Alumni Profile

Alumna in Focus – Emma Rawling

Emma Rawling

Emma Rawling, (BA) completed a degree with majors in Celtic and Medieval Studies, and has had a career which at first glance seems remote from her studies, but really it all connects.

She had an interest in all things Celtic from high school years so her choice of University subjects was never in doubt. Her other main interest was always in animals, domestic pets and horses. After a period learning to be self-sufficient in a tepee in a forest in Tasmania, she travelled to Ireland to pursue her interests there. Here she worked at a small sanctuary for donkeys and this helped her decide that she wanted to work with animals. A forced repatriation with a broken leg (from a fall from a horse, naturally) gave her an opportunity to study Veterinary Nursing, which then enabled her to obtain a job with the Donkey Sanctuary in Devon, a major animal charity. She eventually managed a farm with over 500 animals.

The call of the Celtic was still there though and she decided to move to Scotland. Emma then undertook a Master’s degree in wildlife ecology and management at Napier University, with field work in Africa – zebras of course!

Since completing that degree she has worked with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Forestry Commission Scotland, a major Osprey breeding project, and other organisations. For the past three years she has been the Perthshire Ranger for the Scottish Wildlife Trust, managing a number of reserves, being responsible for another Osprey project and has been involved in the re-introduction of beavers into Scotland amongst a myriad of other activities. Living in Perthshire has enabled Emma to explore many medieval and earlier sites. There might be some standing stones and stone circles she has not yet visited.
Here she shares with us how her studies in Celtic and Medieval Studies have led her to this interesting career path.

1. What are your happiest memories about your time here as a student?
It’s a toss-up between the many happy times involving music in Manning Bar, and the many happy long hours lost in Fisher Library- it was the biggest library I’d ever seen and seemed a limitless world of information and resources- a bit like the internet today!

2. Who was your favourite Professor while you were a student at the University of Sydney and why?
Associate Professor John Pryor, from the Medieval and Early Modern Centre – because of his detailed knowledge and love of the medieval. I loved learning with people who were real specialists in their fields and who immersed us deeply in their milieu.

3. What is your proudest achievement?
Achieving a qualification in three very different realms – a BA at Sydney, a science-based Masters degree at Edinburgh Napier University, and a vocational qualification at TAFE, all of which gave me different complementary skills I have combined to great effect in my career.

4. Who inspires you?
So many people who do ordinary unsung jobs, but especially those in careers where vocation and a sense of service override profit and ambition. I am especially inspired by women in conventionally male careers - I have certainly had my fair share of prejudice and stares for driving farm tractors and speaking about science. I am also inspired by all the frontline scientists and conservationists past and present, working hard to explore and protect the natural world.

5. Tell us more about yourself, you background, how you ultimately came to work at the Scottish Wildlife Trust?
My BA led me logically to travel in Europe , Britain and Ireland to explore my roots. It was this immersion in the landscape and culture of my ancestors that brought all that study of history, archeology and literature alive and still inspires me today. Whilst travelling I fell naturally into working in animal welfare and rescue with my practical skills. I then decided to study for an MSc to look at the bigger picture of conservation on a species and habitat level. After working for a wide range of public and charity sector conservation organisations, I found the Wildlife Trust movement with its grassroots approach an ideal fit for me.

6. What is the mantra you live by and what drives you?
To live simply in order that the earth may simply live. Without sounding too trite: I am driven to make a difference, but with a sense of joy, fun and humour!

7. What has been the most memorable success you have had?
I would say: Inspiring a love of nature in the wider public and mentoring the next generation of wildlife professionals. As well as hosting more than 800 students a year in the formal education program I set up, I have personally mentored more than 20 new wildlife rangers to give them a start on this career path. It is satisfying to feel you are passing on skills and experience which will hopefully long outlive you!

8. What are your plans for the future?
To keep being an advocate for nature and make a practical difference- wherever that takes me. Perhaps eventually doing some PhD research or lecturing when I am too old to hold a chainsaw or wrestle an eagle.

9. What advice would you give to students graduating from the University of Sydney?
Explore! Don’t regard your first degree as the only peg on which to hang your career hopes and plans. My career hasn’t been linear and has been a series of satisfying fresh challenges and sideways jumps. Combine your academic studies with practical and real world experience to broaden your horizons.

Alumna in Focus – Annie Corlett (BEc)

Annie Corlett (BEc)

Annie Corlett (BEc) has had an impressive career - and while some may know her as business woman extraordinaire - we hold her in very high esteem as President of the Alumni Council of the University of Sydney, for her dedication and commitment to our students, staff and alumni. Annie was elected as the President of our Alumni Council in 2013.

Her passion and leadership as President proved to be so popular amongst the University and Council members that she was re-elected to the Council this year.

The Alumni Council seeks to provide opportunities for alumni to develop a lifelong connection with the University, commencing when a student enters the University. In addition it supports the University and its Division of Alumni and Development in their endeavours to grow alumni engagement across the University community.

Annie began her career working in the financial services sector, before becoming an Executive Director of two publicly listed mining companies in the 1980s. During her tenure as Executive Director of Nicron Resources Ltd, the company's market capitalisation grew from less than $5Million to be taken over for $120 million.

In addition to having a successful professional career, Annie has been an active and long-time supporter of the not-for-profit sector, including 15 years as a volunteer guide and for a period the elected Co-ordinator of Guides at the Art Gallery of NSW. In 2007, after completing the six month training course, Annie became a Lifeline Telephone Crisis Supporter, and subsequently a Facilitator and In-Shift Supervisor. In 2011, Annie was elected to the Board of Lifeline Australia and continues to support this vital organisation with her passion and dedication.

Throughout her career, Annie has managed to strike a balance between her life's passions, business and family life. She has been married for 44 years and has four children, all of whom are university graduates.

Here Annie shares how a university education can expand and enrich one's world in so many ways, and expresses her gratitude for having experienced all that university has to offer.

What are your happiest memories about your time here as a student?
I did not enrol in university until I was 23. I attended North Sydney Girls High School and chose not to take up a Teachers College Scholarship as I knew I did not want to be a teacher and so, in good faith, could not commit to teaching for five years after finishing a degree. This was the 1960's and, in my experience, young women were not provided with encouragement or meaningful mentoring in respect of career possibilities. It was not until I attended university that I discovered the joy of learning. I came to understand that a university education offers a great opportunity to expand and enrich one's world in so many ways. I will always be grateful for this life-changing experience. This indeed made me very happy.

Who was your favourite Professor whilst you were a student at the University of Sydney and why?
I was most fortunate to have been taught by a number of superb Professors but Emeritus Professor Michael Jackson stands out. I, with 20 fellow students, enrolled in the first course, "Power and Knowledge" that Professor Jackson taught at the University. It soon became very clear that we had different expectations to Michael. We expected him to provide us with facts and ideas and we would take notes! After a couple of weeks, Michael gave us an ultimatum - we were to actively participate or he would discontinue the course. He challenged not only our view on the role of a student but our attitude to a university education. Michael's next course was fully subscribed.

