Arts Alumni Awards

Nominations for the 2023 Arts Alumni Awards are now open

About the Arts Alumni Awards

Faculty of Arts alumni form a community of over 80,000 all around the world. Presented annually, the Arts Alumni Awards recognise alumni who have made a difference in their chosen field, and who have contributed to the Faculty, the University, and their communities through their endeavours.

Award categories

  • Rising Star Award for Young Alumni

    An individual who is 30 years of age or under and has demonstrated an outstanding level of professional achievement and community involvement since graduating from the University of Melbourne and/or has been recognised by colleagues and peers for their outstanding leadership and impact as a global citizen.

  • Leadership Award

    An individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in their field of endeavour.

  • Contribution to the Faculty and University Award

    An individual who has made a significant and sustained contribution to the Faculty and University through outstanding leadership, impact on students, and/or engagement with the University and broader community. *Please note this award is to reward contribution beyond an individual’s employment at the University.

  • Lifetime Achievement Award

    An individual who has made an outstanding, long-term and internationally-recognised contribution to their field of endeavour.


Recognising alumni who have achieved excellence

Do you know an outstanding Arts alum making a difference locally or internationally?

Whether they’re a high-profile candidate on the world stage or a quiet achiever making a difference locally, we look forward to hearing about what our Arts alumni have been up to since graduating.

Nominations for the 2023 Arts Alumni Awards are now open
Nominations close at 11.00pm on Sunday 2 April 2023.   
Nomination form
Nominations can be made by any interested person, only complete nomination forms will be considered.

Nominations are assessed by a panel that includes the Associate Dean, Partnerships (Faculty of Arts), members of the Melbourne Humanities Foundation Board, previous Arts Alumni Award recipients, and members of the Alumni Council (The University of Melbourne).

Current recipients

2022 Arts Alumni Awards

The Faculty of Arts is thrilled to announce the winners of the 2022 Arts Alumni Awards, who were presented with their awards by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, The Revd Professor Russell Goulbourne at a ceremony at State Library Victoria on 12 October.

The awards honour the valuable contributions our alumni have made all over the world across a range of fields, including the not-for-profit sector, government, education, business, and arts and media.

2022 Arts Alumni Award winners standing with the Dean of Arts Rev Prof Russell Goulbourne in-front of a bright blue Faculty of Arts banner, holding their awards
Ms Sarah Rey, The Hon Susan Crennan AC KC, Rev Prof Russell Goulbourne, Mr Frank Merlino, Ms Thenu Herath and Mr Abe Watson.
  • Mr Frank Merlino

    Frank Merlino headshot

    Lifetime Achievement Award

    BA, 1969
    Principal, Victorian School of Languages

    Mr Frank Merlino is recognised for his contribution to education, local government, and Victoria’s multicultural community. Since majoring in French, English and Italian at university, Mr Merlino has had a lifelong interest in teaching and learning languages. As the longest-serving Principal of the Victorian School of Languages, the Education Department’s state-wide service specialist language school, he is responsible for the delivery of 50 languages across 41 campuses.

    Mr Merlino has contributed significantly to local government in the City of Whittlesea, one of the most diverse municipalities in Victoria, where he served as an elected Councillor for eight terms and Mayor for four. During this time the area experience rapid growth, and Mr Merlino was instrumental in assisting many groups that were set up in the area, including football and other sporting groups, cultural festivals, senior citizen groups, and in the establishment of an ethnic communities council.

    In his own words

    “I cannot praise too highly the positive benefits of an Arts degree. It encourages the pursuit of intellectual vigour in whatever field one follows and provides a better preparation for one’s decision making. Decisions, whether simple or complex, should not be made in a vacuum but in the context of ethical considerations and one’s understanding of the democratic society we live in. The need to use objective information and facts has become more critical with the rise of fake news. 

    My appreciation goes to all of the Melbourne University staff who provided a stimulating environment for me and my thanks go to the University for the Award – I am greatly honoured.”

  • The Hon Susan Crennan AC KC

    Susan Crennan headshot

    Contribution to Faculty and University Award

    BA 1965, PG Dip Arts (Hist) 2002
    Former Justice of the High Court of Australia, Melbourne Humanities Foundation Board member

    The Hon Susan Crennan AC KC is widely acknowledged as a leader and mentor within the legal profession in Australia, whose contributions to constitutional law, law reform and the administration of justice are remarkable. After completing a BA and Postgraduate Diploma in History at the University of Melbourne, she worked as a literature teacher before studying law in Sydney. In her long legal career, she has worked as a barrister in Australia and overseas, and was appointed QC in 1989. She was the first woman to serve as Chairman of the Victorian Bar Council, was a Commissioner for Human Rights for six years, and was appointed to the Federal Court of Australia in 2004 and then the High Court of Australia in 2005.

