge," Mr Brosowski said.
"I would ring around all the universities and try to talk to somebody to get some advice. When I rang UNSW, I was put through to Sheena Wiard, an administrator in the School of Education, who had time to listen and answered every stupid question I had … And because of that one person I ended up at university.
"I think we all carry a great debt to UNSW. But my first lesson was how much difference a single person makes in your life. If not for Sheena, I couldn't have had all my questions answered. I couldn't have found my way to university, which has equipped me now to do all that I do in my work. That lesson, the powerful difference that each of us can make to each other, that's a lesson I carry with me every day and that gets me out of bed in the morning."
Young Alumni Award
Rix Smith is CEO and co-founder of Ministry of Waste, created to change the status quo of waste management in Indonesia. He graduated with a Master of Project Management from UNSW Canberra in 2020.
Mr Smith’s passion for sustainability and business with impact led him to help solve the plastic waste crisis in Southeast Asia. Ministry of Waste’s work has built critical infrastructure to divert waste away from landfills and the ocean, while simultaneously improving gender equality outcomes in local Indonesian communities.
The late Senator Jim Molan AO
DSC Chancellor’s Award for Exceptional Alumni Achievement
The late Senator Jim Molan AO DSC received the first posthumous UNSW Alumni Award. He was a former soldier, pilot, author and diplomat who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Military) from UNSW Canberra in 1971.
Senator Molan dedicated his life to service and said his passion was maintaining and strengthening Australia’s national security.