Western Sydney University celebrates April graduation

Thousands of excited graduands and their families will come together to celebrate their achievements when Western Sydney University holds its graduation ceremonies at the Parramatta South campus, 23-30 April.

Across six days and 24 ceremonies, 4,760 graduands will receive degrees from a range of disciplines, including Psychology, Business and Commerce, Accounting, Nursing and Midwifery, Health Science, Communications, Teaching, Engineering, Information and Communications Technology and Social Sciences.

Upon their graduation they will join a vibrant network of more than 200,000 Western Sydney University alumni located throughout Australia and around the world.

As part of the celebrations, students and their special guests will have the opportunity to hear from a range of inspirational occasional speakers from across industry and the community.

Western Sydney University will also honour a number of outstanding individuals for their significant contributions to the Greater Western Sydney region and Australian public life. These are:

  • Professor Denis Burnham will be accorded the title Emeritus Professor
  • Ms Dianne Weller will receive an Honorary Fellowship
  • Professor Caroline Smith will be accorded the title Emeritus Professor
  • Emeritus Professor MaryAnn Bin-Sallik AO will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Letters

WHERE: Western Sydney University's Parramatta South campus, corner Victoria Road and James Ruse Drive, Rydalmere

WHEN: Saturday 23 April to Saturday 30 April 2022 (no ceremonies 24 and 25 April)

TIME: Ceremonies begin from 9.30am each day

FOR JOURNALISTS: Please advise the Media Team if you plan to attend, who can assist with parking, via email: media@westernsydney.edu.au.

Honorary Awardee and Occasional Address Speaker Biographies

Ceremony 1 – Saturday 23 April – 9:30 am

Professor Denis Burnham

MARCS Institute for Brain Behaviour and Development, Western Sydney University

Professor Burnham will deliver the Occasional Address and be accorded the title Emeritus Professor

In 1999, Professor Denis Burnham was appointed the inaugural Director and Academic Leader of MARCS Auditory Laboratories (now MARCS Institute for Brain Behaviour and Development) at Western Sydney University. In the 23 years since his appointment, Professor Burnham’s leadership, vision, and research excellence have had an enormous impact on the success of MARCS, on expanding the reputation of Western Sydney University, and on enhancing the international profile of the Australian speech science community.

As Director and Academic Leader from 1999 to 2014, Denis grew the reputation and research excellence of MARCS, building the Institute from a team of half a dozen people to more than 150 academics, students, technical and professional staff, as well as envisaging and overseeing the development of state-of-the-art research facilities.

Professor Burnham was the first in Australia to set up a laboratory focused on researching infant language development. The establishment of the MARCS BabyLab continues to attract world-renown academics, international visitors, collaborators, funded projects, media coverage, and community engagement. In addition to providing state-of-the-art infant research facilities, MARCS BabyLab is also an important avenue of outreach with parents and local communities. The first BabyLab was established at Western Sydney University in 1999 and in the two decades since, 15,000 families have engaged in research on the University’s campuses. MARCS BabyLab is one of the most successful infant labs in the world and a crown jewel within MARCS.

Professor Burnham’s research has been continually funded for over three decades by the Australian Research Council through its Discovery and Linkage project schemes. Denis’ research excellence has supported dozens of Postdoctoral Research Fellows, and Honours and PhD students. He co-founded the Auditory-Visual Speech Perception Association (AVISA), and more recently spearheaded the Asian-Australasian BabyLab Constellation (ABC) and the associated Memorandums of Understanding.

In 2015, Professor Burnham was awarded Western Sydney University’s Excellence in Research Leadership Award and then in 2018 was appointed a Fellow of the International Speech Communication Association for ‘contributions to auditory-visual speech perception, and to infant speech perception development’, as well as a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. In 2020, he was presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award, by the University of New England.

Denis has brought major international conferences to Australia, most notably Interspeech - the worldwide flagship conference on speech science. In 1988, he was a Foundation Member of the Australian Speech Science and Technology Association, then serving as its President for 15 years.

