2020 Faculty of Arts Alumni Award recipients

Lifetime Achievement Award

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

Christos Tsiolkas

Bachelor of Arts, 1987

Christos-Tsiolkas headshot
Christos Tsiolkas

Christos Tsiolkas is a Melbourne-based playwright, essayist, film critic, and award-winning author of six novels, and the short story collection Merciless Gods. He also wrote the monograph On Patrick White for the Writers on Writers series, and co-authored the dialogue Jump Cuts: An Autobiography with Sasha Soldatow.

His works have been adapted to both the big and small screens. His debut novel Loaded (1995) was made into the feature film Head-On directed by Ana Kokkinos and starring Alex Dimitriades. His third novel Dead Europe, which won The Age Book of the Year fiction award, was also adapted for cinema by Tony Krawitz.

His 2008 novel The Slap is possibly his best known, taking as its starting point a suburban barbecue in which a man slaps someone else’s child, and exploring the effects it has on the families who witnessed it. The book won the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize and was made into an ABC mini-series, and was then adapted for an American audience into a mini-series starring Peter Sarsgaard, Uma Thurman and Thandie Newton. Barracuda (2013) was also adapted as a mini-series, directed by Robert Connelly.

Christos has been shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and been awarded the Australian Literary Society Gold Medal. His most recent novel, Damascus, won the 2020 Victorian Premier’s Prize for Fiction. Christos’s work has been published extensively overseas as well as in Australia, and The Slap has been translated into 22 other languages.

Christos is also well known for his advocacy on queer issues and on behalf of the migrant and refugee community, specifically through his journalism. He has been a Cultural Ambassador for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre since 2013 and is also a patron of Writers Victoria.

In his own words

I fell in love with reading from a very young age and I think that it is this love of books that inevitably led me to becoming a writer. I think it is true for all writers. I was very fortunate in that – being migrants to this country – my parents were so proud and encouraging of my reading. They sacrificed to give me an education that wasn’t possible for them back in their homeland. Dad would always buy me two books on Thursday, which was payday when I was a child; and as he couldn’t read English, he’d buy me anything off the bargain table: Dickens, Austen but also Harold Robbins, Henry Miller. It was a real gift. It taught me from a young age to read eclectically; and it also taught me that reading wasn’t only entertainment, that sometimes you had to work hard for the real rewards. From my mother I inherited my love of cinema. That splendid art has been crucial in inspiring me as a writer, to think of language as both the word itself but also the image.

Inspiration comes from the most unexpected places. Something you see outside a train window. A line of poetry. The world inspires and enters non-fiction whereas I think in fiction the inspiration is more tangential. I mean by this that I am more consciously musing and thinking on themes and questions when I approach an essay. But fiction comes from a more dream-like state. Not necessarily the unconscious itself, though dreams can inspire; but more a kind of daydreaming that is necessary to any artist. Doris Lessing used the word “fugging” and I think that is absolutely perfect word for that experience. You can be in that fugging state looking out the study window; or on a walk; or doing laps at the pool.  It’s our access to the netherworld.

I think I am very fortunate to have found a vocation in which I can work through doubt, confusion, sadness and disappointment. Fiction can accommodate questions and uncertainty, and it can also imagine futures and alternatives. I can put rage and melancholy into my work, explore the shadows, but emerge into real life and shrug it off.

The greatest challenge for any artist is discipline. It is only by doing the work, diligently sitting down at the desk and writing, that you learn the craft of writing. There is talent, I do believe that. But talent isn’t enough for the craft. I describe writing as the apprenticeship that never ends. One of the things you have to learn is how to separate the world you create from the real world you live in. Again, I think you come to understand this through discipline, approaching writing as work, as labour.  If you don’t learn this truth, then I think you are in danger of betraying those you love and care for in the real world (let’s call it the non-writing world).

Self-doubt can be lacerating and so often one of the greatest challenges. Again, I have found that it is only by sitting down at the desk – for me I have committed to at least a 1500-word limit a day for the last twenty-five years – that one can wrestle and beat that demon of self-doubt. It will return, it’s never truly vanquished, but I do think you can forget it when lost in the work. Envy too is a demon and a challenge. You have to acknowledge it and then ridicule it, learn to laugh at yourself.

It’s a genuinely humbling thing to have my work recognised by an institution where I first dived into philosophy and politics and the imagination, where I first explored the challenge of becoming adult, where I met so many of my friends (and many people I met in my student years remain friends). My partner was a student at the University of Melbourne.