What is your proudest achievement?
I have difficulty in answering this question. Pride does often go before a fall! What I would like to say is that there are moments, both private and public, that have nurtured my self-respect. These could be moments when I developed resilience after a major disappointment or sadness, or moments when I chose to be kind or moments when I have had the courage to stand for the values I believe in, such as truth and justice. I also deeply believe that, when a nation fails to live by those values that have become symbolic to a population, such as the responsibility to support the vulnerable members of our community, its people lose faith in the greater heart of the nation.

Who inspires you?
Every day I am inspired by people I either know or do not know. We all have numerous opportunities to witness remarkable people who have "courage under fire", perform a spontaneous act of kindness, create a work of art or make a medical breakthrough... the list goes on. However, recently, I have been particularly inspired by:

Holly-ann Martin, the Founder and Managing Director of Safe4kids, who is a recent recipient of the Rowan Nicks Russell Drysdale Fellowship. The Fellowship is administered through the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Sydney.
The "People Power" Protesters at the Bentley Blockade.
The five 1Vth Year Honours students from USyd's Government and International Relations Department who recently presented their theses at the "Best and Brightest" event at NSW Parliament House.
Jordan O'Reilly, Co-Founder and General Manager of Fighting Chance Australia and a 2013 University of Sydney Convocation Medal Finalist.
Tell us more about yourself and how you ultimately became the President of the University of Sydney Alumni Council
This was indeed an opportunity that came "out of left field". The Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Business, Professor Peter Wolnizer, asked me to stand as a representative of the Faculty at the 2009 Alumni Council elections. I have to admit I had no knowledge of the Alumni Council but when a Dean makes a request one must give it due consideration! I was elected to the Alumni Council for the four year term (2010-2013). I was most grateful to be re-elected in last year's elections. I was elected President by my Alumni Council colleagues in 2013 and again in 2014. I know that there are many alumni who would like to re-connect with the University but are looking to the University to guide them as to how they can best do this. Last year the University commissioned two reviews of the Alumni Relations function. The University is presently considering the key recommendations made in these reviews.
If you are interested in reconnecting with your University may I suggest you monitor the Alumni and Friends webpage for developments on this front.

What is the mantra you live by?
My mantra, at the moment, is "Putting a Boundary around My Judgement". As a Lifeline Telephone Crisis Supporter, I learned, by experience, that when I "Put a Boundary around my judgement" I gained not only a greater understanding of the caller's circumstance but that compassion always accompanied this understanding. It was fairly easy to achieve this when I was unable to see another person, but I soon realised I needed to embrace this idea in my everyday life, face-to-face. All University of Sydney students and alumni are most fortunate to attend a research university, for implicit in the teaching is critical thinking. I believe that putting "a boundary around our judgement" allows us to pause before we leap into our critical thinking stance thus enabling a completely open approach to any issue, problem or research proposition.

What has been the most memorable success you have had?
I would love to say that some action of mine has made a positive difference to someone else's life. But it is not for me to determine this. That is a value judgement for someone else to make. What I have learnt is that often what we might regard as a small gesture may, in fact, help another to embrace hope rather than despair or enable them to "see some light at the end of the tunne". I have been fortunate to be a recipient of such a gesture at various times in my life.

What are your plans for the future?
To be fully invested in all that I do but unattached to the results. Not easy.

What advice would you give students graduating from the University of Sydney?
On reflection, what I have learned is that the goal has to do with the process itself. A quote that resonated with me some time ago is "how we spend our days is how we spend our lives". At the end of the day, what we come to recognise is that being content with how you "played the game" whatever that may be, is what stays with you and is what fosters a life of integrity. Finally, I can assure you, there are many adventures to be had throughout your lifetime.

Alumna in Focus – Alexandra Heath

Alexandra Heath

Alex Heath’s passion for the world of economic policy was apparent very early on when she completed her BEc (Hons) at the University of Sydney, and it set her on course to apply for a cadetship with the Reserve Bank of Australia. She enjoyed her cadetship so much that once she finished her Honours she returned to the RBA, and went on to hold positions in a number of areas in the Financial Markets and Economic Groups. In addition, she has spent 2½ years at the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland. She has worked on a variety of topic areas including the impact of financial regulation on financial markets, global imbalances, the foreign exchange market, macroeconomic forecasting and labour market dynamics. As if this was not all impressive enough, Dr Heath also holds a PhD and MSc in Economics from the London School of Economics.

Currently she heads up the Economic Research Department at the RBA, and her passion and commitment, along with her wealth of knowledge and expertise is inspiring. Here she shares with us her fond memories of her time at the School of Economics and her ongoing commitment to work within public policy.

What are your happiest memories about your time here as a student?
My happiest memories of my time as a student are mostly around the friendships I made. Particularly by third year and in honours the classes were getting smaller and more specialised, and we were quite a tight knit group. I still keep up with many of my friends from university days. Sometimes I even have the opportunity of working with them as our professional lives cross. It amazes me how many of us are still working in economics and finance.

Who was your favourite Professor while you were a student at the University of Sydney and why?
I would have to say my favourite Professor was Denzil Fiebig. He had the dubious honour of teaching me at least one econometrics course every year for four years and supervising my honours thesis when the supervisor I had originally organised went on sabbatical. Denzil is a great teacher and had an amazing ability to find the right academic paper to answer any question. Although Denzil mainly works in a different field of economics to what I deal with on a day-to-day basis, we have stayed in touch, and we help each other out from time to time.

What is your proudest achievement?
I think completing my PhD is probably one of my proudest moments. More recently I was pretty happy when the 2013 RBA conference volume was published because it represented the true end of the first annual conference I have seen through from concept and organisation to execution as the Head of Research Department. There are plenty of smaller things that I have been proud to have been able to achieve during my career at the RBA, but none of them have required so much sustained effort or been quite as personal as these two examples.

Who inspires you?
That is a tough question. In general, I’m probably most inspired by people who have a vision for making the world a better place for others and act on their convictions with integrity. There are so many people who do this in their day-to-day lives; it’s hard to come up with a single name.

Tell us more about yourself and how you ultimately became appointed to the position of Head of Economic Research at the Reserve Bank of Australia
My story is pretty straight forward. Between third year and honours, I did a cadetship at the RBA. During my honours year I had to choose between a private sector job and the RBA - I chose the RBA partly because of the public policy aspect of the job appealed to me, but also because there was a clearer connection between what I had enjoyed studying in my undergraduate degree and what was involved in the day-to-day of being a central banker. I think I’m still at the Bank because I still find the public service aspect of the job very satisfying, and there is a never-ending supply of new policy questions which allow me to keep learning new things and extending myself. These motivations also took me to the LSE to do post-graduate study and to arrange a secondment to the Bank for International Settlements. It appears that I’m not one to sit back and take it easy!