Ceremony 2 – Saturday 23 April – 12 noon

Professor Brian Stout

Dean, School of Social Sciences and Pro Vice –Chancellor (Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences), Western Sydney University

Professor Stout will deliver the Occasional Address

Professor Brian Stout is Pro ViceChancellor of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences Cluster, Dean of the School of Social Sciences, Campus Provost of Ngara Ngura, Liverpool Campus, and Professor of Social Work at Western Sydney University. The  Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences Cluster incorporates Centres and Institutes, as well as the Schools of Business, Law, Humanities, Education and Social Sciences.

Professor Stout has a long history of research, teaching and practice in Australia, Europe and South Africa. His most recent book is titled ‘Community Justice in Australia’. He has conducted research in Australia, facilitated by Juvenile Justice, the Department of Community and Justice and other agencies into interventions with children and young people. In addition, his research has included child justice diversion in South Africa, and sex offender public disclosure schemes in the United Kingdom.

Brian has taught and researched in criminal justice, youth justice, probation and social work. He has been involved in developing and delivering training and education for criminal justice professionals in the United Kingdom and South Africa, and has participated in a number of European criminal justice social work projects.

Ceremony 3 – Saturday 23 April – 2:30 pm

Joseph Rizk AM

CEO and Managing Director, Arab Bank Australia

Joseph will deliver the Occasional Address

Joseph Rizk AM has been Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Arab Bank Australia since 2010. Prior to this appointment, he was Chief Banking Officer at Arab Bank Australia for more than five years. In this role he oversaw retail, commercial and trade banking operations, as well as the bank’s branch network, and was responsible for all revenue-generating arms.

In 2015, Joseph was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his extraordinary contributions not only to the banking sector but also to Australia-Lebanon relations and to medical research. This year, he was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his significant service to banking and commerce, and the not-for-profit sector.

Joseph is a philanthropist with an interest in a wide range of causes, including the Young Professionals Program at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. He is also chairman of the Board of the Italian Opera Foundation Australia.

Ceremony 4 – Saturday 24 April – 5:00 pm

Benjamin Marshan

Head of Policy, Strategy and Innovation, Financial Planning Association of Australia

Benjamin will deliver the Occasional Address

As the Head of Policy, Strategy and Innovation, a key part of Ben’s role is to manage government relations, help in the implementation of the association’s policy platform, and encourage the development of innovative ways to provide financial advice.

Ben excelled in his tertiary studies. He holds a Bachelor of Science with first-class honours from the University of New South Wales and is a Western Sydney University alumnus, having graduated with a Master of Commerce in Financial Planning in 2010. Ben was the recipient of Western Sydney University’s Dean’s Merit List twice - in 2008 and 2009 - and received an Executive Dean’s Medal in 2010. He also lectured in Retirement Planning at the University from 2009 to 2012.

Today, Ben’s guidance and mentorship underpins a commitment to ensure fellow financial planners deliver the best possible outcomes for clients. His goal is to make financial planning accessible to all Australians.

Ceremony 5 – Tuesday 26 April – 9:30 am

Associate Professor Sonia Marshall

Executive Director Nursing Midwifery and Performance, South Western Sydney Local Health District

Associate Professor Marshall will deliver the Occasional Address

Associate Professor Sonia Marshall is a passionate nursing leader who is the Executive Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Performance at South Western Sydney Local Health District. Since 2016, Sonia has been an Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Western Sydney University, as well as an Associate Fellow at the University of Wollongong.

Sonia’s areas of expertise include developing and implementing new models of care, as well as growing and evolving the nursing and midwifery workforce. Through her work, Sonia focuses on developing collaborative practice, conducting clinical research, providing nursing education, and working with teams to bring about cultural change. She is a strong advocate for breaking down gender stereotypes associated with the nursing profession and ensuring nurses are involved in decision-making forums.

Sonia is committed to empowering our nurses and midwives to be the very best they can be while delivering safe, high-quality patient care.

Ceremony 6 – Tuesday 26 April – 12 noon

Associate Professor Caroline Farmer

Director of Nursing and Midwifery and Clinical Governance, Western Sydney Local Health District

Associate Professor Farmer will deliver the Occasional Address

Caroline is an experienced health care professional, having held nursing and senior management roles in the public health care sector for over 40 years. She has a particular interest in clinical governance, patient safety, leadership development and management.

