Alumni Awards

Our alumni are empowered with the knowledge, professional experience and ethical practice needed to excel. They are now a community of 100,000 people making a difference in their communities across the world.

We’re proud to celebrate the achievements of our alumni. So in 2015 we launched our inaugural Alumni Awards, highlighting the contribution our alumni make to the community.

Read about our outstanding 2019 Australian Catholic University Alumni Award winners below.

Australian Catholic University Alumni Awards ceremony will be held on Tuesday, 26 November at the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins.

If you have any questions regarding the ACU Alumni Awards please email or call +61 3 9953 3666


Alumni Awards 2019 winners

Dr Derek Chong, Bachelor of Nursing, 1999

Derek Chong

Raised in Ipswich in southeast Queensland, Dr Derek Chong is the state’s first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander psychiatrist. He has worked at the coalface of health, starting out as a residential care worker and going on to graduate with a Bachelor of Nursing from ACU in 1999, while working as a registered psychiatric nurse. He went on to study and practice medicine and psychiatry and will be conferred his fellowship in late 2019. Dr Chong currently works as a medical officer and senior psychiatry registrar in Metro South Mental Health at the Community Mental Health Woolloongabba Psychosis Unit, where he provides social health services for people requiring support in mental health, social or family issues and alcohol or drug addiction. As well as his regular psychiatry clinics at The Southern Qld Centre of Excellence in Indigenous Primary Healthcare Service, Dr Chong also mentors doctors and psychologists to improve their consulting practice when treating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. His mother’s people are the Mullenjarli of the Gold Coast hinterland, and his father’s people are the Walkamin of the Tate region in Far North Queensland, and the Kunjun people of Kowanyama. He is a proud father of eight children and seven grandchildren.

Brendan Watson OAM, Graduate Diploma Religious Education, 2000

Brendan Watson

Brendan Watson believes the best gift you can give a young person is your time. And as a school principal, Chief Executive Officer of the Catholic Regional College Institute of Training, White Ribbon Ambassador and Chief Commissioner of Scouts Victoria, time is something he readily gives. He’s camped with Chernobyl survivors to help improve their immunity, taught Mongolian youth how to avoid the plague and advised the UN on how to encourage East Timorese kids to lay down their guns and become children once more. In Australia he has revitalised his community’s educational opportunities, introducing Vocational Education Training (VET) programs that encourage students to follow their own path. Brendan is also a vocal Ambassador for White Ribbon, working with young people to empower them to break the cycle of family violence. In 2007 Brendan was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his service to Scouts.

Julie Morgan, Diploma of Teaching (Primary), 1984

Julie Morgan

Julie Morgan spent her entire life working to transform the lives of marginalised people. From the time she graduated from ICE Christ College in 1984, to her final working days teaching executive leadership at ACU, she was a tireless advocate for those without a voice. Her work included helping homeless Sydneysiders receive health care, enabling the education of children sold into sex slavery in Cambodia, peace-building in the former Yugoslavia, assisting the people of Rwanda after the massacre, advocating for human rights in South-East Asia and teaching for ACU in the Solomon Islands. Julie lived with a compassion that expanded in the face of each new challenge. Even after she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2016, she continued to teach, and when unable to teach any longer, she continued to advocate for those facing disadvantage – the poor, elderly, and those who could potentially be exploited by assisted dying legislation in Victoria and New South Wales.

Julie passed away in July 2018. She died as she lived: with compassion for all those around her, without self-pity or self-centredness and with sincere faith that death was not the end but a transformation.

Dr Nicamil Sanchez, Doctor of Philosophy (Social Work), 2017

Nicamil Sanchez

Born and raised in the rural province of Balagtas, Bulacan in the Philippines, Dr Nicamil Sanchez is a dedicated social worker, academic, entrepreneur, technocrat and army reserve major who is committed to uplifting the lives of the most vulnerable Filipinos. In 2015, while pursuing his PhD in social work at ACU’s Canberra Campus, Dr Sanchez founded The Philippine Consortium, a technology firm that provides consultancy services and capacity-building to social welfare organisations, research bodies and universities, using innovative software and technology from Australia. In his role as the Head of Welfare Services for the Philippine Red Cross, Dr Sanchez leads the programs that support the most vulnerable, working in partnership with communities to implement proactive strategies that focus on issues like child protection, older persons, livelihood for indigenous people, promoting disability inclusion and preventing gender-based violence.

Nicola Parkes, Bachelor of Youth Work, 2014

Nicola Parkes

Nicola Parkes has dedicated her life to supporting people with a refugee experience. After completing her degree, she began working for The Centre for Multicultural Youth in Melbourne, where she supported unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan who had come to Australia by boat. She went on to spend the next few years in a range of youth work positions in both Melbourne and Brisbane.

Gaining international experience was important to Nicola, and a new door opened for her in Malawi. Working for the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), she was placed in a refugee camp that was home to almost 35,000 people from neighbouring African countries. She worked in capacity building and community engagement, linking grassroots organisations to funding opportunities.

Nicola is now home in Australia studying for a Master of International Development. She continues to advocate for those seeking asylum,  volunteering for the THREE For All Foundation and working for the Stonington City Council in Melbourne.

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