What is the mantra you live by and what drives you?
My mantra is probably something like 'So much to do - so little time!' In terms of what I am driven by, I like to solve problems and make things work better, and I like to get involved in new things.

What has been the most memorable success you have had?
I am not sure what this says about me, but memorable successes and proudest moments are pretty highly correlated. Maybe it says I’m very outcome oriented.

What are your plans for the future?
I don’t have any immediate plans to change what I’m doing. One of the benefits of being the head of a research department in a central bank is that there are lot of interesting questions to work on. At the moment I’d like to find more time to think about what drives exchange rates and whether these factors have become more financial in nature, and how to model interconnectedness in financial markets where there are different classes of participants. I am always thinking about ways we can be more productive and collaborative with our research work.

What advice would you give to students graduating from the University of Sydney?
Stay open to opportunities - they are often unexpected and you have to be ready to take them when they appear.

Alumnus in Focus – Eric Knight

Alumnus and Rhodes Scholar Eric Knight

Alumnus and Rhodes Scholar Eric Knight (BA 2006 Government and International Relations LLB 2007) launched his new book Reframe: How to Solve the World's Trickiest Problems on February 6. In his critically acclaimed book, Knight draws on his knowledge and experience as both a Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences alumnus and an alumnus of Oxford University to deliver a fresh approach to contemporary political and economic issues.

Despite his background in economics, Knight's book deals with a wide-range of historical and contemporary problems from tulip mania to terrorism. Fellow alumnus and Rhodes Scholar Malcolm Turnbull launched the book, which Booksellers and Publishers has placed in its top five non-fiction books for 2012.

Eric says his time at the University of Sydney helped ground his knowledge in social sciences and law, before he pursued economics at Oxford.

"I had a great time understanding the emerging energy markets in Europe," he says, "and my supervisor turned out to be an Australian who grew up in country Victoria!"

Since completing his university studies, Knight has found himself in high demand. He has been an economics consultant to the OECD, the United Nations and the World Bank. His opinions have been sought and published in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Drum, The Spectator and The Monthly. Currently, Eric is working as an economics consultant advising an Australian government body on some major reforms.

Below Eric shares with us happy memories of his time studying at The University of Sydney, and what drives him to continue to deliver a fresh approach to contemporary political and economic issues.

What are your happiest memories about your time here as a student?
Walking back from The Stand late on a Wednesday night, lunch with friends at Manning, testing ideas, broadcasting on campus radio, student politics. A friend of mine from the University of Western Sydney once caught the train into town just to walk around Manning at lunchtime and see if anyone was around. Admittedly he didn't have a mobile phone and was a bit eccentric. But campus life at Sydney University is a really special thing. They are happy memories but I've always been sceptical of the idea that your student days should be the best days of your life.

Who was your favourite Professor whilst you were a student at the University of Sydney and why?
I didn't have a favourite – they were all fantastic. Having said that, I always felt I learnt more in the conversations after the lecture than I did in the lectures themselves.

What is your proudest achievement?
Seeing Reframe on the bestsellers shelf at Sydney airport next to Michael Lewis' Boomerang and Tina Fey's Bossypants this year. Writing this book was a real journey – both literally and figuratively. (Reframe is a book where adventure travel meets politics.) There are so many steps between conceiving the idea and executing it that it's best not to know what's involved when you start out. I've really enjoyed the entrepreneurial side of writing a book. To get it right you have to know your reader really well, understand how they think, why they buy the book, and what you can offer them. It's like running a small business and it's something I really enjoy.

Who inspires you?
My girlfriend is a doctor and my mother is a social worker. People who get up in the morning and save lives everyday make my problems very small.

Tell us more about yourself and how you came to recently write and publish your first book, “Reframe”
Reframe is not the answers to the world's trickiest problems. It's the process we need to take to get there. I flip the way we see some of our most intractable problems – terrorism, immigration, climate change, financial crises – and argue that the best answers are often found in processes which lie beneath the surface.
The ideas in the book came together for me sitting across from Kumi Naidoo, the head of Greenpeace International, in mid 2010. Kumi is an extraordinary individual. He grew up on the rough side of Durban, fought apartheid alongside Nelson Mandela … and yet as I spoke to him I realised that I disagreed with his way of seeing the world. It was a humbling experience but in explaining why I saw things differently to him I uncovered a deeper pattern in the way we think through difficult problems.

What has been the most memorable success you have had?
Swimming across the English Channel in mid 2010 with some mates from Oxford. It was an extraordinary journey and the real endurance test was mental rather than physical. It's the busiest shipping channel in the world and a thick fog set in about 30 minutes after leaving Dover. You're not allowed to wear a wetsuit or grease, so you can imagine how cold it is (it was about 13 degrees). The water was also fairly choppy that day. We made it by nightfall and came back to beer, a bucket of KFC, and a good night's sleep!

What is the mantra you live by?
I want to help people live the life they have reason to value.

What are your plans for the future?
I'm glad to be back in Sydney after my time in Oxford. I plan to keep writing and continue advising senior leaders in business and government on the challenges that lie ahead. The Australian economy is going through a phenomenal period of change at the moment. We have the capacity to produce the world's next Mark Zuckerberg but to do that we have to nurture a generation of entrepreneurs. I'm keen to support that and reverse the myth that we're just a lucky country.

What drives you?
There is a wonderful moment in the British TV series Downton Abbey when Earl Grantham turns to his eldest daughter and talks about the inheritance of the Downton estate. I am not the owner of Downton Abbey, he tells her. I am merely its custodian until someone else can take it in my place. I am close to Grantham's sentiment. I want to contribute to the place I came from and leave it in better shape to how I inherited it.

What advice would you give to students graduating from the University of Sydney?
Stay curious and ask questions. We all have ideas which pop into our heads. Often we think they are too stupid to mention but my experience is that it's often those ideas which lead to real insight.

Alumna in Focus – Dr Robyn Veal

Dr Robyn Veal

Dr Robyn Veal BSc (1983) BA(HONS) (2005) PhD (2009), post-doctoral honorary in the University of Sydney's Department of Archaeology, is a shining example of how you can successfully juggle family, research and work whilst still maintaining life balance. Throughout her life, she has not been afraid to explore contrasting areas of study or make drastic career changes. In the last ten years, this has culminated in a passion to pursue archaeology, in particular environmental archaeology.

Robyn originally graduated with a Bachelor of Science from The University of Sydney, and after an early career in IT, wished to pursue an interest in the arts and humanities. She therefore returned to the university to complete an Arts honours year in Archaeology, which has ultimately lead her into the beginning of an exciting research career.

Recently her career reached its pinnacle when Dr Veal was awarded the Ralegh Radford Rome Fellowship by the British School at Rome (BSR). She began her residential fellowship at the School in October 2011, and her placement will come to a close in June 2012. She was awarded the nine-month fellowship in open competition, which included post-doctoral applicants from both the United Kingdom and Commonwealth nations, and she is one of the first Australian researchers to have won such a prestigious award.

