For outstanding achievement

The 2012 Alumni Awards

By Michael Visontay

This prestigious awards program features four categories of awards to recognise outstanding achievements made by alumni locally and internationally. This year, because of the high standard of nominations, there are five recipients – with two co-winners in the Community Achievement category.


Image of David Handley at Sculpture by the Sea


When David Handley founded Sculpture by the Sea 16 years ago, it was a one-day show that he had to underwrite by putting up his own apartment as security. The public sculpture exhibition has grown into one of Australia’s iconic cultural events, and his achievement has been recognised as a co-winner of an Alumni Award for Community Achievement.

The three-week exhibition, which runs in spring each year along the Bondi to Tamarama Coastal Walk, attracts up to 500,000 visitors, has an international reputation and is considered a major tourism beacon that is now promoted by the NSW Government major events group. Similar exhibitions have now been mounted in Cottesloe, Western Australia and Aarhus, Denmark.

David, who graduated with arts and law degrees in 1989, found his inspiration while working as a lawyer in Prague.

He had always loved free public events but didn’t know how to channel that enthusiasm until he found a sculpture park in Prague where contemporary works were set among medieval ruins. “Suddenly, I understood the theatricality of sculpture,” he told an interviewer.

Aided by volunteers, David scraped together the money to put on Sculpture by the Sea as a one-day show, and with media – but no government – support, the exhibition continued to grow in popularity. It now includes works by major international sculptors.

Image of Mary Kostakidis


Mary Kostakidis is a co-winner of the Alumni Award for Community Achievement for her role as chair of the Sydney Peace Foundation and human rights leadership in the wider community. Mary’s award epitomises the way a broad liberal arts education (BA ’77) provides the foundations for a critical engagement with society.

From her career as Australia’s first woman to present a national prime time television news bulletin to her period as chair of the Sydney Peace Foundation, Mary has become a leading figure in Australian public life.
This began at university, when Mary founded the Sydney University Greek Society and became its first president. She was a member of the management team that set up and developed SBS Television, and maintained her role as newsreader for 20 years until 2007.

At the same time, she has nurtured a long-standing interest in human rights. In 2009 Mary served on the National Human Rights Consultation Committee and from 2010-11 was Chair of the Sydney Peace Foundation. In this role she championed Wikileaks, chairing a packed meeting at Sydney Town Hall, organised by the Foundation and Amnesty International, which was titled “Breaking The Silence” over Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange.

Among many other community roles, Mary has also served as an Ambassador for Beyond Blue and was a member of the Drug and Alcohol Council.


Image of David Hunter


Epidemiologist Dr David Hunter (MBBS ’82) has won the International Alumni Award for his pioneering leadership in researching the variety of factors that cause cancer, principally through his creation of global studies that have built huge rich databases of information.

Dr Hunter is Professor in Cancer Prevention and Dean for Academic Affairs at the Harvard School of Public Health, where he has led several major research studies.

Dr Hunter has led two major studies, firstly the Nurses’ Health Studies (and a similar-sized follow-up study of nurses), and secondly, the Breast and Prostate Cancer Cohort Consortium, which encompasses major world epidemiological cohort studies totalling 750,000 participants with lifestyle information and DNA samples.

In the words of one of his nominators, Professor Bruce Armstrong, Professor of Public Health at Sydney: “He has created enormous infrastructure for research that will lead to more precise understanding of the role of the common genetic variants in cancer aetiology.”

Dr Hunter is also the principal investigator of a four-year grant, from the US National Cancer Institute to study the genetic and biological mechanisms that contribute to breast cancer. Dr Hunter also collaborates with researchers in Tanzania to investigate the relationship between nutrition and HIV.


Image of Belinda Hutchinson AM

Belinda Hutchinson AM

Belinda Hutchinson originally studied architecture but after two weeks knew it was not for her. After some quick counselling, she tried economics, discovered accounting and found her métier. She graduated with a Bachelor of Economics in 1976 and has gone on to make a significant impact on the corporate world as one of Australia’s most sought-after female directors.

After seven years working for the audit firm Arthur Andersen, here and in the US, in 1992 Belinda made news when she was appointed as the only woman on the Board of Sydney Water, and has since been an active participant on a number of business boards, including Telstra, Coles, AGL, Energy Australia, plus community organisations such as St Vincents Health Australia and the Salvation Army.

This CV was crowned in 2010 when Hutchinson was appointed as Chair of the global insurer QBE, making her one of just a handful of female chairs in Australian corporate life.

Belinda has also established a family foundation with her husband to support a variety of community-based projects, including The Hunger Project in Malawi, Africa, which provides assistance to 10 villages through a food bank and microfinance program.

They have also supported a Not-For-Profit scholarship in 2010-11 of the Global Executive MBA within the Business School at the University of Sydney.

Young Alumni

Image of Eric Knight


Eric Knight has made a significant and energetic contribution to both academic and public life, with an influential body of work in media and publishing in the five years since he graduated with a BA and LLB in 2007. This began during his Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford, where he earned his PhD with a thesis on The Finance of Climate, in which he investigated the best means of using financial markets to stimulate investment in climate change technologies.

However, Eric did not limit himself to academic challenges. At Oxford he swam in a relay across the English Channel with three other Australian students to raise money for children’s medical research in Australia.

In 2008 Eric was invited by the Prime Minister to attend a panel on this field at the Australia 2020 Summit. Since returning to Australia has engaged in public debate on a wide range of subjects, speaking at the Sydney Festival of Dangerous Ideas and Ted X.

Since 2011 Eric has been working with the Boston Consulting Group, consulting on economics to business and government. He also found time to write a book, published earlier this year, called Reframe, which offers fresh perspectives on solving economic and social problems. The book has been reviewed and well received across the mainstream media Read a review of this book from this edition of SAM