Achievers: F-H

Alan Finkel

Another year, another 12 months of entertaining addresses, erudite advocacy and astute ideas from the Chief Scientist. Dr Finkel is a paragon of policy, with a clear sense of what the nation needs to do in science and the intellectual fire power to make the policies he believes in matter. He is also a great communicator who sets out to the science community how to bring the community with them. Did CMM mention he is a fan?

Dawn Freshwater

Professor Freshwater was announced as vice chancellor of UWA at a tricky time back in January. The success of the restructure she had designed as DVC and with enterprise bargaining imminent staff were restless. But at year’s end peace prevails – the new restructure appears bedded down and the university reached an enterprise agreement with the union. Professor Freshwater now has clean air in her sails.

Margaret Gardner

Monash U’s VC was a fierce advocate for her huge institution but kept a low-ish profile before becoming chair of Universities Australia in May. Since then she has strongly represented all universities in what was a tough six months.

She spoke for all universities in accepting the Human Rights Commission report on sexual assault and harassment on campuses and rejected in detail the government’s proposed funding cuts. But overall, she sought to take control of budget battles by re-casting the debate on what universities exist to do and how they should meet the needs of Australia in the new century.

“It is our mission to seek to define the future, not just for our universities but for that better future to which university education and research is committed; that is our goal. It is the big challenges, the big questions, and the bold goals that should be the focus of a university system on whose strength Australia can rely,” she said in August

John Gilroy

The University of Sydney academic researches disability as it effects Indigenous Australians and is a member of a team that has just won an NHMRC grant to look at culturally legitimate ways to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders recover from traumatic brain injury. It is part of the Yuin (southcoast NSW) man’s broader work on how western medicine and support services can meet the specific disability needs of Indigenous Australians.

Jenny Graves

Professor Graves is the present holder of the prime minister’s prize for science, the first La Trobe University staffer to win the peak award. Following this LT U made her a VC’s fellow. She will continue her work on integrating genomics into animal biology, ecology and conservation.

Greg Hill

The University of the Sunshine Coast VC continues his plan for world-domination one campus at a time. First there was a new USC campus at Gympie, then he picked up USQ Hervey Bay centre followed by a new facility being built at Petrie in Brisbane’s far-north and this year USC took over QUT’s Caboolture facility, not to mention teaching medical science near the flash new Sunshine Coast University Hospital. Professor Hill is also chair of the Regional Universities Network, in which role he is consistent in calling for more resources for his members.

Peter Hoj

The University of Queensland VC and outgoing chair of the Group of Eight need never worry people do not know what he thinks. He has fronted the university’s big build, explaining the benefits it will bring to Brisbane. He has suggested that federal funding cuts could force universities to enrol a higher percentage of international students to fund infrastructure.  And he has warned that the government’s funding proposals could, “give away a national competitive advantage, and weaken the country’s economic resilience in the face of undesirable – but not unthinkable – global jolts. He is also leading a university that is becoming a research power-house, the only institution which could catch UniMelb on the top of the most credible rankings.

Jane den Hollander

If education is Geelong’s best chance of a new-economy base to replace manufacturing then the Deakin U VC is central to the solution. Professor den Hollander runs a tight operation, the university grows stronger on research and has an admirable focus on preparing its students for employment. While all VCs talk about gender equity in pay she has done something about it, investigating D U’s own pay practises and requiring executive staff to learn how to identify their own unconscious biases. And when nobody wanted to take-over the campus at Warrnambool she wanted to offload for want of students, she promised to have another go at making it work, which she is now doing. Deakin also rated number one in the world in the ARWU 2016 and ’17 sports science rankings – which CMM thinks is the first time any Australian university outside the Group of Eight has had global number ones on a major discipline league table.

Edward Holmes

Powerful people queued up to honour the University of Sydney evolutionary biologist this year. The Royal Society made him a foreign fellow. In June, the Australian Research Council conferred a laureate fellowship, with $3.4m for research and in October he won the NSW Premier’s Science and Engineering award for biological science. There’s probably a dukedom somewhere that CMM has missed.


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