The research fellowship will constitute the first of a four-year study for Dr Veal, focusing on the fuel economies of the Roman imperial period. In a global society increasingly concerned with climate change and diminishing fuel provisions, Dr Veal's research on ancient fuel production methods may well provide a valuable contribution to land and forest management strategies, especially in countries where wood and charcoal are still the dominant fuels.

Her passion and enthusiasm for her research is contagious and below she shares with us her unique journey, and some fond memories of her time at the University of Sydney.

A Conversation with Robyn Veal
What are your happiest memories about your time here as a student?
I had the good fortune to study in both arts and sciences, which meant I was exposed to a lot of different ideas. I remember feeling very empowered to ‘own’ different parts of the university grounds and I have never been hesitant to delve into areas outside my own. It has always delighted me to find that my own restive, intellectual curiosity has usually been matched by that of others, so much so, that the addictive adrenalin rush of finding a new track to follow, still happens on a pretty regular basis.

Who was your favorite Professor whilst you were a student at the University of Sydney and why?
This is a really tough one as there have been a lot of good lecturers. I think Prof Peter White (emeritus, Archaeology), was really important to me, in that he was welcoming and encouraging when I wanted to return as a mature age student. His collegial approach and wide intellect still impress me. My PhD supervisors, Prof Dan Potts (Chair, Near Eastern Archaeology) and Dr Dan Penny (Senior lecturer, Geosciences), in their own different ways, mentored me strategically through the thesis. They helped me form research skills and self-belief, and they continue to provide references and support in this post-doctoral period.

What is your proudest achievement?
That day in the Great Hall when you hear your doctoral work described, and you go down to collect your degree, with your family watching, is hard to beat. Possibly now matched by winning the fellowship to the British School at Rome.

Tell us more about yourself, how you chose this interesting path and how you came to be awarded the Ralegh Radford Rome Fellowship at the British School in Rome?
I have meandered through a career in IT (both public and private sectors), which employed my database skills, but also my geosciences background (from a BSc at Sydney); through an MBA (at UTS); to studying ancient history/Italian at Macquarie then a return to Sydney for archaeology honours and finally my doctoral studies on the fuel economy of Pompeii. I have always liked studying, but came to the humanities late, where I am completely at home. It’s so multi-disciplinary, and I love being back at my alma mater, where it seems anything I want to try, is possible, including combining archaeology, history, economics, and science. The BSR has a range of fellowships open to UK and Commonwealth scholars. I credit the Research Office, particularly Margaret Harris, for teaching me how to write funding applications. I am sure this helped win the fellowship; that, and the general idea that Australians can do anything they want to if they try.

What has been the most memorable success you have had?
It’s hard to choose between the private and the public. I have two daughters who are growing up into fine young women, and a wonderfully tolerant husband. I cherish them and they testify to the ongoing success a woman needs to remind herself that she has achieved, and is achieving, if she is balancing work and home. In a public sense, besides the obvious markers of thesis and fellowship, I think having scholars more senior than yourself acknowledge your contribution is an important thing. This year I was invited to speak at the American Academy in Rome at a conference on History and the Environment in the Ancient Mediterranean. It was a vibrant and life-changing experience due to the level of intellectual exchange. It has led to other opportunities to speak and to publish, and it increased my confidence enormously.

What is the mantra you live by?
I wish I had some sort of clever thing to say here, but honestly, it seems I have been a magpie in my learning and experiences, always dipping into this and that, at times in a rather random way. I seem to follow my nose without knowing why, but later, it turns out the brain has been making good subconscious choices. ‘Follow your instincts,’ perhaps encapsulates it.

What are your plans for the future?
I am very keen to expand my research to examine the fuel economy of all of imperial Rome and its provinces, which is something I am starting here at the BSR. I am trying different sorts of experiments on archaeological charcoal that I hope will lead to more tools for closer economic analysis of ancient fuel economies. Ultimately I hope these tools will transcend boundaries of time and place and be useful for understanding fuel economies of the recent past as well.

What drives you?
I just have to know more about the world. I have an unending (some would say irritatingly so!) curiosity about everything.

What advice would you give to students graduating from the University of Sydney?
Try to work hard at university and get the best possible marks. For women especially, this affords the opportunity to apply for scholarships for later study and enables one to combine work and family. It perhaps sounds trite, but you should never give up pursuing your interests and passions, even if you have to delay them from time to time.

Alumnus in Focus – Senthorun Raj

Senthorun Raj

Since graduating last year, Senthorun Raj (BA Honours 2010) has already carved out an impressive career path that far exceeds expectations for a young graduate fresh out of University. His passion for social justice and matters relating to sexuality and politics, were initially encouraged by mentorship given by the academics in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies. This passion ultimately led him to a role as the Senior Policy Advisor for the Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSW) and NSW President of Amnesty International Australia.

Fairly early on in this role, he successfully lobbied parliamentarians for amendments to adoption legislation - ending the last piece of direct legislative discrimination against same-sex couples in NSW. He has also been appointed to a ministerial advisory committee for the NSW Minister for Education and Training, reporting on ‘Proud Schools’, a pilot program to deal with homophobic bullying in schools. He has been published in a range of peer-reviewed academic journals, and his writings have covered issues relating to refugee law and sexuality; same-sex domestic violence; activism; diaspora and international law; lesbian sadomasochism; youth culture and gender-based violence; marriage and citizenship; and racial vilification and humour. And if all that was impressive enough, he will be a keynote speaker for Amnesty International’s 50th Anniversary Human Rights Conference this year.

Much of his professional advocacy work has involved community engagement and development. He has recently facilitated a series of consultations on discrimination in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities, as part of a local government grant relating to the Australian Human Rights framework. These consultations took a deliberate ‘intersectional’ approach to thinking about social justice, to highlight the complexities of discrimination and disparate individual experiences in the context of law reform.
So unsurprisingly, Senthorun is now finishing his Bachelor of Laws at the University of Sydney, whilst impressively still juggling his work, writing and advocacy commitments. Below he shares his unique journey and passions for driving social change.

A Conversation with Senthorun Raj
What are your happiest memories about your time here as a student?
I relished the opportunities I had to participate in a range of social and education networks. As an undergraduate, I was so grateful for the mentorship offered by the academics in the Gender and Cultural Studies Department, which ultimately became my major. I was invited to attend the GCS Research Seminar Series, and was exposed to some of the most rich and innovative research in the field I was so passionate about. Rather than limit the educational experience to the classroom, my education was also nurtured in having opportunities to participate in various research seminar programs and the engaged social and intellectual discussions at the weekly Manning Bar drinks. Wine, enthusiastic students and intellectual conversation in the field of cultural studies, what more can a student ask for on a Friday afternoon!

Who was your favourite Professor whilst you were a student at the University of Sydney and why?
There are many lecturers who supported me in my academic pursuits. Selecting one is too difficult. However, I would like to make special mentions of Dr. Kane Race, Dr. Jane Park, Dr. Gilbert Caluya and Dr. Clifton Evers who all supported me in various stages of my undergraduate career at the University. All of them were instrumental mentors and I am truly indebted for their ongoing encouragement for both my academic and community work.

