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Celebrating the changemakers: UC alumni honoured at Distinguished Alumni Awards 2022

Suzanne Lazaroo

4 August 2022: From one of Australia’s foremost child rights specialists to a veteran media personality who has spent over 20 years elevating Indigenous voices across the country – University of Canberra alumni were celebrated for the many ways in which they have impacted their fields and communities, at this year’s Distinguished Alumni Awards.

The awards ceremony was held as part of the inaugural Night of Nights, the University’s community-wide celebration.

Guests included University of Canberra Chancellor, Professor Tom Calma AO; Deputy Chancellor, Dr Chris Faulks; University of Canberra Council members; Vice-Chancellor Professor Paddy Nixon and the University Executive; Senator David Pocock; Alicia Payne MP; David Smith MP; Elizabeth Lee MLA; Peter Cain MLA; Tara Cheyne MLA; alumni, community and business partners, and staff.

“I am genuinely excited about our future, and I’m delighted to be here to celebrate all the things we have achieved in the past,” said Professor Nixon.

“We measure our success by the success of our students, the quality of our education programs and by the impact of our research – and one of the things I love most about UC is the amazing community that surrounds it. From our 32 years as a university, we have more than 95,000 alumni across 130 countries.

“The Night of Nights and the Distinguished Alumni Awards are both about celebrating our community and our university, which is focused on the workforce in the ACT, on accessibility to education, and lifelong learning.”

The biennial Distinguished Alumni Awards celebrate the outstanding contributions University alumni have made within industries, sectors and communities.

This year, there were two award categories – the Chancellor’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Chancellor’s Rising Star Award; the latter had a 50 per cent public judging component.

Both were presented by Professor Calma.

“The Distinguished Alumni Awards honour and acknowledge our alumni, recognising the outstanding contribution they make to their professions and communities – not only here in Australia, but worldwide,” Professor Calma said.

“I am extremely proud to acknowledge all the achievements of winners and finalists, who continue to drive positive change, both in their professional spheres and their communities.

“It has been my honour to meet all the finalists and winners or their family representatives, and to hear more about their amazing work.”

Professor Calma noted that this marked the eighth year of the awards, which had so far recognised 160 Distinguished Alumni.

“I am very happy to welcome our four award winners tonight to join this elite group,” he said.


Alasdair Roy OAM, child rights specialist and consultant psychologist at Article 12 Consulting

One of Australia’s leading child rights specialists, Alasdair Roy has been promoting and protecting the rights of children for over 30 years.

Mr Roy holds a Master of Applied Psychology from the University.

He has served as the ACT Children and Young People Commissioner, and the ACT Deputy Community Advocate for Children and Young People, and provides consultancy services both nationally and internationally.

“This is an extraordinary honour, and I would also like to acknowledge my fellow nominees,” Mr Roy said.

“While the award recognises what I have done throughout my career, it also recognises what the University of Canberra provided to me – and I wouldn’t be standing here if it wasn’t for UC.

“It was at UC that I experienced, for the first time, what learning was truly all about. I was given the opportunity to experience, to reflect, to be exposed to different ways of thinking and understanding.

“There was an assignment that was given to me by the wonderful Dr Sandi Plummer [former Head of the Community Counselling Program at the University], in which I had to reflect what models of psychological practice were – and that assignment has stayed with me throughout my entire career.

“I often go back and reflect on it. I’m teaching Psychology at the Singapore University of Social Sciences at the moment, and I still draw on that assignment – 20 years on. That’s the style of teaching and learning opportunities UC afforded me.”

Natalie Ahmat, journalist, producer and presenter at NITV

A proud Mudburra and Wagadagum First Nations woman, Natalie Ahmat is an award-winning veteran journalist, presenter and producer.

One of the most experienced Indigenous Affairs reporters in the country, Natalie’s approach has always been to tell the stories of people, places, and issues through a First Nations lens.

She is passionate about elevating and amplifying the voices of her people throughout the country and internationally.

Today, Natalie is a presenter, Senior Producer and Indigenous Lead with National Indigenous Television (NITV) News, presenting both NITV News – the country’s only dedicated Indigenous television news bulletin – and Nula, NITV’s weekly news program on SBS.

She completed a Bachelor of Applied Science in Sports Studies (Sports Media) at the University.

As Ms Ahmat was hosting NITV’s coverage of the Garma Festival on the night of the awards, she was represented by her parents, Julie and George Ahmat.

“The very fact that I am in a position where I get to travel the country covering important stories and events like Garma, really started back there in Canberra in 1997 during my time as an undergrad at the University of Canberra,” Ms Ahmat said.

“Now being in a senior editorial role with NITV news and working with a lot of up-and-coming journalists, rarely a day goes past where I don't find myself quoting one of my lecturers with some of those fundamentals of journalism that were drilled into me at UC.

“I think the fact that I'm still drawing on those lessons daily speaks volumes for the quality of education and the fantastic foundation that UC provided me with – that's something that I'm incredibly grateful for.

“I'd also like to acknowledge all the other winners and finalists tonight. It was an absolute pleasure to meet some of you earlier this year, and it's incredible to be in the company of such an accomplished group of people,” she said.


Timi Tapara, musculoskeletal clinician and director of Tū Tonu

A proud Māori man, Timi Tapara is a musculoskeletal clinician, clinical supervisor, and aspiring manager, based in Kirikiriroa (Hamilton), New Zealand.

The question of bridging culture, spirituality and clinical practice led Mr Tapara to found Tū Tonu, where clinicians and traditional healers combine clinically-proven methods with Indigenous modalities and approaches, to address long-term health conditions that impact the Māori community.

Mr Tapara graduated from the University with a double-degree Bachelors of Sports Coaching and Exercise Science (2012) and a Masters of Physiotherapy (2014).

He was unable to travel to Canberra at this time, so his mother Judy Tapara accepted the award on his behalf.

“I feel truly blessed to be a joint winner of this award,” he said. “I came to Canberra as a young boy chasing rugby dreams, and thanks to my time at the University of Canberra, I get to conduct treatment with a clinical basis, in a way in which cultural values and beliefs are underpinned.”

“That's a big part of the innovative journey that we've laid down here, and it comes off of the scaffolding that the Faculty of Health and the School of Physiotherapy installed for me.”

Emily Coates, social media consultant and founder of Ivy Social

Emily Coates founded Ivy Social, a boutique social media agency in Canberra, while still studying part-time for a Bachelor of Advertising and Marketing Communicationat the University.

Today, the agency has grown to a nine-person, all-female professional group with clients ranging from local arts organisations to international beauty brands.

“I started Ivy Social as a way to help businesses to grow online, and it’s just amazing to be recognised this way today,” Ms Coates said. “I'd like to thank UC, for equipping me with the knowledge and skillset to get to where I am today – this extends to the amazing lecturers, staff and the broader UC community.”

“I’d also like to congratulate all the nominees – I was so inspired to hear everyone’s stories.”