Alumni Award recipients and representatives with Vice-Chancellor, Professor Deborah Terry
Alumni Award recipients and representatives with Vice-Chancellor, Professor Deborah Terry


Former West Coast Eagles premiership coach and player, John Worsfold, is among the 14 recipients of the inaugural Curtin University Alumni Awards, which were presented at a special awards ceremony last month.

The Awards recognise Curtin graduates for the significant and valuable contributions they make to society. These contributions could be in the local, national or international communities they support, personal achievements or success in their professions.

Curtin Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry said the Awards embrace Curtin’s mission to change minds, lives and the world through leadership, innovation and excellence.

“Curtin graduates are passionate and enthusiastic about changing lives for the better and it is this passion that lends itself to success,” Professor Terry said.

“The Curtin Alumni Awards demonstrate that our graduates have a chance to be a beacon for positive change.

“Curtin has a strong commitment to developing and strengthening links with the international community and the Awards also demonstrate the calibre of Curtin’s international alumni network, with a number of recipients achieving great success in their chosen fields around the globe.”

Award Winners And Categories

Young Alumni Medal
The Young Alumni Medal recognises Curtin graduates, 30 years of age or younger, who at an early stage are excelling in their chosen career and making significant contributions to society and their community.

Pooja Maru
Pooja graduated from Curtin with a Bachelor of Pharmacy in 2007, and is currently part way through completing her Master of Business and Administration at Curtin. Pooja became managing partner of Craven’s Pharmacy in 2012 at the age of 27. She has been instrumental in setting up mental health services in the pharmacy, developing a supportive, non-judgmental platform for mental health patients, their case workers and their doctors.

Kyle De Souza
Kyle De Souza graduated from Curtin University’s Western Australian School of Mines in 2008 with a Bachelor of Mining Engineering. Kyle has given his time, skills and earnings selflessly and tirelessly to bring education to African communities. In 2011, he went to Kenya to help at an orphanage in Nairobi, and on returning to Australia five months later, set up the not-for-profit organisation Ewangan Inc ( to give the children of Maasai cattle herders desperately needed access to education in remote areas.

Distinguished International Alumni Award
This award category recognises up to four alumni situated overseas. They will have demonstrated innovation not only on a business level but throughout their international community.

Selection Panel’s International Award recipient

Netty Muharni
Netty Muharni was among the 10 per cent of her community to survive the 2004 Tsunami, but tragically, her family were lost in the disaster. In the post-disaster chaos of uncoordinated relief efforts, she became determined to learn how communities like hers could be better protected from future disasters. At her sister’s suggestion, she applied for and won an Australia Awards scholarship to study a Master of Urban and Regional Planning at Curtin.

Alumni Community Achievement Award
The Alumni Community Achievement Awards recognises Curtin alumni who have personally given time to contribute to society on either a national or international level. Curtin highly values community engagement and helping others in need.

Kristy Tomlinson
Kristy Tomlinson has a Bachelor of Science (Human Communication Studies) from Curtin and is currently completing her Master of Philosophy (International Health) at Curtin. Kristy’s ambition is to use her studies to achieve optimal health and wellbeing outcomes for minority groups, enabling them to be advocates for their own health needs, and to become the best possible versions of themselves.

Distinguished Australian Alumni Award
The Distinguished Australian Alumni Award category is presented to an individual based on their community engagement, innovation, entrepreneurship, international engagement and/or overall career achievements.

John Worsfold
John was selected as an inaugural squad member of the West Coast Eagles in 1986, the same year in which he commenced his Bachelor of Pharmacy degree at Curtin. In addition to his legendary AFL career, John Worsfold has a highly impressive array of contributions to society; this includes being an ambassador to the Shane Warne Foundation and the Australia Day Council. He has also been an active supporter of charities such as Channel 7’s Telethon, the Cancer Council and the SAS Resources Trust.

Dr Davina Porock
Dr Davina Porock holds a Master of Science (Nursing Science) from Curtin, and since graduating, has gone on to become one of the world’s most esteemed international experts in person centred end of life care and a leading researcher in the care of people with dementia.

Marianne de Pierres
Since completing her Bachelor of Arts (English) at Curtin, Marianne de Pierres has had a very successful writing career, publishing several novels and short stories, and her work has been translated into nine languages. Marianne has shaped perceptions of who and what a female Australian writer can be and achieve. She has challenged traditions by writing across genres and defied stereotyping by telling her stories on multiple platforms.

Bill Beament
Bill Beament holds a Bachelor of Engineering from Curtin and attended the Curtin University Western Australia School of Mines in Kalgoorlie. He is currently the Managing Director of ASX-listed goldminer Northern Star Resources. Bill turned Northern Star Resources from a two-cents a share company with a market capitalisation of $1 million with several employees, to nearly $800 million market capitalisation, well over a dollar-a-share company and approximately 600 employees in just three and a half years.

