2022 recipients

The annual Alumni Awards celebrates the achievements of our alumni and honours their contribution to local, national and global communities.

Alumni Achievement Awards

Suhanya Raffel (BA ‘85, Grad Dip Museum Stud ‘86)
Winner of the Alumni Achievement Award for Cultural Contribution
Museum Director at M+

Suhanya has over 30 years of experience as a museum curator and leader. She was previously Deputy Director of the Art Gallery of NSW, where she was responsible for all curatorial areas including Australian and international art. She also worked on the AGNSW’s expansion project with the architecture firm Sejima and Nishizawa and Associates (SANAA.)

She was at the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane until 2013, where she held many senior curatorial positions, including Deputy Director of curatorial and collection development from 2010 and Acting Director in 2012. She was instrumental in building its contemporary Asia Pacific collection and led the museum’s international position through major curatorial projects such as the Andy Warhol exhibition (2007–2008), The China Project (2009), Surrealism: Poetry of dreams (2011), Matisse : Drawing life (2011) and Portrait of Spain : Masterpieces from the Prado (2012).

Suhanya is currently Museum Director at M+ Hong Kong at the West Kowloon District. M+ is a major new museum of modern and contemporary visual culture designed by the eminent Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron and opened to the public in November 2021. Suhanya has delivered a construction program while building an eminent team of museum professionals as well as establishing unique founding collections. She leads M+ as a whole and oversees all museum activities, including acquisitions, programming, collections care, development, research, institutional collaborations, and museum operations. Since joining M+, she has led the museum’s mission, broadening its international reach and championing its deep connection with its local community.

Suhanya is on the Board of CIMAM, the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art. She is also a member of the Bizot Group. She is a Trustee of the Geoffrey Bawa Trust and the Lunuganga Trust, Sri Lanka since 1994.

Previously, she was a member of the Asian Art Council at the Guggenheim Museum, New York and served on the boards of the Australia–China Council, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Canberra and the Griffith University Asia Institute, Brisbane and LendLease Public Art Advisory Committee.

Suhanya was awarded the 2020 Republic of France Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Adam Jacobs (BA ‘07, BCom ‘07)
Winner of the Alumni Achievement Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Co-founder and Advisor of The Iconic

Adam started his career in strategy consulting at Boston Consulting Group and PricewaterhouseCoopers both in Sydney and Copenhagen. He worked with several major retail, media and consumer clients on their growth strategies before founding The Iconic in 2011. The Iconic was founded on the premise of customer experience leadership and the power of diverse, high-performing teams. It is now one of the largest online fashion retailers in Australia and has won multiple awards.

Adam’s goal is to create technology companies that help shape positive values-based societies, instead of creating social anxiety and isolation. He imagines a future where work connects our strengths and sense of purpose, so we can contribute against the values we care most about.

In 2017, Adam co-founded Hatch to connect university students to meaningful paid work while they studied. In 2020, when COVID-19 upturned society with skyrocketing unemployment, Adam responded by repurposing Hatch’s matching technology to launch The Hatch Exchange - rapidly redeploying thousands of Covid-19-impacted workers into new parts of the economy using their transferable skills and interests. The Hatch Exchange has assisted over 150 Australian businesses in employing over 10,000 stood-down staff.

Adam was awarded the 2018 Westpac Top 20 Business of Tomorrow for his work on Hatch and the 2014 Young Executive.

Niny Borges (LLB ‘00)
Winner of the Alumni Achievement Award for International Achievement
Vice President, Global Head of Legal at Upstream and Equinor

Niny played an integral role on the Timor-Leste legal team negotiating the Timor Sea Treaty with the Australian Government, resulting in the lion’s share of the natural resources going to Timor-Leste. She was also part of the Timorese diaspora in Australia, who returned to Timor-Leste to help efforts as the country neared Independence. She spent seven years advising the Timor-Leste Prime Minister and Minister for Natural Resources on petroleum-related matters, drafting petroleum legislation and contracts, serving on the Executive of the Timor Sea Designated Authority and, managing the Joint Petroleum Development Area.

Niny then joined the Norwegian state oil company, Statoil, where she became Chief Counsel for Sustainability and Global Head of Legal for New Energy Solutions. She was in this role at a defining period when Statoil was transitioning from a petroleum company to Equinor, a forward-looking energy company, with significant renewable energy and emerging technology interests.

