ACU Alumni Awards 2015

The 2015 ACU Alumni Award winners

ACU Alumni Awards 2015 video

Four Sisters who are members of the Holy Cross Convent in Colombo, Sri Lanka have won Australian Catholic University’s (ACU’s) inaugural Alumni of the Year Award, which was announced in a ceremony in Sydney on Tuesday 13 October 2015.

ACU introduced the Alumni Awards as part of 25th anniversary celebrations to honour the achievements of the 76,000 members of the University’s alumni community.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Craven presented the awards. ACU staff, students, alumni, members of the clergy and representatives of industry partners were among those who attended the ceremony.

The Sisters were selected for their activities in camps for internal displaced people providing medical treatment and pastoral care to civilians wounded or traumatised in the Sri Lankan civil war, and also for their work in clinical teaching and securing sponsors for students who cannot afford an education.

  • Rev Sr Geraldine Michael
  • Rev Sr Pricilla John Baptist
  • Rev Sr Anushala Alexander
  • Rev Sr Virgini Edwardrajah

The Sisters are all senior nurses at Holy Cross Hospital, senior lecturers in the Holy Cross School of Health Sciences and International Institute of Health Sciences based in Jaffna Sri Lanka.

Dr Sarah Miller

Community Engagement Award winner - Dr Sarah Miller

Dr Sarah Miller completed a Doctorate of Psychology (Clinical) at ACU in 2006 and has since received international acclaim for her community engagement work as a Clinical and Forensic Psychologist.

Sarah has specific expertise in the humanitarian sector and with trauma counselling, and is the only Australian Clinical Psychologist on the delegation list for deployment by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to provide psychological assistance in response to natural disasters and in conflict zones.

Sarah has assisted people living in extreme conditions, taken on extraordinary work and lived in some very difficult environments. Her professional challenges have been immense, including work in the drug and alcohol field, acute psychiatric assessment, providing risk assessments and treatment for people in prison, and with young people with learning difficulties at the Royal Children’s Hospital. Sarah also spent nearly two years flying in and out of remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory helping children who had been physically or sexually abused.

She has also held humanitarian roles with the International Red Cross Movement following the floods in Pakistan, the massacre in Norway, and in the Philippines in the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan; , as well as many domestic disasters including the Queensland floods, Northern Territory cyclone, and Victorian bushfires.

Through Sarah’s exemplary work at Port Phillip Prison, she was promoted after just nine months to manage, train and supervise a team of psychologists in the maximum security prison environment. Sarah co-developed a program for violent prisoners held in seclusion cells who were considered too high risk to participate in behavioural programs and to mix in group therapeutic activities.

In her work as a Clinical Psychologist, and later Mental Health Team Leader at the several Immigration Detention Centres, Sarah has witnessed the tragedy of people making a desperate plight to flee persecution. Many told horrific stories of their lives in their home countries and their experiences coming to Australia by boat, trying to seek asylum and a better life in Australia.

Sarah’s most recent humanitarian work was on deployment in Syria where her role was as the Mental Health Adviser to the ICRC delegation to make an assessment of the mental health needs of the staff and population following the enduring crisis.

Her current role is as the Principal Psychologist across Mental Health, Justice Health and Alcohol and Drug Services. She also has a private practice in Canberra.

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About this award

Recognises an outstanding Alumni who has made a significant contribution to the wellbeing of others through community and humanitarian service.

Nominees for this award must demonstrate evidence of attributes that are aligned with the ACU University Mission and include being ethical in their behaviour, with a developed critical habit of mind, an appreciation of the sacred in life and a commitment to serving the common good.

Nominees must comply with all of the following eligibility and selection criteria:

  • Australian and international graduates of ACU and predecessor institutions are eligible for this award.
  • Demonstrated significant contribution to the enrichment and benefit of the community.

Penny Daly

Community Leadership Award winner - Penny Daly

Penny completed a Bachelor of Arts at ACU in 2002 majoring in Psychology and Philosophy and minoring in Sociology and has become a champion for the rights of refugees.

When she left ACU, Penny worked with disabled people and remains an active volunteer and advocate in this field however she later focused on helping asylum seekers and those in immigration detention.

Penny worked on Christmas Island supporting unaccompanied minors living in detention. She also worked as a child protection specialist in the Families Area of Manus Island Regional Processing Centre and also at the Nauru Offshore Processing Centre where she ensured that children had the protection of their parents and international human rights obligations.

On the home front, Penny has worked on stakeholder engagement programs in the Yarra City Council in Melbourne developing policy and procedures for youth at risk from refugee backgrounds.

Penny’s can-do attitude stems from her passion to serve others, and has built on her experience taking a leadership role by establishing her own organisation that helps refugees in need. Penny is the president and founder of The Welcome Group, which has empowered thousands of volunteers to donate, deliver and welcome new refugees.

Penny is passionate about bringing dignity to refugees every day and encourages others to join her in the quest for the common good for our refugee neighbours.

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About this award

Recognises an Alumni who has significantly inspired others to strive for excellence, deliver outstanding service and deliver innovation in their field.

Nominees for this award must demonstrate evidence of attributes that are aligned with the ACU University Mission and include being ethical in their behaviour, with a developed critical habit of mind, an appreciation of the sacred in life and a commitment to serving the common good.