What is your proudest achievement?
There are many things that make me proud. If I were to pick something university-related, my proudest achievement to date was being awarded both the University Medal and the Australian Gay & Lesbian Archives Thesis Prize for my thesis. After spending a year researching sexuality-based asylum claims, and having volunteered as a caseworker in the area, I was truly privileged to have my writing recognised by both the University and the broader academic community.

Tell us more about yourself and how you chose this interesting path to become the Senior Policy Advisor for Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby?
I have always been inspired to pursue social justice - whether in an academic, professional or voluntary capacity. The impetus for my professional advocacy work on same-sex law reform issues began with my activism with the local Amnesty International Society at the University of Sydney. After becoming involved in local campaign activities at the university, I began work at Amnesty International Australia as a volunteer refugee caseworker. From there, I became involved in more advocacy related campaigns, becoming a White Ribbon Ambassador speaking out against gender-based violence, and a lobbying for a Human Rights Act for Australia. In the context of my undergraduate academic work, I began researching in the areas of queer theory, sexuality studies, law and politics. The combination of my voluntary and academic pursuits empowered me to apply for the job with the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, where I have now worked for two years. I am in the extremely fortunate position of being paid to do what I love.

What has been the most memorable success you have had?
My most memorable success would be lobbying for same-sex couples adoption reform - a campaign that both inspired and challenged me. The late nights, intense lobbying and the constant media work proved tough. However, in the long-term, the elation at having successfully eliminating the last direct piece of discriminatory legislation against same-sex couples in NSW was exceptional. With a conscience vote split of 45-43, the knife-edge margin made the success all the more memorable. In particular, the memories of working with a range of MPs across the spectrum of parties, and being a part of those two weeks of intense and emotive parliamentary debate will remain with me forever.

What is the mantra you live by?
Always follow your passions. It is easy to be saturated by a world of expectations, doing what you think you ought to do, rather than what drives you or makes you feel happy. For me, my successes have always been driven by my passions, and by having strong networks and communities that will support my endeavours.

What are your plans for the future?
My various pursuits in life, such as my current job, were never part of my initial plans. When thinking about the future, I think it is important to leave it flexible for opportunities that arise. Sometimes what you least expect or plan for, will bear the most fruitful outcomes. At the moment, I am completing a law degree, and once I finish, would love to explore further international study or work opportunities in both cultural studies and human rights advocacy.

What drives you?
My passion for building ethical communities and progressive social change drives all my academic, professional and activist work. I believe that knowledge should be shared, and that we should never seek to be complacent about our privileges in life. I am driven by a passion to build cultures and dialogues that value diversity, rather than seek to erase our differences. My privileged education has equipped me with the ability to think critically about the world, and it is this ethic of self-reflexivity that I wish to pursue in the name of social justice.

What advice would you give to students graduating from the University of Sydney?
You are never too young or too inexperienced to pursue your passion or dream. I was fortunate enough to realise some of my dreams while at university. For me, the challenge was not necessarily in the activity or project I was undertaking; rather, it was about finding the confidence to undertake it in the first place. For all students at university, I say follow every opportunity. As clichéd as it sounds, you never know what you will achieve, and regardless of whether you are successful or not, you will always learn something valuable in the process.

Geraldine Brooks - Alumna, English

Geraldine Brooks

Photo by Randi Baird

Geraldine Brooks came to what was then the Arts faculty at the University of Sydney in the 1970s from an all-girls school in a middle-class neighbourhood. “Sydney University was a place that loomed large in my imagination from the time I was a child. I would stare at it as we’d go by on a bus into the city from my home in the western suburbs. It was a romantic dream, the idea of someday being one of those students that I could see up there on the footbridge,” Brooks says.
She left with a Bachelors degree and an experience that broadened her horizons.
“I was very at sea my first year, and I keenly felt my lack of worldliness in this suddenly expanded community of people from backgrounds so different from my own. It was when I joined the Sydney University Dramatic Society (SUDS) that I found my tribe. I loved being a minnow in the bright wake of dazzling students like David Marr and Neil Armfield. They had a confidence about what they wanted to be that stiffened my spine and inspired me to believe that anything might, actually, be possible.”
Brooks characterises the benefits of an Arts degree by its broadness of disciplines.
“It opens you up to ideas, and gives you an essential toolbox for an ongoing intellectual journey.”
A strong desire to be a newspaper reporter was behind Brook’s pursuit of an Arts degree. “I knew I would need a broad based liberal education to do that job with any skill,” she says. Interestingly it was a chance choice of a first year class in the Government department that truly inspired Brooks.
“I had intended to be an English major. Government was very much an afterthought class for me – the fourth one you pick to fill out the first year schedule. But I came alive intellectually in government; probing the nexus between classical political theory and pressing current events. This was helped along by the fact that the faculty in those days contained quite a few young lecturers from the US, who had come to Australia to evade the Vietnam draft. Matters of ethics and political violence were very vivid to them, and they communicated the urgency of these issues in class,” she says.
From studying these conflicts to reporting on them, Brooks went from the gothic towered sandstone of the university, to the features desk at the Sydney Morning Herald. Her three years of excellence there lead her to win the Greg Shackleton Australian News Correspondents scholarship to the journalism master’s program at Columbia University in 1982. Finally she made it to the Wall Street Journal where she was offered the prestigious position of a ‘fireman’ correspondent.
“It’s the one who gets called on to go to the worst places at the worst of times. It started for me in the Middle East, where I was a correspondent for six years, and after you get the ability to deal with chaotic situations, it’s all anyone ever wants you to do,” Brooks told Andrew Denton in 2005.
Although she may have been sent there, Brooks admits that her time as a foreign correspondent in turbulent areas has been an important part of her life and career.
“It has been a great thing to have been an eye witness, in my decade as a foreign correspondent, to some of the history of my own time.”
A run in with the Nigerian Secret Police was the catalyst that caused Brooks’ transition to her hugely successful career as a novelist. Her first work of fiction, Year of Wonders is an international bestseller, People of the Book is a New York Times bestseller, and she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2006 for March.
“I feel thankful to have unexpectedly found a place as a novelist, and it is from this perch that I am able to continue to probe some of the experiences I had working as a reporter in times of catastrophe.”