    Mrs Crennan has contributed significantly to both the Faculty and the University, especially in her roles as University of Melbourne Deputy Chancellor and Council Member, as a Melbourne Humanities Foundation Member, and as the founding donor of the Peter Steele Poetry Trust Fund, which supports poetry initiatives and students through scholarships, teaching and research initiatives, and the endowment of positions.

    In her own words

    "When I was first a member of the Arts Faculty nearly 60 years ago, it was generally considered that the humanities were a very important part of the intellectual life of the University… Forty years or so after being a student, as Deputy Chancellor, it was plain to me that too much managerialism and self-referential excess had had a lamentable effect on the humanities, both on their prestige and also on enrolments. Happily, in the last decade or so, we have all seen an astonishing revival of interest in the humanities… The Humanities Foundation has played an important role [in this revival] under the leadership of Allan Myers and then Peter Jopling.

    I’m honoured by the Award from the Dean because it remembers an important part of the history of the Arts Faculty, and it also acknowledges the contribution which ‘old’ alumni can make and acknowledges also their continuing interest in the life and vitality of the Arts Faculty."

    Read more about the Hon Susan Crennan AC KC

  • Mr Matt Goldberg

    Matt Goldberg headshot

    Leadership Award

    MA International Relations 1996
    CEO, Tripadvisor

    Currently CEO and President of Tripadvisor, the largest travel guidance platform in the world, Mr Matt Goldberg began his career in the public service and has spent the decades since supporting, advising and helping to lead numerous community and not-for-profit organisations. While executive vice president at The Trade Desk, a global advertising company based in New York City, he was founding director of Dataphilanthropy, a foundation based on the notion that passionate, yet data-driven philanthropy is the most effective way to deploy capital against humanity’s toughest problems.

    Mr Goldberg currently serves on several boards across the US and in Germany, including on the board for not-for-profit Lumina Foundation in Indianapolis, Indiana, an organisation which works in partnership with education and business leaders, civil rights organisations, policymakers and individuals who want to reimagine how and when learning occurs.

  • Ms Sarah Rey

    Sarah Rey headshot

    Leadership Award

    BA Hons, 1989
    Partner, Justitia

    Ms Sarah Rey is an award-winning lawyer, advocate for equality in the workplace, and constructive trouble-maker since her days in the hallowed halls of the University of Melbourne’s Arts and Law faculties.

    A career advocating for equality began with the group Feminist Lawyers, and in founding the Women’s Law Collective at the University of Melbourne, a group of like-minded young women who knew change was necessary in the legal system and profession. In creating the boutique employment law firm Justitia in 2005, Ms Rey and her co-founder established a new kind of legal workplace which allowed for flexibility, collaboration and innovation. She also created an innovative model for employing and mentoring law students, and established the Australian chapter of the US-Canadian Association of Workplace Investigators.

    In her own words

    “I am thrilled and honoured to be selected for the leadership category for this Alumni Award, and also to join such fine company with previous recipients. My heart was always with my Arts studies, and I am extremely grateful for the broad, mind-expanding (and privileged) education I received and continue to benefit from. It is an honour to celebrate that gift bestowed thirty years ago, and to acknowledge the achievements and contributions that the other award recipients have made.”

  • Ms Thenu Herath

    Thenu Herath headshot

    Rising Star for Young Alumni Award

    BA 2019
    CEO, Oaktree

    Ms Thenu Herath is the CEO of Oaktree, a non-profit that supports young people in the Asia-Pacific region to lead sustainable development initiatives in their communities. Recently, her team pioneered a new approach to international development that focuses on solidarity, decolonisation and collaboration – an approach which was shared at the Australian Council for International Development's Annual Conference (2021), alongside representatives from DFAT and leading development NGOs. She has previously worked with World Vision and Teach for Australia. She is also a Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum, co-author of Australia's first youth national security strategy and an executive team member of the Commonwealth Human Rights and Democracy Network.

    Ms Herath holds a BA in Politics and International Studies and is currently completing her Juris Doctor at the University of Melbourne.