All that is important, and I am deeply grateful for it, but it is the sacrifice of my parents that I want to honour in this award. I’ve been thinking a lot about sacrifice in this bizarre year of 2020 that began with fire and then has been dominated by the astounding changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. I think those working-class migrant and refugee generations have so much teach us about fortitude, about resilience, and about gratitude. My parents, like so many of their peers, witnessed hardships that are unimaginable to my generation. My good fortune, which includes this award and this recognition, was made possible by their commitment and their sacrifice.

I was seventeen, and it was my first year at Melbourne Uni, and one day my Uncle Kosta dropped me off. He parked on Elgin Street, pointed up to one of the buildings, and then said to me, “I helped build that, I was a labourer on that site.” He gave me a light, playful slap on the cheek. “We’re proud of you being the first of our children to be here, Christo,” he said, “but don’t ever forget where you came from.” He then laughed, gave me a kiss goodbye, and said, “Go, go off and be a bloody scholar!”

I want to say thank you to that generation for literally building this nation, laying all these foundations that we now take for granted. This is a real honour.

Image credit: Zoe Ali.

Leadership Award

For an individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in business, community or government.

Dr Genevieve Timmons

Bachelor of Arts, 1975
Diploma of Education, 1978  (Melbourne State College)

Genevieve Timmons headshot
Genevieve Timmons

Dr Genevieve Timmons is an international consultant in philanthropy and grant making. She has been actively involved with philanthropy for more than three decades, working with numerous philanthropic entities, promoting thought leadership and pioneering approaches to organised giving in Australia and New Zealand. Throughout her career, she has specialised in engineering contemporary philanthropic strategies to address disadvantage, promote diversity and build capability for people facing disadvantage to lead their own advancement.

Current professional appointments are with the Paul Ramsay Foundation and the Naomi Milgrom Foundation. Board appointments include the Fellowship for Indigenous Leadership, TOM Melbourne and Studio Schools Australia. Recent past board appointments include the Philanthropy Australia Council, founding director and strategic adviser for the Mornington Peninsula Foundation, founding director and Chair of the Inner North Community Foundation, board member with Australian Community Philanthropy, and Ambassador of the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Swinburne University.

In her own words

My first encounters with philanthropy were actually when I was very young, growing up in a family of five kids in a country town where we were the beneficiaries of the generosity of other people. Our family was not well off. Like a lot of others in the town, we weren’t destitute, but living week to week on Dad’s income. Although we were the recipients of charity, we were never made to feel poor or disadvantaged, and with well-meaning philanthropy through our church we were provided with affordable housing and an education. We were recruited as leaders in our community as we grew up, which has stood us all in good stead to lead meaningful and productive lives. This was an indelible family and community experience for me in understanding first-hand how philanthropy can work.

I started working in philanthropy in Melbourne in the late 80s, when the number of people visible in the sector could barely have filled a combi van. There were some early leading foundations, but the style of giving was largely random acts of generosity based on well-meaning hunches. It was really a serendipitous opportunity – I had completed my Bachelor of Arts and Diploma of Education and was waiting to be assigned to a teaching role, but there was a delay of 18 months in being placed at a school in Victoria at the time. So I took on work opportunities to work in the not-for-profit sector, including being a founding staff person at the CERES project in Brunswick which was another great chance to see the impacts of catalytic philanthropy. I spent five years with CERES, converting an eight-acre tipsite into a community environmental park, which is now flourishing after 40 years of investment by community, government and philanthropy.

Philanthropy is being re-engineered and is emerging as a more powerful concept in our contemporary world, in Australia and globally. It is growing in significance for a number of reasons, but mostly because the art and science of philanthropy is  now more informed than ever. The impact of the philanthropic dollar is increasingly visible, and more people now have the option to deliver significant returns for society by harnessing effective professional discipline, creativity and values. Contemporary philanthropy is also becoming democratised. We are waking up to the fact that we don’t have to be mega-wealthy to start giving for social purpose, or to run businesses with social impact in mind. This means more people, with modest and significant wealth, are choosing to use their money to build a society that is just, creative and economically and environmentally sustainable.

As we deal with the fallout of the COVID 19 pandemic in 2020, it is particularly encouraging to see how philanthropic organisations and individuals are responding nimbly and creatively.  I salute our membership organisations such as Philanthropy Australia, Australian Community Philanthropy and the Fellowship for Indigenous Leadership, among others, who are seizing the opportunity for powerful leadership, providing a platform for collective support and action to ensure the optimal value of philanthropic dollars is secure in such uncertain times.