Niny is currently a member of the executive management team responsible for the international upstream sector which is looking at innovative solutions to drive Equinor to accelerate the energy transition in accordance with the Paris Agreement. She is also a Director for the International Association of Energy Negotiators. 

Dr David Skellern AO (BSc ‘72, BE(Elec) ‘74)
Winner of the Alumni Award for Professional Achievement
CEO of National ICT Australia

Dr David Skellern is an Australian electronic engineer and computer scientist with a doctorate on radioastronomy instrumentation. Along with colleagues he is credited for the first chip-set implementation of the IEEE 802.11a wireless networking standard. This innovation revolutionised world communications, allowing high-speed wireless communications. Throughout his career, David has been motivated by the desire to see science and engineering used for the good of humanity. He has always been generous with his knowledge and is a master of collaboration, bringing together the industry, education and research sectors.

In 1997 David co-founded Radiata, a company engaged in the commercial development of WLAN communications. The company demonstrated the world’s first chip-set implementation of High-Speed WLAN, based on the research Skellern conducted with Neil Weste in the 1990s at Macquarie University. Radiata was sold to Cisco Systems in 2001 for $565 million.

David has devoted the majority of his professional life to education and research in public institutions. After time as a researcher and lecturer at the University of Sydney, he was appointed Professor at Macquarie University, where he founded the Department of Electronics, and it was there where he collaborated with CSIRO to develop high-speed WiFi. After seeing through the commercialisation of WiFi, he was appointed as a director of the National Institute of Communication Technology, Australia, which became known as NICTA. David then spent some years as CEO of NICTA before going on to become the chairman of the Capital Markets Cooperative Research Centre, now called the RoZetta Institute. He continues in the position today.

Dr Skellern was appointed to the Order of Australia in 2012 and awarded the 2017 IEEE Masaru Ibuka Consumer Electronics Award (with John O’Sullivan) "for pioneering contributions to high-speed wireless LAN technology”.

David has given years of service on the selection committees of the ARC and CRC grants. He has worked on international standards boards and professional bodies such as the IEEE. He has served on academic advisory committees at several universities and has been on countless not-for-profit boards and is currently Chairman of CSIRO’s Australia Telescope Steering Committee.

Jane Sloane (MA ‘02)
Winner of the Alumni Award for Service to Humanity
Senior Director, Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality at The Asia Foundation

Jane Sloane has spent the last 20 years working to advance women’s and girls’ human rights globally. In her role as Senior Director, Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality, Jane devised a new program called Accelerate Women’s Entrepreneurship, designed to support one million women entrepreneurs in Asia to gain the support they need to break free of violence and have the economic security.

Jane’s focus has including working to help women in Bangladesh end child marriage in their communities, women in Timor-Leste to have access to finance and opportunities that allowed them to leave domestic violence situations, and women in Laos to create an artisan renaissance in their village and bring back girls who were trafficked to Thailand.

In her current role, Jane developed a program for The Asia Foundation focused on advancing the women, peace and security agenda in Asia to support women being at the front line of helping broker peace agreements and countering violent extremism. In addition, Jane’s work has help support Asian women’s leadership on food, water, land and energy security and connecting women leaders to key forums where they can advocate for gender inclusive approaches to climate governance and financing.

Jane is continually writing, speaking, and advocating for women’s and girls’ empowerment and her prodigious social media engagement is testimony to how she lives and breathes this fierce commitment to advocating for women’s and girls’ human rights.

Recognising the gendered impacts of climate change, Jane works with governments in Asia to ensure gender inclusive approaches to policies addressing climate change and disaster risk management and demonstrating the potential for green jobs for women. She also works to ensure young women studying STEM have access to mentors and experiences to encourage them to learn about green design, construction, waste management, and gender inclusive approaches to AI and coding.

In 2012 Jane was awarded an Advance Global Ambassadors Award for work with women and girls. In 2013 Jane was recognised in the Australian Financial Review 100 Women of Influence Awards and was also awarded Atlantic Fellowship by the Inequalities Institute, London School of Economics to become a global fellow in 2017.