Jack Manning Bancroft - Alumnus, Media and Communications

Jack Manning Bancroft

Jack Manning Bancroft graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications) in 2006. Just two years later he became the CEO of AIME (Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience) – a charity initiative he created at the age of 19.
“When we started the program, the feeling was ‘let’s just get in there and try and do something about Aboriginal attendance rates in school,” he recalls. “Then, straight away we had this huge success. It was, ‘whoa, what have we done?’”
As a proud, young, Aboriginal man from the Bundjalung nation in NSW, Manning Bancroft is honoured to have the chance to do something for the next generation of Indigenous people.
“AIME is a mentoring program that partners Indigenous high-school students with Indigenous and non-Indigenous university mentors. We aim to raise the completion rates for Indigenous high-school students in years 10 and 12 so that by 2020, participating students are completing school at the same rate as every Australian child. In addition, we are striving to increase the national university admission rate for Indigenous students so that it is on par with the rest of the nation.”
In 2010, Manning Bancroft began AIME’s national expansion and says “By 2020, we ‘aime’ to be mentoring 6000 Indigenous students across our nation – from Melbourne to Mount Druitt, Adelaide to Alice.” An ambitious task, but he has confidence in the program and has been met with success upon success. Manning Bancroft was awarded the Young Alumni Award for Achievement as well as the New South Wales Young Australian of the Year.
“It really confirms that the work we are doing at AIME is having a hugely positive influence across both the university community, and the state,” he said.
Speaking about his time at Sydney, Manning Bancroft reflects: “I loved learning about philosophy and having the space to think about thinking. Getting the chance to have a world-class education, and the freedom to make an impact on our society will be something I will remember forever.”
Manning Bancroft remains connected to Sydney beyond his undergraduate experience and while his “dream of wearing the baggy green for Australia still burns bright despite the current state of the Australian cricket team,” he says, more realistically he is thrilled to get the opportunity to ‘play for Australia’ every day with AIME.

Anna Rose - Alumna, Arts/Law

Anna Rose

Just how much could an Arts/Law graduate accomplish three years out from leaving the University of Sydney? Alumna Anna Rose seems to have taken this question as a personal challenge.
Since her days at the University of Sydney, she has represented Australia in delegations to key international conferences and negotiations, including Montreal’s Kyoto Protocol negotiations in 2005, and most recently, leading a delegation of 30 young Australians to the UN Copenhagen negotiations.
Rose has given speeches, written a book chapter and numerous opinion columns; and co-founded and chaired the board of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) - one of Australia’s largest and most politically influential youth organisations.
2008 saw Rose in the USA working on the Obama campaign in the New Hampshire primary elections at the tail end of her US exchange. In 2009, Kevin Rudd named her the Environment Minister’s Young Environmentalist of the Year, and last year the Sydney Morning Herald deemed her among Sydney’s '100 Most Influential People'.
Some might think they could rest on such a bed of laurels, but Anna Rose won’t take so much as a catnap.
As a senior campaigning specialist at communications consultancy Make Believe, she is finding communications solutions for clients such as the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Global Poverty Project. The 2010 Australian Greens Federal election campaign, which saw the first ever Greens member elected to the Federal Legislative Assembly, was a Make Believe operation.
What’s more, Rose has recently been awarded a Churchill Fellowship, which will, over the next two months and beyond, allow her to begin research in the USA, China and the United Kingdom on peer-to-peer youth climate change education projects.
Rose the writer, the activist, the politician, the environmentalist, the emissary, the scholar, the communications consultant, and board director: how did this all begin? For Rose, her passion for environmental issues and politics started with her teachers at the University of Sydney.
"I had fantastic lecturers and tutors for all of my Arts subjects, especially Asian Studies. I remember being so overwhelmed by my first Asian studies tutorial that I carried an enormous stack of books higher than my head from Fisher Library back to college to read. I had to keep peering sideways to make sure I wasn’t going to run into anyone!"
Rose readily admits that Sydney gave her the courage to think internationally in a way few other institutions could. She rates the opportunities for international travel as among her best university experiences. During her studies, she was part of the Department of Geography’s South East Asian field school along the Mekong Delta, and in her final year she went on exchange to Cornell University in upstate New York.
"One of the best things about the University of Sydney,” she says, “is that it really does encourage you to get a global education".
"The people I met and the groups I was involved in at Sydney - especially through the Arts and Social Sciences faculty - gave me the confidence and the networks to be able to forge my own path".
This young woman with an international presence, a trophy cabinet brimming with accolades, a passion for environmental activism, and a resume that now requires a wheelbarrow for transportation, looks back fondly at her time at the University of Sydney as enabling all of these ambitions.
"Studying Arts at Sydney opens your eyes to the fact that there’s a whole world out there with infinite possibilities, and gives you the skills you need to go and do just about anything!"

Delia Falconer - Alumna, Bachelor of Arts (Hons)

Delia Falconer

University of Sydney graduate Dr Delia Falconer has fast become one of Australia's most critically acclaimed writers. Best known for her ability to bring the reader right to the heart of her characters through her poetic writing and strong principled observations, Delia's best- selling novel, The Service of Clouds (1997), has been shortlisted for many of Australia's major literary awards. These include: the Miles Franklin Award; NSW Premier's Literary Awards; Victorian Premier's Literary Awards; and the Australian Booksellers' Book of the Year; and The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers (2005), shortlisted among other awards for the Spur Award for Best Short Western Novel (US) and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. Now a Senior Lecturer at UTS, Falconer has edited and contributed stories to numerous short story collections, as well as writing as a critic for publications such as The Australian Literary Review, The Monthly, The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Fellow literary critic Peter Craven has described Delia as "The young Australian writer who has arguably done most to put her signature on the literary of this country."
Delia's most recent book, Sydney, is her first non-fiction offering, and brings to the fore her talent for articulating the unspoken landscape, that leaves even the most familiar Sydney-sider with an altered view of their city. (Read the Sydney Alumni Magazine Review)

Below she shares with us happy memories from her times spent first studying an Arts Law degree and later converting to a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) at the University of Sydney, and the journey she has travelled to becoming one of Australia's most eminent authors.

A Conversation with Novelist Delia Falconer

What are your happiest memories about your time here as a student?
For me the happiest times weren't in the classroom, but being involved in all the other things that for me are essential parts of university life: conversations in the sun, editing Hermes, the student literary magazine, watching the student reviews and plays at the Footbridge Theatre... and reading, always reading. One of the best things that happened to me as an undergraduate was becoming part of a small writing group that met at the Harold Park Hotel — not necessarily to talk about writing, but to be around other people who wrote, and cared about it. I remember one night, after Writers in the Park had finished, a few of us co-opted the empty stage, which was still spotlit. Some of the others encouraged me up to read. It was a huge thing for me — a big step.

Who was your favourite Professor whilst you were a student at the University of Sydney and why?
The best year of my arts degree was the year I drifted from the English Department to the Fine Arts (now the Art History & Film) department, before doing honours; something I owe to free education. The Fine Arts department was kind and flexible enough to let me do first and second year concurrently. The whole department was immersed in the high theory moment, and Alan Cholodenko, Rex Butler and Keith Broadfoot's film class was the place to be. We'd have a one-hour lecture, then watch a film or films, then have a tute for another hour — and often that tute would end up migrating down to the Manning Bar veranda. I just said that my happiest times were outside the classroom, but now I'm going to contradict myself. These classes were among the best times of my academic life. I think it would be fair to say that this is where, for the first time, I began to really think. I loved the intellectual seriousness (which was often quite competitive) of this subject; I loved the course materials, which would consist of around 5 hard articles per week, and an optional folder of 10 or so additional readings that we could photocopy for ourselves. I still have very fond memories of the quiet seriousness of the tiny Fine Arts library where they were kept. My lifelong love of film began here, and, I think, my sense of the visual possibilities of prose fiction. I ended up being awarded prizes in first year fine arts and film, but, perhaps oddly, didn't stay. Novels still had too much of a hold over me. Though, when I went to Melbourne Uni, my PhD thesis on the road in American and Australian post-war culture examined both literature and film.