In July 2019, Caroline was appointed the Western Sydney Local Health District Director of Nursing and Midwifery and Clinical Governance. She continues to focus on developing the next generation of nursing and midwifery leaders, and fosters this cohort to drive innovation in the public health care system. Her enthusiasm for this priority has led to the establishment of the Western Sydney Local Health District Nursing and Midwifery Leadership Program in 2021, with the success of the program leading to its continuation in 2022.

Caroline has also worked at the Ministry of Health where she was the state’s Director of Patient Safety First, ensuring the continuous commitment to safety and quality across the NSW health system and through her collaboration with the Clinical Excellence Commission, drove contemporary practices to strengthen incident monitoring and reporting processes, clinical governance, and strategic direction.

Prior to becoming the Director of Patient Safety First, Caroline was based in Alice Springs for approximately three years as the General Manager of Primary Health Care, Central Australia, with her portfolio including Remote Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs, Oral Health, Community and Prison Health. This followed her years as the Director of Nursing and Midwifery Services and acting General Manager at Bankstown Hospital.

Caroline holds a Bachelor of Health Science, a Master of Health Services Management and an Executive Master of Public Administration. She is also a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Ceremony 7 – Tuesday 26 April – 2:30 pm

Professor Aunty Kerrie Doyle

Associate Dean, Indigenous Health, School of Medicine, Western Sydney University

Professor Doyle will deliver the Occasional Address

Professor Aunty Kerrie Doyle is an Aboriginal woman of Winninninni/Budjeri and Cadigal/Irish heritage. She is a registered nurse with over 40 years’ experience and is the first Aboriginal nurse to graduate from Oxford University with a Master of Science in Evidence-Based Intervention.

Professor Doyle is a founding member of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Nurses and Midwives, and a member of the Council of Elders. Previously, she worked with the World Health Organisation in the Middle East, teaching health administration and reviewing renal models of patient care. Aunty Kerrie has been part of the nursing professoriate at the University of Canberra, RMIT University, and Charles Sturt University.

As the Inaugural Professor and Associate Dean for Indigenous Health in the School of Medicine at Western Sydney University, Aunty Kerrie brings a wealth of research and advocacy expertise to the School. Much of her work is dedicated to closing health and educational gaps, improving outcomes for Australia’s Indigenous population, as well as mentoring to empower young people and strengthening connections with wider Aboriginal communities. Her proudest moment was when her son graduated as a Registered Nurse in 2020.

Ceremony 8 – Tuesday 26 April – 5:00 pm

Cynthia Payne

Managing Director, Anchor Excellence

Cynthia will deliver the Occasional Address

Cynthia Payne is the Managing Director of Anchor Excellence, an aged-care consultancy firm that provides advice, education, and support to aged-care providers with the aim of improving quality of care for residents across Australia. Anchor supports aged-care leaders in areas such as executive management, governance, quality and compliance management, asset and property management, and customer experience. Since Cynthia founded Anchor Excellence in 2018, the organisation has directly reached over 35% of Australia’s aged-care industry.

Previously, she was Chief Executive Officer of SummitCare, a private aged-care group. Under her leadership, the organisation underwent substantial growth. In this role, Cynthia led a number of aged-care community partnerships and oversaw an improvement in staff retention rates and customer engagement. In both 2012 and 2014, the organisation received a Gold award in the prestigious Australian Business Excellence Awards. In 2018, Cynthia received Western Sydney University’s Woman of the West award for her contributions to business.

Cynthia holds a Bachelor of Applied Science (Nursing) and has an MBA majoring in Human Resource Management and Association Management from the University of New England. She is a Non-Executive Director with Painchek, Board Advisor with Total Constructions, and former Director with the National Heart Foundation.

Ceremony 9 – Wednesday 27 April – 9:30 am

Dr Jessica Olivieri

Chief Executive Officer, Urban Theatre Projects (UTP)

Dr Olivieri will deliver the Occasional Address

Dr Jessica Olivieri is the Chief Executive Officer and Artistic Director of UTP, formerly known as Urban Theatre Projects. Working on the lands of the Darug people, the organisation is based in Western Sydney, however, operates globally. The arts organisation is positioned at the intersection of community and contemporary art.  