Dr Sue van Leeuwen
Dr Sue van Leeuwen holds a Doctor of Business Administration and a Bachelor degree in Applied Science from Curtin. Sue is an experienced Executive Director, Non-Executive Director and Community Leader. She is a mentor and role model of ethical and values-led leadership and was instrumental in establishing Community Leadership Australia – a national network of leadership organisations with a vision to create more sustainable and resilient communities.

Inspiring Alumnus Award
This is the Selection Panel’s award for a very inspiring individual. This alumnus is an individual who has overcome many hurdles to contribute significantly to their local and global community.

Riyadh Al Hakimi
Riyadh Al Hakimi arrived as a refugee with his family in Australia in 1995, aged 17, after spending five years of his life in a refugee camp on the border of Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Despite the personal challenges that he and his family have faced, Riyadh has completed a Bachelor of Arts and Master of International Relations at Curtin.

Sarah Marley
Sarah Marley

Three Minute Thesis Champion

Curtin University PhD student Sarah Marley was crowned 2014 Three Minute Thesis (3MT) champion at the Trans-Tasman final in Perth.

The annual research communication competition challenges higher degree students by giving them just three minutes to deliver a compelling presentation on their thesis and its significance to a non-specialist audience.

The competition is held in two stages with participating universities holding their own heats and finals in September and October, and the winners advancing to compete in the Trans-Tasman Final in November.

Ms Marley, a first-year PhD student with the Centre for Marine Science and Technology at Curtin, won the event ahead of 47 other contestants from across Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Her thesis, Behavioural And Acoustic Responses Of Coastal Dolphins To Noisy Environments, investigates how coastal dolphins are responding to increasing levels of man-made noise in the ocean, which threatens to mask their means of communication.

Sarah said the 3MT competition had given her an excellent opportunity to share her fascination of the marine environment with other people.

“I think all scientists are excited by the opportunity to share their research, and it’s certainly a topic I enjoy talking about. I have worked with marine mammals for several years, but have only recently branched into marine acoustics.  It is fascinating to investigate the marine environment in the same way that whales and dolphins do – by sound, as well as vision.

“Winning the 3MT also marks a personal milestone as I used to struggle with public speaking. Four years ago, I couldn’t even present my research to a small group of friends without getting embarrassed and reading word-for-word from a script.  So to now enjoy presenting to this degree is something I am both amazed at and extremely proud of.”

Sarah said she is a firm believer in science communication, as there is no point doing research if no-one is going to be told about it.

“Previously there has been a strong focus on presenting research academically, through conference talks and journal articles,” she noted.  “But it is just as important to communicate research to the general public.
“Events like 3MT are an important way of not only training young researchers in important communication skills, but making it fun to do so.”

Sarah’s research supervisor, Dr Chandra Salgado Kent, said her student’s passion for her subject matter contributed to her achievement.

“Sarah has immersed herself in this interesting and fascinating research and this shone through in her presentation. I am certain that this achievement will see her put even more energy into her work and ensure a great outcome in the end,” Dr Salgado Kent said.

The inaugural 3MT competition was held at The University of Queensland (UQ) in 2008, with 160 higher degree students competing.

The concept was adopted by other Australian and New Zealand universities in 2009 and 2010, leading to the development of a multi-national event, and the staging of the inaugural Trans-Tasman 3MT competition in 2010.

Since 2011 the popularity of the competition has increased and 3MT competitions are now held in at least 170 universities across more than 17 countries worldwide.

Professor Michael Dockery_6feb12 fin
Professor Michael Dockery


A study for the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) at Curtin University has found that Australia’s higher education system appears to level the playing field in terms of academic achievement for students, regardless of their socio-economic status (SES) background.

The study, Socio-economic Status of Schools and University Academic Performance: Implications for Australia’s Higher Education Expansion by researchers Assistant Professor Ian Li from the School of Population Health at The University of Western Australia and Associate Professor Michael Dockery from Curtin’s NCSEHE, focuses on the role of schools’ SES in determining academic performance at university.

“We have found that students from less privileged schools performed better at university than their peers with equivalent entry scores from more privileged schools,” said Associate Professor Dockery.

“Our results show that increased participation by students from lower SES backgrounds is possible without compromising academic standards.”

“As students from low SES backgrounds are under-represented in higher education, their participation should be encouraged.”

The study’s sample population consisted of 8,417 first-year undergraduate students at an Australian university, from 183 schools.

The study showed that while prior academic achievement is found to be a strong determinant of university academic performance, a student’s personal SES background did not influence their university performance.

Another key finding of the study is that neither school sector, nor resources, impact on students’ academic scores.

“These findings imply that larger amounts of funding per student are not being translated into better outcomes at university, though there are probably variations in resources, such as teacher quality, that were not observable in the study,”  Assistant Professor Li said.

“One school effect that did impact upon university performance was that students from all-boys or all-girls schools did not perform as well as their counterparts who had attended a co-ed high school.”

“The study also found that female students strongly outperformed male students in their first year of university, and older students tended to achieve higher marks.”

Latest figures from the Australian Government Department of Education indicate that the proportion of low SES students enrolled in higher education in 2013 was approximately 17 per cent.