    In her own words

    "I am deeply humbled to receive this award. I started my university studies in Science, but taking breadth subjects in politics and philosophy unlocked my interest in understanding more about the human experience. Ultimately, the global issues that I want to dedicate my life to solving are deeply human issues. The Bachelor of Arts gave me the skills necessary to approach problem solving in a holistic way. I know that many of my peers who once walked through the doors of the Old Arts building with me have gone on to achieve incredible things. This is testament to the Arts program setting us up well to think critically about the world around us and dare to dream of a better future."

  • Mr Izak Rosenfeld

    Izak Rosenfeld headshot

    Rising Star for Young Alumni Award

    BA 2013
    Associate General Counsel, Access Now

    Izak Rosenfeld, Esq. is Associate General Counsel for Access Now, an international human rights organisation that defends and extends the digital rights of users at risk. He is an international lawyer, qualified as an Attorney and Counselor at Law in New York and Washington DC (USA), and as a Barrister and Solicitor in Ontario (Canada).

    Mr Rosenfeld is an active member of the legal community, holding committee and leadership appointments across a variety of professional organisations, and is currently an Associate Judge - Awards and Subgrants for the American Bar Association. He also engages in pro bono and volunteer work, and mentors law students for the New York State Bar Association and Melbourne Law School.

    Read more about Izak Rosenfeld

  • Mr Abe Watson

    Black and white headshot of Abe Watson

    Rising Star for Young Alumni Award

    BA 2018, M Arts and Cultural Mgmt 2020
    Artistic Operations Manager, Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, the University of Melbourne

    Abe Watson is an experienced arts manager and creative with specialist skills in theatrical production and operations, producing, and technical theatre. He is currently Artistic Operations Manager at Fine Arts and Music, University of Melbourne. Previously, Abe was Production Manager at Melbourne Theatre Company.

    Well-respected in the Central Victorian Creative Community, Mr Watson is a Life Member of Bendigo Theatre Company (and former President), and worked in various operational roles across the Bendigo Venues and Events team for ten years.

    In his own words

    "I am delighted and honoured to receive this award — especially knowing the amount of incredible people graduating from the Faculty of Arts each year; it truly is humbling. I strongly believe in the importance of an arts education and know that mine, from The University of Melbourne, has helped me immeasurably. I’m grateful to be able to use that knowledge to contribute to, and advocate for, the Australian creative and cultural sector."

    Read more about Abe Watson

Past recipients

  • Rising Star Award for Young Alumni past recipients
    • Jazz Money (2021)
    • Saiful Bakhri (2020)
    • Christie (Yating) Ding (2020)
    • Dirgayuza (Yuza) Setiawan (2019)
    • Mohamed Khairat (2019)
    • Jenna Davey-Burns (2018)
    • Linh Do (2018)
    • Mr Tarang Chawla (2017)
    • Ms Morgan Koegel (2017)
    • Jason Ball (2016)
    • Lucy Thomas (2016)
    • Ms Stephanie Cousins (2015)
    • Mr Thomas Woodroofe (2015)
    • Dr Toby Ord (2014)
    • Ms Jenny Taing (2014)
    • Ms Ellen Sandell (2013)
  • Leadership Award past recipients
    • Dr Mark McDonald (2021)
    • Dr Genevieve Timmons (2020)
    • Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM (2019)
    • Dr Nadera Hayat Burhani (2018)
    • Mr Jack Heath (2017)
    • Lily Yulianti (2016)
    • Ms Erika Feller (2015)
    • Dr Helen Szoke (2014)
  • Contribution to the Faculty and University Award past recipients
    • Margaret Quixley (2021)
    • Associate Professor Alison Inglis AM (2020)
    • Dr Ted Gott (2019)
    • Emerita Professor Patricia Grimshaw AO (2018)
    • Mr Jack Heath (2017)
    • Emeritus Professor Chris Wallace-Crabbe AM (2016)
    • Mr Michael Bartlett (2015)
    • Professor Peter McPhee AM (2014)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award past recipients
    • Stefano De Pieri (2021)
    • Christos Tsiolkas (2020)
    • Joanna Murray-Smith (2019)
    • Stephanie Alexander AO (2018)
    • Sir James Gobbo AC CVO KSJ QC (2017)
    • Professor Gary Foley (2016)
    • Professor Peter Singer (2015)
    • Mr Alex Miller (2014)