I am thrilled to have been awarded this honour, not only because my own work has been recognised, but also because it signals an important coming of age for philanthropy and social investment as a field of endeavour in 2020 and beyond. And I’m deeply grateful to have been involved with philanthropy during this time of emergence, growth and change in organised giving and social generosity.

My ambition for the future of philanthropy in Australia, and across the world, is that the power of the philanthropic dollar continues to be better understood and valued, as more people become involved with the democratisation of giving, and join the ‘savvy money’ movement. Savvy money is about using our money as a form of agency to create the type of society we want to be part of.

Another ambition for the future is that we reclaim and renew the original definition of philanthropy, first coined during the oldest traditions of Latin and Greek philosophers of more than 2000 years ago. For those unsure of what philanthropy is, you will find it in the dictionary between two other words, philanderer and philatelist, all three derived from the Latin word phila, to love: to love women (possibly too much); to love stamps; and in the case of philanthropy, to love humanity by giving freely for the benefit of others. The word philanthropy in 2020 is still defined in ancient terms as a love of humanity, but this must embody a frank and fearless love, one that will draw us closer to collective social and political goals where the needs of everyone are respected, and their contributions valued.

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Contribution to the Faculty and University Award

For an individual who has made a significant and sustained contribution to the Faculty and University through outstanding leadership, impact on students, research and teaching, engagement or philanthropy.

Associate Professor Alison Inglis AM

Bachelor of Arts (Honours) – Arts, 1980
PhD, 2000

Alison Inglis headshot
Alison Inglis AM

Associate Professor Alison Inglis is a leader in the field of art curatorship, art museum studies and art history, contributing not only to the Faculty of Arts through her teaching over several decades, but promoting the University of Melbourne through her outreach into the community.

Since 1995 she has coordinated the Master of Art Curatorship, one of the few art curatorship courses in Australia. The fact that many of her students now work in the museum sector in Australia and overseas is testament to her inspirational teaching. She sits on the board of Museums Victoria, was appointed Emeritus Trustee of the National Gallery of Victoria in 2010, and was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in this year’s Australia Day awards for service to education and to the museum and gallery sector. She has helped organise international conferences, published articles, curated exhibitions, and co-edited and co-authored significant books.

Her recent research includes two projects funded by the Australian Research Council: one examined British and Australian colonial portraits from 1700–1900; and the other investigated exhibitions of Australian art between 1968–2014. Both these important projects expanded the strength and scope of Australia’s understanding of its visual culture, both historically and in the contemporary sphere.

In her own words

I’m not sure when my love of art first began, but I can still remember my amazement and delight when, as a very small child, I first encountered the public sculptures in the Ballarat gardens. One in particular stands out in my memory: the very dramatic figure group titled The Flight from Pompeii. The power of art to fire the imagination continues to amaze and intrigue me to this day.

I have always gained great pleasure and satisfaction from teaching at the University – where the students’ curiosity and enthusiasm constantly provide new perspectives on the subject under discussion. At its best, teaching proves to be a vibrant interaction that challenges you to re-think your assumptions.

The Art Curatorship program celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, making it one of the oldest continuous art curatorship programs in the world! Art Curatorship emerged as a specialisation within Art History’s postgraduate teaching in 1990 in response to the increasing professionalisation of the museum sector, and the program has continued to evolve and expand ever since. To me, one of the most important things about art curatorship is that it continues to promote the essential interaction between tertiary education and our cultural community. I am very proud to be associated with this course and all its remarkable teaching staff, students and alumni.

I am honoured to be awarded this Faculty of Arts Alumni Award. I have had the great pleasure of working at the University for over three decades and am thrilled to receive this recognition, which I accept not only for myself but also on behalf of my many wonderful students and generous and supportive colleagues.

Image credit: Sharon Walker.

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.

Saiful Bakhri

Master of Cultural Materials Conservation, 2018

Saiful Bakhri headshot
Saiful Bakhri

Saiful Bakhri is a conservator at the Bali Cultural Heritage Preservation Office and a cultural heritage conservation consultant who has led conservation projects focused on disaster preparedness and recovery.

