Western’s exceptional graduates recognised at the 2018 Alumni Awards

Recipient of the Chancellor’s Alumni of the Year Award Professor Iona Novak with Chancellor Professor Peter Shergold AC.

The local, regional and global impact of Western Sydney University’s alumni community was acknowledged at this year’s annual Alumni Awards – celebrated as part of this year’s Town & Gown Gala Dinner hosted by Ray Martin.

The achievements of 15 exceptional alumni, nominated across seven award categories, were recognised on the night. According to Chancellor Professor Peter Shergold AC they represent an incredible community of more than 180,000 diverse achievers.

“We are proud of our incredible alumni community. Their global impact is immense. Our alumni are a great source of pride for the University, and it gives us great pleasure to see them going from strength to strength in their personal and professional endeavors,” says Professor Peter Shergold.

“As Western Sydney University looks to the future, the alumni community plays a vital role in helping secure the University’s ambitious plans.”

One of the highest honours bestowed on the night, the Chancellor’s Alumni of the Year, went to Professor Iona Novak. The award recognises the significant contributions made by alumni in their local communities and beyond.

As a leader in cerebral palsy research, Professor Novak has arguably had a greater impact in this area than any other individual. As a direct result of her work, prevalence has dropped from one in 400 live births to one in 600. This has saved an estimated $2 billion in costs to the public health budget, as well as untold suffering among the Australian children and families who would otherwise be affected. Another 14 countries have also changed their clinical practice as a result.

Professor Novak says she was very honoured and surprised to be presented with the award.

“Nine years ago, I started my PhD at Western Sydney University. Under the guidance of Professor Anne Cusick, I quickly learnt that asking questions can catalyze innovation, and that education is a passport to the future.

“What matters more than my recognition however, is recognising the needs of people with cerebral palsy, especially in Western Sydney. And recognising the impact that research can have – children born to 115 families this year don’t have cerebral palsy because of the generous support of my research,” says Professor Novak.

Australians are three times more likely to have cerebral palsy than cancer, and it is also the fifth highest cause of death in children. Despite this, Dr Novak says the condition doesn’t receive comparable funding and attention to other conditions.  

“The needs of people with what would be perceived as a ‘disability’ are often not recognised, or researched. I am passionate about changing that. For example, I am currently working on setting up an early diagnosis clinic for cerebral palsy and a world first clinical trial using stem cells for babies born too early. We don’t know if this will lead to a cure, but as I said, every ‘question’ asked can catalyze innovation,” says Professor Novak.

Other winners on the night included:

International Alumni Leadership
Winner: Professor Syed Rahman

Doctor of Philosophy – Medicine, 2015

Professor Rahman combines a world and nation-leading role as a custodian of Unani’s ancient knowledge, with an illustrious research and teaching career in pharmacology. His global impact includes pioneering work to eliminate animal exploitation in medical teaching, exploring the contemporary potential of traditional medicine, and founding a new field of research into the environmental impacts of pharmacology.

Hawkesbury Alumni
Winner: Mr David Goodfellow

David Goodfellow’s leadership and impact reflects the early values he brought to student life at Hawkesbury, characterised by values of respect, collegiality, loyalty and empathy. Coupled with David’s insatiable thirst for education and proven ability to lead successful teams on complex investment projects, David has become one of the foremost corporate leaders in modern Australian agriculture. His ambition and vision to shape agriculture has delivered enormous benefits to Australia and opened up new opportunities to take Australian produce to the world.

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Community Impact Award
Winner: Mr Shane Kennelly  
Master of Business Administration, 2008

A proud Bundjalung man, Shane is the Managing Director of Kennelly Constructions which is a leading contractor delivering civil, construction and maintenance support services. Shane’s great passion – which he lives and breathes on a daily basis – is training and employing Aboriginal people, as a means to achieve greater prosperity and community pride. Shane undertakes pro bono commitments with Engineers Without Borders, where he steers projects in remote Aboriginal communities.

Young Alumni
Winner: Mr Ahmad Al Rady
Bachelor of Medical Science, 2012
Bachelor of Health Science (Honours)/Master of Podiatric Medicine, 2017

Ahmad is a poet, podiatrist and young community leader. He co- founded what is now Australia’s largest regular live poetry event, the Bankstown Poetry Slam, and has established wildly popular programs in Western Sydney high schools to encourage other young literary talents. He has
his own podiatry clinic in the St George area and has also started a new social enterprise called ’Sole Purpose’, bringing together allied health practitioners, sock and shoe manufacturers and young volunteers to help Sydney’s homeless.

Community Champion
Winner: Mrs Faten El Dana OAM
Master of Arts (TESOL), 2008

As a midwife at Westmead Hospital, Faten developed an understanding of pressing health issues particularly pertaining to women from non-English speaking backgrounds. This inspired her to pursue a Master’s degree in teaching English as a second language. Faten instils a sense of empowerment in women through educational opportunities and health awareness programs. In 2012, Faten was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for her service to the Lebanese community of New South Wales.

Professional Excellence
Winner: Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward 
Diploma of Health Science (Nursing), 1991
Master of Management, 2008

Kylie has contributed significantly to the growth of the nursing profession. Her distinguished career in nursing includes a clinical background in intensive care and aged care, and expertise in transformational leadership, culture and change management.  With experience across five Local Health Districts, Kylie has initiated reviews of professional and educational governance frameworks to achieve standardisation of workforce reform, registration and credentialing, talent management and succession planning for the nursing and midwifery profession.


24 October 2018

Media Unit.