Dr Olivieri is a Western Sydney University alumnus, having graduated with a Bachelor of Arts. She also studied at the Piet [pie-et] Zwart [zw-ah-rt] Institute in the Netherlands. She received a PhD from the University of Sydney for her work focused on the intersections of visual art, performance, dance and theatre within a community context.  

Previously, Dr Olivieri had a practice as an artist and curator exhibiting work at institutions, such as Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art and Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art. In addition, she has curated for Sydney’s Performance Space and Campbelltown Arts Centre. Her experience of neuro-divergence and growing up in an intercultural environment informs her commitment to intersectional access to the arts.

Ceremony 10 – Wednesday 27 April – 12 noon

Ms Dianne Weller

Ms Weller will deliver the Occasional Address and receive an Honorary Fellowship

Dianne Weller is an actor, singer, voice actor, voice director and performance coach whose diverse talent has led to her success in film, television, radio and theatre.

Dianne’s passion for performance began very early during her secondary schooling in Coffs Harbour, where she performed lead roles in the school musicals Grease and Pippin, before then playing Elizabeth in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Her first professional acting job was in the 1991 feature film Flirting, directed by John Duigan. Following this, she worked with Theatre Nepean Graduates in Patrick Shaffer’s Amadeus at the Enmore Theatre. Through this experience, she was inspired to study acting at Theatre Nepean at Western Sydney University and completed a Bachelor of Arts in Performance in 1996.

After graduating, Dianne’s first TV role was in the long running Australian drama Water Rats. Her career then continued across Australia, the UK and Europe, with international television credits including:

  • Professor T, for ITV;
  • The Window, for ZDF;
  • Cellule de Crise, for Swiss Television;
  • Find Me in Paris, for Disney;
  • The Missing, for BBC and ABC America’s;and
  • Casualty, for BBC One.

As a voice over artist, Dianne has worked on Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot and Dan Dare which both won Gold at the New York Radio Awards. Her other notable voice over works include:

  • The Christchurch Murder for BBC Radio 4,
  • The Space Race for Audible,
  • Wolfenstein Youngblood for Machine Games;
  • Elite Dangerous for Frontier Developments’;
  • and, the horror video game Home Sweet Home.

Dianne also appeared in the animation Samy the Turtle, and created the character Varia for LionGate Films’, The Hunger Games Exhibition.

She has been nominated twice for the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences Voice Arts Awards for her work on the Virtual Reality game Hubris and won the categories of Best Performance in VR Games and Best Video Game Reel. Her team also won the Cannes Golden Lion Award for their campaign, Reporters without Borders.

In the UK, Dianne has appeared in various theatre and musical theatre productions at the London Palladium, the Young Vic London and the Bath Theatre Royal. She created the musical comedy act The Push Ups which performed at the Kaai Theatre, Pisspoten Festival, Smartival Festival, and Ancienne Belgique for Humo TV Awards and then toured France with Beverly Jo Scott.

Ceremony 11 – Wednesday 27 April – 2:30 pm

Dianne Lucas

Chief Executive Officer, Spinal Cord Injuries Australia

Dianne will deliver the Occasional Address

Dianne is the Chief Executive Officer of Spinal Cord Injuries Australia – an organisation that supports Australians living with disability, by connecting them with relevant services and helping them to live the life they want to lead. The organisation’s employees relate to members’ unique needs, with three-quarters of the board and a quarter of staff also living with spinal injuries.

Previously, Dianne worked in senior management roles at St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, where her work included supporting people to achieve their goals under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Her advocacy work demonstrates a deep commitment to social justice and community welfare as she works towards removing barriers in society. In addition to her work in the disability sector, Dianne has also led homelessness, health, drug and alcohol, and community development services and programs.

