Meet our esteemed alumni award winners
The Southern Cross University Alumni Impact Awards recognise and acknowledge the diverse achievements of alumni, across their fields and in their communities.
From world records and climate activism, to public service, environmental rehabilitation and youth mental health, each of our award recipients have a story of impact that is Transforming Tomorrow.
Matthew's life-long love of surfing is helping his fellow Australian defence force veterans to find peace. An exercise physiologist and co-founder of the Association of Veteran Surfers (AVS), Matthew is all too aware of the high incidence of mental health issues and suicide among veterans, with AVS striving to be a point understanding, collaboration, enjoyment and, hopefully, progress.
Young Alumnus of the Year, Holly Ahern
Holly describes herself as a multidisciplinary artist with an interest in textiles, painting, and large-scale sculptural works. She and her partner Eden Crawford-Harriman are the creative minds behind the ‘In the Heart’ sculpture which resides in the Lismore CBD, an icon of resilience and the centrepiece of a fundraising drive to rebuild Lismore’s creative heart.
When the Indonesian province of Aceh was hit by a devastating tsunami in 2004, Said, originally from the region, had to do something. After joining Southern Cross to study an MBA, he returned to his hometown in Aceh and launched the Moringa project. Through this initiative, students and local people are becoming entrepreneurs thanks to a local resource: the moringa tree.
Since joining global security and aerospace prime Lockheed Martin Australia in 2018, Lizz has supported delivery of a variety of programs for the Australian Defence Force and other industry partners, including a portable tactical air defence radar system; portable cabins that provide secure workspaces for ADF personnel supporting F-35 operations; and maintenance and training for the F-35, supersonic stealth fighter jet.
Vanessa initially did her Southern Cross University nursing placement in Broken Hill with the Royal Flying Doctor Service eleven years ago. Fast-forward to today, she is the Mental Health Manager in Broken Hill, leading numerous mental health services for some of the most remote communities in the country.
Lisa is a four-time sailing world record holder and citizen scientist on a mission to take community action on climate change around the world with her. In 2023, she circumnavigated Antarctica solo and unassisted setting a new speed record and collecting important data on ocean health and climate change along the way.
As CEO of Batyr, a not-for-profit youth mental health organisation, Nic Brown is striving to reduce the stigma around mental ill health and provide young people with the support they need. Batyr has now reached over 300,000 young people through face to face programs and maintained important measures around attitudes toward seeking help.
Neelkamal has created a lasting impact in the lives of individuals, communities and industries across India, dedicating almost 35 years of service to the Government of India and State Government of Rajasthan. In her current position as Manager Director of the Small Farmers Agribusinesses Consortium under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Neelkamal is working to improve the economic outcomes of farmers in India.
Cooper is carving out a road less travelled in international development and agricultural research, from the Northern Rivers to the highlands of Papua New Guinea. An environmental science and PhD graduate, as well as a professional beekeeper, Cooper manages projects in the Indo-Pacific region for the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, and is the project manager for the University’s Bees for Sustainable Livelihoods research group.
Hank and Sue Bower have been managing pest and weed eradication programs on Lord Howe Island for the past 16 years. Their work has sparked an 'ecological renaissance' on the UNESCO World Heritage-listed island and a model of how a fragile environment can be successfully managed to ensure it thrives for generations to come. The Community Impact Award recipients met at Southern Cross University, where they both studied applied science in the 1990s.
Debra is a distinguished nurse scientist and scholar. She was the first nurse – and is still today the only nurse – appointed to a Principal fellowship of the NIHR-funded Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, awarded in recognition of sustained contribution to generating knowledge to enhance the care of NHS patients in the United Kingdom.
Nikita is a speech pathologist who is passionate about working with rural, regional and indigenous communities to improve access to healthcare. She has created an Indigenous-friendly communication board for Speech Pathology Australia.
Kyasingmong (Mong) is from the remote village of Dongnala in Bangladesh. As a Legal and Justice Studies graduate, Mong has worked in countries around the world to protect the rights of indigenous communities, at-risk human rights lawyers and defenders, and civilians impacted by ceasefire-related violence.
Aula is a champion of agroforestry and community programs that solve environmental problems while creating revenue streams. She has worked with young farmers in West Lombok to increase their knowledge of sustainable agroforestry systems including soil management.
Neale invented Humanihut, a lightweight yet robust, quick-to-install humanitarian and emergency accommodation solution. Established in 2013, Humanihut was shortlisted from more than one million global start-up and corporate venture nominations to be listed 63rd the 2016 Disrupt100 list of businesses with the most potential to influence, change or create new global markets.
Holly is an award-winning young-career teacher on a mission to empower and inspire students. Her alternative mathematics learning opportunities engage 21st century learners to help shape them into global citizens. In 2020, Holly also won the Teachers Guild of NSW Early Career Award (Secondary School), and in 2021 she was named the Rising Star of the Year at the prestigious Australian Education Awards.
Ashok was the leader of India’s official delegation at COP 21 when the Paris Agreement was negotiated in 2015. He has been directly involved in facilitating foreign direct investment, multilateral and bilateral financing for social sector programs and infrastructure development, promotion of global trade, combating climate change and desertification, finalising nationally determined contributions for limiting carbon emissions, and fostering energy efficient technologies.