While studying archaeology in Indonesia, Saiful observed that Indonesia had a lack of conservators despite an abundance of cultural artefacts. He came to Melbourne to study the Master of Cultural Materials Conservation in the hope that through his studies he would develop knowledge and skills which he could take back home.

While a student at the University of Melbourne, Saiful founded Konservaction, a student-led Indonesian/Australian working group focusing on the conservation of Indonesian heritage which provides an international platform for students to develop skills in project management, workshop delivery and cross-cultural learning. Konservaction's two grant-funded projects saw six University of Melbourne students implement conservation projects with Balinese collecting institutions.

Saiful's focus as an emerging conservation professional is on building cultural material conservation as a profession in Indonesia in order to advance heritage care in the region. Having graduated in 2018, Saiful is now actively engaged in providing cross-cultural exchange opportunities between University of Melbourne students and museums in Bali.

In his own words

I am very humbled to achieve the Faculty of Arts’ Rising Star Award for Young Alumni 2020. This award is not only a reminder for me not to limit myself, but also serves as a milestone for me to continue serving communities and conserving cultural heritage.

I enjoy working on archaeological and ethnographic objects most of all. These objects are quite challenging to work with because they are mostly made from a combination of various materials. Also, when they belong to the communities, they are usually sacred so the custodians will hold some obligatory rituals prior to the treatment. This certainly will affect the decision-making process in conservation.

I think conserving our culture essentially means conserving our diverse identities which eventually will lead to a more peaceful and respectful world. It may sound cliché, but a world without culture might be bland.

The artists and craftsmen in Bali never fail to inspire me. In Bali, there are still locals who use traditional methods to sculpt stones, bricks and timber in order to decorate temples, create beautiful statues and so on. I personally believe these people will be excellent collaborators for conservators.

I would like to present this award to the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, particularly to Professor Robyn Sloggett for her subject, RESPECT, where she gave me invaluable insights and inspired me to work in unconventional ways. I would also like to thank Dr Marcelle Scott, a thoughtful mentor in two projects that my colleagues and I undertook in Indonesia during our studies, and last but not least, to Dr Nicole Tse, my supervisor, for the thoughts, inputs, and unwavering support during my studies.

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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.

Christie (Yating) Ding

Bachelor of Arts, 2012

Christie Ding headshot
Christie Ding

Christie Ding, originally from China, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Media and Communications in 2012. After several years working in Melbourne’s media industry, she saw a gap in the market. With her experience and understanding of both Chinese and Australian cultures, she decided to establish her own multicultural brand experience agency, Brand Catalyser, which focuses on building connections between Australian businesses and Chinese markets.

Brand Catalyser was established in 2017 with just four staff. It now employs 15 people, has over 50 clients and in 2019 opened its Adelaide office. As Brand Catalyser grows, Christie also provides internship opportunities to Faculty of Arts students (most of them international students) through the Arts Internship Program, offering both personal guidance and hands-on practical experience in the industry. Some of these interns have gone on to transition to being part-time or full-time employees.

Brand Catalyser has been recognised by the Victorian Government as a service provider within the Asian Gateway Voucher program, which helps Victorian businesses to build their Asia capabilities and grow their market development capabilities.

In her own words

After working in the advertising and marketing field for many years, I have realised that as advertisers we actually have more power than we thought to influence and change the community. Hence, the work we do is extremely important and needs to be designed carefully to ensure we are making a positive impact on the community. With Australia being so close to Asia, it makes good business sense to offer Australian companies an end-to-end marketing service that is comprised of culturally-tailored communications that hit – rather than miss – the mark.

Brand Catalyser is my greatest achievement with over 15 employees and a portfolio of more than 50 clients including Go Healthy, Natio, Alibaba, Vic's Meat, Mirvac and Cherry Hill Orchards. I’m extremely proud of my team, who are making Brand Catalyser a better agency, and giving me the confidence to embrace any upcoming challenges. They are passionate about what they are doing, and always bring in new ideas and new concepts to achieve better results for our clients.

I feel honoured and grateful for such recognition of the work I have done so far. It inspires me to continue doing what I am doing, it gives me confirmation that if you are doing something wholeheartedly and are open to new things, you will be rewarded one day.

I would like to give my most sincere thanks to my business partner Hazel Hu, who has been my best friend, mentor and business partner who has helped build the team of Brand Catalyser from day one. I also want to thank my team, who has been doing an amazing job on a daily basis. And last, I want to thank my clients, who have been really supportive and open-minded in working with my team to overcome all challenges.

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