What is your proudest achievement?
Too personal to share — but in terms of my writing career, I'm perhaps fondest of my second novel, The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers, which enters into the secret conversations and thoughts of men, and takes what I hope is a new look at America's Indian Wars. This was my hardest book to write. For me the imaginative leap into an entirely other world is when writing is most satisfying.

Tell us more about yourself and how you began writing and chose this path which led you to become a well respected novelist?
I had written at Sydney University, and had my first small encouragements there, through its publications and competitions. But when I finished my PhD at Melbourne University in 1994 I was still on the career path as a cultural studies academic. I guess life chose for me, because that year I had two wins in two big national essay and short story competitions (the Island Essay Competition and the inaugural HQ/Joop! Short Story Competition). I came back from the Island presentation at the Adelaide Festival with an excellent agent; then went on to receive an Australia Council Grant. So within two weeks of finishing my PhD I was in the Blue Mountains researching and writing The Service of Clouds. I guess this says two things about me. First, that I'm not a planner, but tend to follow my interests. Second, that I don't see an enormous gulf between non-fiction and fiction writing, or ideas and fiction. To me all writing is on a spectrum, albeit with different audiences, and it's always ideas, and clarity of expression, that drive me.

What has been the most memorable success you have had?
I tend not to look backward — I'm usually thinking about the next project.

What is the mantra you live by?
No mantra, although I did feel enormously liberated when my PhD supervisor once said to me, when I was filled with angst, "It's just a thesis." Sometimes I repeat to myself, over and over, "It's just a novel", which is a way of forcing myself to get on with the craft and not take myself, or my work, too seriously. (Which is not to say that I don't paralyse myself with anxiety at times!)

What are your plans for the future?
I'm trying to engage creatively with Japan — and finding it fiendishly difficult.

What drives you?
I alternate, I'm afraid to say, between drive and long periods of torpor. It's not the most professional way to write, but I have to fall in love with my subject matter. Then I'm driven by wanting to know as much as I can about it and finding a form to express that passion.

What advice would you give to students graduating from the University of Sydney?
I don't know that I have much advice for graduates. But for people still studying I'd say that it's possibly a good idea not to be too directed; it's often the byways of study, or university life that yield the greatest returns in later life.

Venessa Cowell - Arts and Social Sciences alumna

Venessa Cowell

Venessa Cowell has made a name for herself in the fashion world. The 27-year-old Arts and Social Sciences alumna, who took philosophy and art history during her time at Sydney, decided in 2006 to follow her passion and start a boutique shoe label, christening it Venessa Cowell Design.

Today her business is thriving and her designs are regularly featured in fashion magazines. She is equal parts designer, businesswoman and social conscience. For a number of years she has worked with Dinari the Indonesian partner of Opportunity International, a not-for-profit organisation that uses a business approach to eradicating poverty.

Rather than a simple handout, the organisation provides microfinance to some of the world’s poorest people, so that they can create and grow their own businesses. Cowell and her business hope to enable a longer-term solution to poverty by engaging Indonesian communities in aspects of footwear production, giving them the skills and the opportunities to pull themselves out of poverty.

Cowell’s life and business approach seem to be a lesson in aesthetics. She continues to hunt for unusual and beautiful fabrics from around the world for use in her collections. On her website she blogs about design and beauty, and shows the inspirations for each unique shoe design.

A Conversation with Fashionista Vanessa Cowell

What are your happiest memories about your time here as a student?
My happiest memories would be the social side of uni and the chance to study across broad areas, from art history to philosophy subjects, which opened my mind to other cultures and helped make up my mind to travel and experience other lifestyles.

What inspires you?
Beauty in all forms inspires me, from stunning natural environments and flowers to beautiful light installations. I try to take the beautiful objects and landscapes I see in the world and distil them in my designs and the fabrics I use. In terms of fashion, Valentino is my biggest inspiration. Everything he has designed is beauty to me.

Who was your favourite Professor whilst you were a student at the University of Sydney and why?
I loved the philosophy of psychology as a subject, and the thought that you can choose which philosophies to live by. I also loved art history because it opened my eyes to how culture is reflected in the art and fashion of the day, and that’s something that I notice constantly.

What is your proudest achievement?
My proudest moment was the first time I saw someone I didn't know wearing my shoes!

Tell us more about Venessa Cowell Design and how you started your business and why shoes?
It started with a long-held desire, and what I saw as a need for shoes that were elegant and feminine, yet affordable and wearable every day. My great grandfather was a shoe maker; my mother was a strong footwear retailer and designed her own ranges as well as importing from Italy. Although I had other plans to work as a psychologist I realised footwear design was where my passion lay. A lot of my time is taken up with the business and marketing side rather than the design side of the business. I have found that I like both aspects equally.

What is the mantra you live by?
I live by the idea that beauty is everywhere but sometimes you must open more than your eyes to see it.

What has been the most memorable success you have had?
My most memorable success was when Ruby and Min sold out of one of our styles over the first weekend they were in store.
I am also very proud of our relationship with Dinari as we have been able to engage struggling communities in Indonesia to help with the production of our footwear and ultimately help to build their capacity. You can visit or for further information and to support the program.

What advice would you give anyone keen to start their own business?
My advice is to build your business slowly and try to learn each aspect yourself. Where possible try to do things yourself instead of outsourcing. When you start out remember there is always a way of doing things that doesn't affect your cash flow. Most importantly it is important to have someone to motivate and support you, such as mentor, or even a friend who is also starting their own business. Try to meet up once a week and go through where you are up to and what tasks are on the agenda for the next week. Having someone to update and check in with is a huge motivating factor.

What are your plans for the future?
My future plans are expansion to more stockists as well as online. My longer-term goals are to increase brand awareness and open stores in Bali and Sydney.

What drives you?
The desire to create a beautiful and wearable product that people will get pleasure from wearing.

What advice would you give to students graduating from the University of Sydney?
If you find something you enjoy don't be scared to stick with it. Don’t stress if you don’t know exactly what you are going to do yet as things take time to fall into place and become established in your mind. I’d also say, be open to different opportunities-by doing Arts and Social Sciences there are many rich opportunities out there. Not to lose heart and do what you love - that’s the key!