Ceremony 12 – Wednesday 27 April – 5:00 pm

Rachel Brimblecombe

Director, Better Rehab

Rachel will deliver the Occasional Address

Rachel Brimblecombe is the Founder and Director of Better Rehab, one of the largest allied health providers in the National Disability Insurance scheme. Prior to this, she worked at Prince of Wales Hospital in Neurosciences and has also lectured in Occupational Therapy at the Australian Catholic University. As a result of working in both community and hospital settings, Rachel developed a passion for helping people with neurological conditions and community-based rehabilitation.

Growing frustrated with the level and quality of allied health support, Rachel founded Better Rehab in 2014 to make a more meaningful impact on people living with a disability or health condition. In just a few years, Rachel has gone from being an occupational therapist and lecturer to a social entrepreneur whose company, Better Rehab, has helped over 18,000 people and has more than 500 full-time staff across Australia and New Zealand. Delivering multidisciplinary therapy from early childhood onwards, Better Rehab is recognised for its innovative and collaborative ways of providing client-centred care.

Rachel Brimblecombe holds a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy from the University of Queensland.

Ceremony 13 – Thursday 28 April – 9:30 am

Professor Caroline Smith

Professor Smith will deliver the Occasional Address and be accorded the title Emeritus Professor

Professor Caroline Smith is considered one of the most influential and well-respected researchers in the area of clinical acupuncture and women’s health. For over 13 years, Professor Smith has provided distinguished service to Western Sydney University as a result of her internationally recognised research and, more recently, through her research leadership and governance.

Caroline obtained her PhD in Obstetrics and Gynecology from the University of Adelaide in 2001, and joined Western Sydney University in 2008 as an Associate Professor in Complementary Medicine (Clinical Research). In 2014, she was appointed as a Professor within the NICM Health Research Institute, and in 2018 as the Dean of the Graduate Research School. In her time at Western Sydney University, Caroline researched, collaborated and published in the areas of fertility, sterility, obstetrics, gynecology, and nursing and midwifery.

Throughout her career, Caroline has achieved significant research funding success, and has been awarded grants to undertake collaborative research in the areas of pregnancy, gynecology and reproductive health, including six National Health and Medical Research Council Project grants worth over $3.4 million.  

Caroline has published over 200 papers in high impact journals including The Lancet and many significant and highly cited Cochrane Reviews, which are internationally recognised as the highest standard in evidence-based health care.  She has over 5,177 citations and an impressive H index (a measurement of scientific performance) of 37. In 2015, she was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Excellence Award in Research and was highly commended in the category of Excellence in Postgraduate Training and Supervision. She has successfully supervised several Honours, Masters by Research and PhD students - some who are now leaders in the field themselves. Consecutively in 2019 and 2020, her professional standing as a global leader in her field of Alternative and Traditional Medicine was acclaimed by the League of Scholars and she ranked as Australia’s top researcher in Alternative and Traditional Medicine.  

Caroline has demonstrated outstanding leadership in her discipline and strong engagement with professional bodies and relevant boards. Utilising her expertise in developing partnerships, Professor Smith served the University as the inaugural Health and Wellbeing Theme Champion, guiding a new generation of researchers through the complex tasks of building external research partnerships and collaborations. Professor Smith served as the Dean of the Graduate Research School (Policy and Innovation) from June 2018 to February 2021. In this time she was responsible for developing and implementing policies relating to higher degree research training, including implementation of sector leading graduate research and supervisory training. Importantly, Professor Smith led the Graduate Research School during the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, implementing important innovations and reforms to guide the School through a highly turbulent and uncertain period.

Ceremony 14 – Thursday 28 April – 12 noon

Emeritus Professor MaryAnn Bin –Sallik AO

Emeritus Professor Bin –Sallik will deliver the Occasional Address and receive an Honorary Doctorate of Letters

Emeritus Professor MaryAnn Bin-Sallik AO is a Djaru Elder and an Australian academic, specialising in Indigenous studies and cultures. She has been a pioneer for Indigenous participation in higher education, and has greatly influenced education and equity policies for Indigenous Australians across the nation.

MaryAnn was born in Broome, Western Australia. Her mother was a proud Djaru woman from the Kimberley region, and her father, a Singapore Malay pearl diver. The family observed both Christian and Muslim traditions, and to this day Professor Bin-Sallik has a deep respect and affinity for her Muslim heritage. At age 9, her family moved to Darwin in the Northern Territory. On leaving school she trained as a nurse at Darwin Hospital, where she was the first Indigenous person to graduate in 1961. She then spent 17 years nursing in the Northern Territory.

