Australia Day honours science

Six of the seven new Companions of the Order of Australia are researchers or science governance experts

Top awards this year go to James Dale (QUT), Alan Finkel (former Commonwealth chief scientist and present advisor to government on green energy), Jennifer Graves (La Trobe U), Ary Hoffmann (Uni Melbourne), Graeme Moad (CSIRO), Helen Nugent, (chair National Disability Insurance Agency and director Garvan Institute). (Sports administrator and philanthropist John Wylie is the seventh).

CMM faves include

Professor Dale who has worked for decades to keep Africa alive by developing disease-resistant bananas. The fruit is a kilo per day diet staple for people in Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania

Dr Finkel was endlessly energetic as chief scientist, advising on policy, advocating for research, keeping science on the national agenda. He has kept it up since standing down – plus returning to his roots as scientific equipment entrepreneur. At the scary start of the pandemic in 2020, he led the Commonwealth’s Ventilator Taskforce charged with manufacturing the 5000 respiratory units then expected to be imminently and urgently required.

Professor Graves won the PM’s prize for science in 2017 for her career achievements using genetics in conservation and studying marsupials and monotremes, birds and lizards to understand the human genome. Her AC adds to what she hoped the PM Prize could help her accomplish, “it will really help me push my message that science is interesting and important … and perhaps push the idea that women can do science too,”