Matthew Carney - Alumnus, Bachelor of Economics

Matthew Carney

To date alumnus Matthew Carney (BEc 1988), has had a truly impressive 25 year career as a leading Australian reporter and producer. His stories have been both compelling and ground breaking, as he has covered an unbelievable number of international crisis situations in war torn countries. War zones such as Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, West Bank and Gaza through to Afghanistan, Libya and East Timor and more. Matthew’s stories have always had impact and have been recognised with a host of awards including the Walkey Awards, Logie Awards and the United Nations Media Peace Prize, twice!

Currently he is one of the youngest reporters in the Four Corners team and unsurprisingly he has continued to build a reputation for breaking stories both within Australia and Internationally. His stories and programs have lead government inquires and commissions that have produced real change. From proving BHP caused heavy mental contamination in the residents of the Illawarra, to the complete overhaul of the Ambulance service in Western Australia, to an expose of Australian Special Forces secret “assassination” program, to an inside horrific look at the crystal meth or ice epidemic.

Yet despite his impressive background Matthew is a humble individual who prefers to be shining the spotlight on injustice. Below he shares with us his exciting future plans as well as his fond memories of his time at the University, and how crucially they shaped his thrill for investigation and set him on his life course.

What are your happiest memories about your time here as a student?

My happiest memories as a student are; liberating, intoxicating and engaging conversations I had with new friends who to this day remain my closest; inspiring lecturers who fueled an everlasting intrigue, interest and investigation into the machinations of world politics; and walking the grand grounds and old buildings that spoke of tradition and learning.

Who was your favourite Professor while you were a student at the University of Sydney and why?

A hard one but my favourite Professor was Ted Wheelwright who taught me political economy in my first year. For me he lifted a curtain and revealed the world as it was. He demonstrated the power and the thrill of investigation and lines of inquiry. It really did set me on a course as an investigative and international journalist.

What is your proudest achievement?

My proudest achievement is to be in a position to be able to shine a light on injustice and in my own small way right some wrongs…and of course my wife and three beautiful children.

Who inspires you?

The people who inspire me are people in extreme and dangerous situations like war zones who despite the chaos unfolding around them continue to provide comfort and care, who look for what brings people together rather than what divides them. They are usually doing this unswervingly out of the limelight for good humane motives like a local counselor I filmed with in Sierra Leone trying to help child soldiers, or a priest in East Timor helping with the resistance in East Timor, or a social worker who devoted his life to finding missing Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka.

Tell us more about yourself and how you ultimately came to work as one of the youngest reporters on such a highly respected current affairs program, Four Corners.

I always had a sense that international reporting and making documentaries was ‘in my blood’ somehow. From an early age I knew this is what I wanted to do. So I have always been driven by this and in 2005 was lucky enough to be offered a position at Four Corners after returning from the Middle East where I was based for 6 years.

What is the mantra you live by and what drives you?

Try and see and understand the other side... if you succeed then you can have a clarity and calmness about your own position. Something to strive for and hard to achieve but worth the effort.

What has been the most memorable success you have had?

Surviving about 25 conflict zones in my career. I still find them exciting, not because of the adrenalin, but I believe extreme environments define us as human beings and to be near that edge as it plays out is absolutely fascinating.

What are your plans for the future?

I have just been appointed the ABC’s North Asia Correspondent so I am taking my family to live in Tokyo for the next 3 years which will be challenging and rewarding for my kids and myself!

What advice would you give to students graduating from the University of Sydney?

My advice is to follow your passions…they will keep you motivated and interested and also enable you to produce your best work.

Alumna in Focus: Louise Herron AM

Alumna in Focus: Louise Herron AM

Louise Herron (BA/LLM) is an alumna at the top of her game. Appointed last year as the Sydney Opera House’s seventh CEO, she is also the very first woman to hold this notable position. Her career to date is extremely impressive and spans senior roles in law, business and the arts, including positions with the Australia Council and Belvoir Street Theatre. It is due to this breadth of experience that she was awarded an Order of Australia for “significant service to the performing arts through leadership and advisory roles.”

Louise takes over at an important time for Sydney Opera House as it prepares for its 40th Anniversary in October. Since her arrival, she has launched the Sydney Opera House’s Enterprise Strategy, founded a hugely popular ideas festival (All About Women), and initiated a new group of influential supporters, The Idealists, which is already well on its way to realising its goal of 100 members.

Here she shares her rich career experience and passions with us.

What are your happiest memories about your time here as a student?

My happiest memories are French and Italian tutorials and endless cups of coffee in Manning. All three were an education.

Who was your favourite Professor while you were a student at the University of Sydney and why?

Ivan Barko, Professor of French. He loved French poetry and existentialism and he taught his students how to delve deeply to find new thoughts and feelings. He encouraged us to strive for a new understanding of both the language that was being used and what it captured.

What is your proudest achievement?

I am proud of a few things in my life. I am proud to be leading the Opera House at a really important time in its history, with our 40th Anniversary approaching in October, which is all about safeguarding the Opera House for future generations. And I am very proud of our children, who are currently studying architecture and politics and international relations at Sydney University - and having lots of cups of coffee in Manning.

Who inspires you?

Karen Brooks Hopkins, President of the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York. Like the Opera House, BAM is a multi-arts centre, and like us, it is a centre in every sense, one that is at the heart of its city. What Karen has achieved in her 25 years at BAM, particularly in engendering a vibrant and vital culture of giving, is an example of what can be achieved through creativity and determination. Brooklyn’s renaissance is no accident.

Tell us more about yourself and how you ultimately became the first female appointed to the position of Chief Executive of the Sydney Opera House since it opened in 1973

I spent ten years as a partner at Minter Ellison lawyers and then ten years as a corporate advisor. I was also Chair of Belvoir Street Theatre during that second decade, a position I loved. I then became very sick with septicemia and almost died. As a result of that experience I decided to only work on things I cared deeply about. That coincided with my appointment as Chair of the Major Performing Arts Board of the Australia Council. The opportunity to run the Opera House was irresistible to me. It was the culmination of everything I had done to date.

What is the mantra you live by and what drives you?

Seize the day and don’t die wondering. What drives me is realising possibility, the possibility I see around me every day. My basic motivation is to make things what they can be.

What has been the most memorable success you have had?

I found my time at Belvoir Street Theatre incredibly fulfilling. 2002 to 2012 was a period of unprecedented change for the company. We launched a multi-million dollar fundraising campaign to renovate the theatre and to create new headquarters for Belvoir and then to transition from our founding artistic director Neil Armfield. I have been thrilled to watch Belvoir go from strength to strength.

What are your plans for the future?

To help navigate a secure future for the Opera House. It has transformed Australia and our sense of ourselves as Australians over the last 40 years. I want to ensure it continues to do so for future generations of artists, audiences and visitors.

What advice would you give to students graduating from the University of Sydney?

To live imaginatively and make the most of every opportunity that comes your way, even if you can’t immediately see where it might lead. Don’t be scared of the unknown, embrace it. Work out how you can contribute, how you can make things better and how you can make things more alive. Then do exactly that.