Professor Bin-Sallik relinquished a successful nursing career to work in the first Indigenous higher education program in Australia, located in South Australia. She was the first Indigenous person to be employed full-time in the higher education sector in Australia in 1975, and the first to receive a Doctorate from Harvard University in 1989.  

Professor Bin-Sallik has been at the forefront of Indigenous higher education in this country and structured her career around overcoming the effects of social and political disadvantage of Indigenous Australians. She was pivotal in increasing the number of Indigenous enrolments in universities nationally and contributed to the development of Indigenous Studies as a multidisciplinary study inducing the development and incorporation of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing and doing.  

MaryAnn has received many accolades for her mentorship and work in communities. In 2008, she was appointed an Emeritus Professor of Charles Darwin University and in 2014 the Darwin Indigenous Community awarded her the NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2016, she was named National Female Elder of the Year during NAIDOC Week. She was also awarded a Centenary of Federation Medal for contributions to Indigenous higher education, and in the same year was awarded a Special Recognition Medal from the National Museum of Australia for her contributions to the Museum in the 1980s. In 2017, Professor Bin-Sallik was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from her alma mater, the University of South Australia, and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for her distinguished service to tertiary education as an academic, author, and administrator, particularly in the area of Indigenous studies and culture, and as a role model and mentor.  

MaryAnn is also a published author, having followed the journeys of 13 high-achieving Indigenous women and recording their stories in her book Aboriginal Women by Degrees: Their stories of the journey towards academic achievement.

Professor Bin-Sallik’s relationship with Western Sydney University began when she came out of semi-retirement to take up the position of Pro Vice-Chancellor, Indigenous Leadership, from 1 July – 31 December 2015. In 2016, she was appointed to the University’s Board of Trustees, where she served until 31 December 2021.

Ceremony 15 – Thursday 28 April – 2:30 pm

Christine Cawsey AM

Principal, Rooty Hill High School

Christine will deliver the Occasional Address

Christine Cawsey AM is the Principal of Rooty Hill High School and past president of the New South Wales Secondary Principals’ Council. She is a member of the Project Management Board for the Online Formative Assessment National Initiative, which is being led nationally by the Australian Education Senior Officers Committee on behalf of the Australian Government. Christine represents the profession in this innovative project designed to improve formative assessment, giving teachers and students access to online assessment and learning tools. In addition, she is a non-executive Director of The Smith Family, a member of the Teachers Mutual Bank Educational Advisory Committee, as well as a former Director and now life member of the Giants AFL football club.

Christine lives and works in Western Sydney, giving her a strong perspective on equity and social justice in ensuring access to opportunities. She has been recognised by professional associations and universities for her many achievements, including her work in influencing systems change, for her powerful presentations on key educational themes, for her leadership in the success of Rooty Hill High School and in professional networks across Australia, and for her capacity to bring business, not-for-profits and school leaders together in partnering to benefit students.

In 2012, Christine was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in recognition of her work as an educator and principal in Western Sydney. She has a Bachelor of Education from Macquarie University and a Master of Educational Administration from Western Sydney University.

Ceremony 16 – Thursday 28 April – 5:00 PM

John Siemon

Director Horticulture, Australian Institute of Botanical Science, Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust

John will deliver the Occasional Address

John Siemon is Director of Horticulture for the Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust in Greater Sydney. Before commencing in this role in 2020, John was Curator Manager of the Australian Botanic Garden at Mount Annan. Currently, he oversees horticulture and science projects not only at Mount Annan but also at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney and the Blue Mountains Garden Mount Tomah. Collectively, these green spaces house more than 17,000 plant species from across the world.  

John helped establish the Australian PlantBank - a national repository for native plant seeds at Mount Annan. This is also where the National Herbarium of New South Wales – a collection of more than one million plant specimens – recently opened in a brand-new facility, whose design is inspired by the waratah seed pod.