Nominees must comply with all of the following eligibility and selection criteria:

  • Australian and international graduates of ACU and predecessor institutions are eligible for this award.
  • Demonstrated significant contribution to leading an organisation, business or service provider to deliver outstanding levels of innovation, service quality and tangible benefits for customers, clients and stakeholders.

Sister Geraldine Michael, Sister Pricilla John Baptist, Sister Anushala Alexander, and Sister Virgini Edwardrajah

International Contribution Award winners - Sri Lanka

Sr Geraldine Michael completed a Master of Nursing (2003), Sr Pricilla John Baptist completed a Bachelor of Nursing (2008), Sr Anushala Alexander completed a Bachelor of Nursing (2008) and Sr Virgini Edwardrajah completed a Bachelor of Nursing (2012).

They all work as senior nurses at the Holy Cross Hospital in Jaffna, Sri Lanka and Srs. Geraldine, Pricilla and Anushala also lecture to students at the Holy Cross School of Health Sciences. Because many of the students live far away from Jaffna the sisters provide boarding facilities at the school.

Sr Geraldine and Sr Pricilla are also senior lecturers at the International Institute of Health Sciences (IIHS), which is considered the leader in health education in Sri Lanka.

All the sisters work in many outreach programs where they provide medical treatment and pastoral care to civilians who were wounded or traumatised in the local conflict Sri Lanka.

Sr Geraldine has 20 years’ experience in the health sector and Sr Pricilla and Sr Anshula have more than 10 years’ experience. Sr Virgini has worked in numerous outreach programs of the Holy Cross Sisters prior to coming to Australia to study and since returning to Sri Lanka has worked as a senior nurse and lecturer.

The sisters provide exceptional health care to the people of Jaffna and the surrounding area at the Holy Cross Hospital and have set up and teach the Diploma of Nursing at the Holy Cross School of Health Sciences.

This diploma is recognised by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health so graduates can seek registration after graduation. This nursing program changes the lives of young Tamil women. The fees are kept low but if a student cannot afford the $500 yearly tuition and boarding fees, the sisters will seek out a sponsor to cover the expense. A number of the students have lost one or both parents in the conflict and are from poor backgrounds, so obtaining this type of education would not be possible without someone sponsoring them.

The sisters provide a nurturing and supportive study and living environment for these young women and are worthy winners of ACU Alumni International contribution award.

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About this award

Recognises and honours the outstanding achievements of an international Alumni who has realised distinction in their chosen professional field or within their own international community.

Nominees for this award must demonstrate evidence of attributes that are aligned with the ACU University Mission and include being ethical in their behaviour, with a developed critical habit of mind, an appreciation of the sacred in life and a commitment to serving the common good.

Nominees must comply with all of the following eligibility and selection criteria:

  • International graduates of ACU and predecessor institutions are eligible for this award.
  • Demonstrated significant contribution to the international community and a focus on innovation and leadership.

Jessica Hansson

Young Alumni of the Year Award winner - Jessica Hansson

Jessica Hansson first completed her Bachelor of Exercise Science at ACU in 2009 and later completed her Masters of Applied Exercise Science (Exercise Prescription) at ACU in 2012.

Since then she has continued to pursue her passion of working with people with spinal cord injury and is committed to growing her expertise and experience in exercise physiology.

She is currently a lecturer at ACU’s Melbourne Campus in charge of Masters of Neurological Analysis and Prescription and a Senior Exercise Physiologist at Spinal Cord Injuries Australia (SCIA).

Jessica’s interest in working with clients with traumatic injuries began whilst completing her ACU master’s degree where her research project, Feasibility of ballistic strengthen exercises in neurologic rehabilitation, was published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation in 2014.

Within the first two years of her employment at SCIA, she supervised more than 100 exercise physiology students from across universities in Melbourne. She has demonstrated and instilled in these students the importance of respect for clients, consideration of the potential vulnerability of clients and the important role that an exercise physiologist plays in successful treatment outcomes. Jessica challenged these students to think critically and be self-reflective to become better clinicians.

Jessica’s strong belief of the role of the clinical supervisor has led to her being awarded the 2013 Exercise and Sport Science Australia (ESSA) Practicum Supervisor of the Year award.

She has contributed to the development of an evidence-based publication, ESSA Outcome Measures for Exercise Physiologists, targeted to exercise physiologists and other allied health professionals.

Jessica says she chose ACU over other universities because of the smaller class sizes, positive feedback from previous students, and the social conscience embedded in the university ethos. She believes that the two main aspects that sets ACU apart is the knowledgeable and passionate lecturers and the overall university commitment to the less advantaged.

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About this award

Recognises a young Alumni (35 years or younger at the time of nomination) whose early accomplishments since graduation have led to a high level of achievement in their professional field or community engagement.

Nominees for this award must demonstrate evidence of attributes that are aligned with the ACU University Mission and include being ethical in their behaviour, with a developed critical habit of mind, an appreciation of the sacred in life and a commitment to serving the common good.

Nominees must comply with all of the following eligibility and selection criteria:

  • Be aged 35 or under at the time of nomination.
  • Australian and international graduates of ACU and predecessor institutions are eligible for this award.
  • Has demonstrated an ongoing high level of achievement in their profession or community service since graduating.