Dr Nicole Seebacher (BSc ‘09, BSc(Hons) ‘11, PhD ‘15, MD ‘20)
Winner of the Outstanding Achievements of Young Alumni Award
Resident Medical Officer at Royal North Shore Hospital

At 32 years old, Nicole Seebacher MD PhD is an extraordinary and outstandingly promising cancer researcher and doctor currently studying at the University of Oxford. Over the last 12 years, her research has focused on developing novel agents targeting drug-resistant cancers, those that are the most aggressive and hard-to-treat manifestations. Her innovation, creativity and dogged persistence have contributed to current clinical trials of a new drug for treating advanced cancer patients in Australian hospitals.

Nicole’s research contributions are internationally recognised. Since starting research, she has received 31 awards and over $120,000 in scholarships and prizes. She has authored 22 research publications in high impact journals, including Nature and the British Journal of Pharmacology. She has received over 1,000 citations and has presented her work at over 40 national and international cancer conferences. Nicole also authored the Senate submission “Gender segregation in the workplace and its impact on women’s economic equality” (Parliament of Australia, 2017), and the gender policy “Gender Equity in Medical Specialties.

In addition to her research, Nicole has worked full-time as a ward doctor caring for COVID-19 patients since 2020. She has also held numerous leadership positions, including the Graduate Studies Committee of the USYD Academic Board, Non-Executive Board Director of the Australian Medical Students Association, and a Council member of SUPRA.

Nicole was a NSW finalist for the 2019 Young Australian of the Year for her remarkable contributions to science and the community. In 2018, Nicole made the prestigious 2018 Forbes Asia 30 Under 30 list. In 2017, she was the NSW Young Woman of the Year, receiving this recognition for her continuing voluntary work as a mentor for Aboriginal students.

Nicole has already made significant contributions to the Australian community and is an inspiring role model for young Australian women.

Graduate Medals

Olivia Morris (BEc’ 19, LLB ‘21)
Winner of the Convocation Medal

Olivia is passionate about gender equality, the evolving media environment, and public interest litigation. Her varied experience includes co-founding a national online student-run publication, Et Cetera, and volunteering for Teach Us Consent, where she contributed to Chanel Contos’ work to change consent law in NSW. Olivia is currently a Lawyer in Allens’ disputes and investigations team after starting at the firm in 2018 as a paralegal.

Katie Moore (MBA ‘21)
Winner of the Postgraduate Leadership Medal

Katie Moore is passionate about creating change for the equitable justice of people and communities often not seen or heard and not effectively considered in policies and economic structures. In her various roles, she addresses social, economic and environmental justice through place-based projects and service provision organisations to influence societal transformations. She proudly identifies with her Aboriginal heritage of the Wiradyuri people in Central NSW and lives on Darug land in Western Sydney.

Vimallan Manokara (PhD ‘21)
Winner of the John C Harsanyi Medal

Dr Vimallan Manokara is the Head of the MINDS (Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore) Institute, driving applied research and innovation in disability services. Dr Manokara completed his PhD in the development of a framework for sustainable employment for persons with disabilities. Since then, he has led the establishment of a Special Interest Research Group on Employment and worked collaboratively with various government agencies to drive research and innovation across the disability sector in Singapore.

William Ryan (BCom ‘13, MMgt ‘21)
Winner of the Nigel C Barker Medal

Will Ryan has been competing as a sailor since he was 13 years old and currently holds the #1 World Ranking in the 470 Class. Will represented Australia and won a Silver Medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics, then a Gold Medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He is an active contributor to the sailing community and regularly participates in community and fundraising initiatives.

Nikki-Anne Wilson (PhD ‘21)
Winner of the Rita and John Cornforth Medal

Dr Nikki-Anne Wilson’s contribution to the field of dementia research has been recognised by multiple first-author papers in high-impact journals, a co-authored publication and 15 international and local presentations at conferences and symposia. Nikki-Anne’s contribution to the academic community is equalled by her extensive science outreach as an in-demand speaker and mentor.

Michael Mossman (PhD ‘21)
Winner of the Sister Alison Bush Medal

Michael Mossman’s growing reputation and impact on both academia and the architecture profession is a credit to his advocacy of First Nations concerns in the designed environment. He has delivered successful and award-winning architectural projects during his long-standing appointment with the NSW Government Architect, and in 2020 was appointed Associate Dean Indigenous in the University of Sydney’s School of Architecture.