A lifelong green thumb, John fell in love with plants while growing up in Brisbane with parents who were keen gardeners.

Ceremony 17 – Friday 29 April – 9:30 am

Peter Leonard

Principal, Data Synergies Pty Limited

Peter will deliver the Occasional Address

Peter Leonard is the Principal of Data Synergies, a business and legal consultancy organisation. As a data and technology business consultant and lawyer, Peter focuses on business transactions with significant data, regulatory and cross-border complexities. He often advises boards, law firms, business consultancies and in-house counsel to plan, structure and manage multi-party data ecosystems, complex data and Artificial Intelligence-driven deals and projects.

Peter was a founding partner of Gilbert and Tobin and still assists the law firm as a consultant. He is also a Professor of Practice across the Schools of Management and Governance, and Information Systems and Technology Management, within the University of NSW Sydney Business School.  

Peter is a business-sector member of the New South Wales Government’s Information and Privacy Advisory Committee – a statutory advisory body that provides the government with information, advice and training on best practice models for information and privacy management practices. He is also a member of the Australian Computer Society’s Artificial Intelligence Ethics Committee.

Ceremony 18 – Friday 29 April – 12 noon

Khalil Hafza

Managing Director, Binah Group

Khalil will deliver the Occasional Address

As a Liverpool local, Khalil Hafza has profound personal connections with his community. His deep understanding of the people of south-western Sydney started during his time studying engineering at Western Sydney University, and developed further when he co-founded Unity Grammar College and the highly regarded construction company, Binah. Binah has delivered some of the most iconic structures that have changed the face of Liverpool, including Western Sydney University’s campus in the Liverpool CBD.

Putting steel, timber and concrete aside for a moment, Khalil’s love of construction is also entwined with a strong desire to give back to his community. He firmly believes that building communities empowers people. His hands-on approach, authenticity, work ethic and commitment to outstanding results have led to his success as a construction industry entrepreneur, as well as the remarkable growth of the Binah and the Liverpool community.

Today, Khalil joins us to help inspire, celebrate, and guide you as you prepare to embark on your careers in this dynamic and rewarding industry.

Ceremony 19 – Friday 29 April – 2:30 pm

Professor Robert Gordon Whittaker AM

Principal, Holdom Whittaker and Adjunct Professor, University of Canberra and Western Sydney University.

Professor Whittaker will deliver the Occasional Address

Professor Robert Whittaker is a leader in the building profession, having played a prominent role in raising professional standards in New South Wales and Australia. He is a Chartered Builder and Principal of Holdom Whittaker, a consulting firm for builders, building surveyors and engineers.

As a construction professional, Professor Whittaker has expertise in development, design, delivery and life-cycle management of special-purpose, residential and commercial projects. In 2014, he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for his contribution to the building and construction industry as a leader and educator. He is also a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Building, the Royal Society of New South Wales, and the Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors.

In 2020, Robert was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Construction Management by Central Queensland University. He is an Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University and the University of Canberra, and a Professor of Practice at the University of Newcastle.

Ceremony 20 – Friday 29 April – 5:00 pm

Simon Pagett

Head of Urban Transformation Division, NSW Infrastructure

Simon will deliver the Occasional Address

As Head of Infrastructure NSW’s Urban Transformation Division, Simon Pagett oversees the delivery of major urban renewal projects. He joined what was then UrbanGrowth NSW in 2014 before its functions transferred to Infrastructure NSW in 2019. Simon has decades of experience in building and leading teams as part of managing a diverse portfolio of complex, large-scale infrastructure and urban renewal projects.

Before taking on his high-level government position at Infrastructure NSW, he had a long history of working for Lendlease, where his senior roles included General Manager of Development with the Retirement Living and Aged Care division, and as Chief Operating Officer of Lendlease Residential.

Simon has also helped manage several high-profile infrastructure projects, including Brisbane’s new International Airport Terminal and the Sydney 2000 Olympic Village at Homebush. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil Engineering) from the University of New South Wales and is a licensed real estate agent.

