Our alumni are changing the world. From advocating for Indigenous rights to finding new ways to fight cancer, their impact is felt worldwide. The annual Alumni Awards, commend and honour the achievements of these changemakers, celebrating established alumni and those at the beginning of their journey.
Here, some of this year’s winners share stories of how their time at University shaped their lives and why we should think differently about what leadership truly means.
Growing up in Asia, North America and Australia, Patrick Grove always dreamed of starting a business and working across the globe. His determination and focus made his dream a reality, and after graduation, Grove moved to Asia to and co-founded the Catcha Group.
Today, the Catcha Group is an international Internet group and one of the largest investors in the digital sector in emerging markets, notably ASEAN.
“My time at University helped me build the partnerships and friendships that were instrumental to my entrepreneurial success,” Grove says. “My business partner I have to this day, is someone that I met at the University of Sydney.
“My advice to current students would be ‘Try everything once, find out what you are passionate about and then double down on that’. Life is not just about making money and living a comfortable life. If you can work in an industry that you love, your work can also become your passion.”
“Leadership to me is the ability to aspire and create something great and meaningful.”
Madii Himbury works where she’s needed. She is a mentor and coach in elite skiing, school skiing and gymnastics, and designed and implemented Inspire mentoring, a young athlete mentoring program. She is currently training towards selection in the 2022 Australian Winter Olympics Team. Then, in her spare time, she is a dedicated outpatient volunteer at St Vincent’s Hospital.
One of her biggest passions though, is mental health. A compassionate advocate, she speaks openly about her personal struggles with mental health in sport through the podcast Heart on My Sleeve and hopes to drive change in how support is offered to athletes.
“Leadership to me is motivating and encouraging others to follow behaviours that will benefit the growth of a community,” Himbury says.
“The University of Sydney taught me I was worthy. When losing self-esteem through the struggles of mental illness, the University never doubted my potential and continued to support me, which helped me to develop excellent resilience. This confidence will help me to overcome life’s future adversities.”
Leadership to me is motivating and encouraging others to follow behaviours that will benefit the growth of a community
As she works to improve outcomes in the fight against cancer, Professor Wendy Erber feels passionately about making a difference.
“Leadership to me is supporting, influencing and enabling others to be and do the best they can.”
Her focus is on finding new approaches to improve leukaemia diagnostics, and in 2018, Erber and her team invented a sophisticated method of rapid and automated leukaemia detection named immuno-flowFISH. In that same year, the technology was awarded the Australian Museum ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology and the Research Innovation and Enterprise Award. In 2019, Professor Erber was a finalist for Western Australia’s Scientist of the Year, Premier’s Science Awards.
Remembering her time at the University of Sydney fondly, Erber believes it allowed her to build the foundations for the remarkable career she has today where she is renowned for her haematology knowledge, inspiring teaching and strong mentorship and supervision.
“University life has much more to offer than the acquisition of knowledge,” she says. “When you leave University, you will take away more than a degree. You don’t know your limit or what you can achieve unless you try.”
"My blue award in Hockey was critical in my time at the University of Sydney; not only did it keep me balanced during my studies, but, without this sporting success, I would not have gone on to become the first female Rhodes Scholar from NSW."
Dr Gary Fry is an Aboriginal man descended from the Dagoman tribe in the Northern Territory (NT) and he completed a PhD study of remote Aboriginal education, the first of its kind in the NT and Australia. Fry is the first and only member of his family and extended aboriginal families, to have received a PhD, and feels strongly about the importance of education.
“Studying at the University of Sydney gave me a huge confidence boost when completing my PhD and doubly so that others have recognised and rewarded my Aboriginal voice,” says Fry. “I have learnt to be true and very close to my Aboriginality and use this to benefit the broader community and our collective futures.”
Dr Fry’s research contributes a new understanding of why and how indigeneity can improve the performance of remote Aboriginal children in the education system of the Northern Territory. His research uses the voices of those impacted by education policy and colonisation.
“Leadership can mean many things, but mostly I think it’s about standing up and having your voice counted in the pursuit of progressive change. It means being courageous and avoiding cookie-cutter research.”
Leadership can mean many things, but mostly I think it’s about standing up and having your voice counted in the pursuit of progressive change.