Ceremony 21 – Saturday 30 April – 9:30 am

Fay Calderone

Partner, Hall & Wilcox

Fay will deliver the Occasional Address

Fay Calderone is a Partner at the independent law firm, Hall and Wilcox. For the past 20 years, she has acted for employers across a range of industries, including professional services, manufacturing, sport, health, aged care, community services and local government.

As a specialist on workplace matters, Fay provides advice and guidance on proactive compliance, change management and restructuring, discrimination, bullying, harassment, misconduct investigations, performance management, enterprise agreements and industrial disputes. She is also a recognised expert and spokesperson on employment issues, regularly speaking at events and conferences. Fay also mentors young lawyers and emerging leaders in law.

Fay was named among the 2021 Top 50 Leading Women in Law by Australasian Lawyer, was a finalist for Lawyers Weekly’s 2021 Wellness Advocate of the Year, and is recognised as a Labour and Employment Law specialist in the peer-review publication Best Lawyers. In 2019, she was highly commended in the NSW Women Lawyers Achievement Awards as Woman Lawyer of the Year.

Ceremony 22 – Saturday 30 April – 12:00 pm

Elfa Moraitakis

Chief Executive Officer, SydWest Multicultural Services

Elfa will deliver the Occasional Address

Elfa Moraitakis is the Chief Executive Officer of SydWest Multicultural Services. She is also a Director of Settlement Services International and a Director of the NSW Council of Social Service and the NSW Council on the Ageing.

Elfa has been engaged in the multicultural services sector for 30 years and is passionate about serving communities from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. In 2017, she was named Blacktown Woman of the Year for her work in supporting women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to establish businesses. In further recognition of her work, she was nominated for the 2022 Pro Bono Impact 25 awards.

Elfa draws upon her vast networks to help make a difference. She championed Western Sydney during the COVID-19 lockdowns, with a focus on engaging with community to raise awareness and help relay vital government messages to people of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. As an advocate for equal access and equity, she works tirelessly to address the needs of Western Sydney communities.

Elfa has a degree in Sociology and Modern Greek (Honours) and is passionate about her Greek heritage as well as being of service to her community.

Ceremony 23 – Saturday 30 April – 2:30 pm

Patricia Hall OAM

Chief Executive Officer, Liverpool Neighbourhood Connections

Patricia will deliver the Occasional Address

Patricia Hall is the Chief Executive Officer of Liverpool Neighbourhood Connections. In this role she oversees more than 60 programs a week that aim to reduce poverty and social exclusion. These programs are accessed by thousands of clients and volunteers each year.

She has worked with the Sydney Community Foundation and its Sydney Women’s Fund philanthropy community to expand a single social-enterprise cafe into seven profit-for-purpose businesses. As a part of this work, she pioneered the Place-Based Community Development Program, and with support from the Sydney Women’s Fund, changed the lives of community members. As an extension of this program, Pat developed an innovative employment scholarship initiative to ensure the long-term sustainability of the social enterprises.

In 2020, Pat won Western Sydney University’s Women of the West (Business) Award. In 2018, she was the recipient of the Westfield’s Local Heroes Award and the Zest Award for Outstanding Leadership and in 2019 was inducted into the Zest Hall of Fame. This year, she was awarded a Medal in the Order of Australia for her services to the Liverpool community.

Ceremony 24 – Saturday 30 April – 5:00 pm

Margo Ward

CEO & Founder, KidsXpress

Margo will deliver the Occasional Address

Margo Ward is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of KidsXpress – a children’s mental health organisation supporting children who face adversity and trauma. While working as Head of Play Therapy at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Margo saw the chance to develop a world-first model, focused on addressing childhood trauma that would ultimately aim to prevent suicide later in life. This experience, coupled with her own childhood adversity through chronic illness, has seen Margo dedicate her life to supporting those more vulnerable in our society.

In 2005, she transitioned from therapist to businesswoman, with investors supporting her vision to create an evidence-based early intervention program providing expressive therapies that combined music, art, drama and play. From this, KidsXpress was born. In 2011, Margo was awarded a scholarship to attend Stanford University’s executive leadership program, which helped underpin the organisation’s expansion plans. She was also a finalist in the 2014 Australian Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards.


24 April 2022

Media Unit

Main Photo Credit: Sally Tsoutas