2015 Arts Alumni Awards Announced

The Faculty of Arts is committed to recognising alumni who have achieved excellence in their chosen field, and who have made a considerable contribution to the Faculty, the University and their communities through their endeavours.

The Faculty of Arts is committed to recognising alumni who have achieved excellence in their chosen field, and who have made a considerable contribution to the Faculty, the University and their communities through their endeavours. In 2013 the Faculty of Arts established its annual Arts Alumni Awards program with the Rising Star Award for Young Alumni. Last year, three additional award categories were established: Contribution to the Faculty and University; Lifetime Achievement; and Leadership.

With over 70,000 alumni around the world, the Arts Alumni Awards raise awareness of our alumni and honours their outstanding contribution to society across a wide range of fields. From government, to business, the arts, media, community and not-for-profit organisations, we honour the legacy of the Faculty of Arts as we recognise the achievements of the following alumni.

Rising Star Award

The Rising Star Award for Young Alumni is awarded to alumni under 35 years of age who have demonstrated an outstanding level of professional achievement and community involvement since graduating from The University of Melbourne, and who have been recognised by colleagues and peers for their outstanding leadership and impact as a global citizen. In 2015 it is jointly awarded to Ms Stephanie Cousins and Mr Thomas Woodroofe.

Stephanie Cousins, BA (2005), BPPM(Hons) (2006), MPub&IntLaw (2014)

Stephanie has demonstrated excellence in advocacy, campaigning, capacity building, not for profit leadership, program management, and is a recognized expert in humanitarian and human rights policy. Currently Amnesty International's Government Relations Manager, Stephanie has previously lead Oxfam's Public Policy & Advocacy team and counts among her many achievements input into Australia's strategy, priorities and agenda on the UN Security Council and the establishment of the Pacific Small Arms Action Group. As Chair of the Pacific Small Arms Action Group, Stephanie oversaw the establishment of the legally binding international Arms Trade Treaty in 2012. She has trained Indonesian Defence Force personnel on the protection of civilians and prevention of sexual violence in emergencies, as well as working on secondment as a Humanitarian Policy Advisor with Oxfam International to support international advocacy and UN representation on humanitarian and human rights issues.

During her time at The University of Melbourne, Stephanie was rewarded for her academic excellence through receipt of a Melbourne Abroad Scholarship to Boston College (2003) and inclusion on Dean's List for Academic Merit in Public Policy and Management (2006). Stephanie has since applied the knowledge gained from her time at University to the wider world, both professionally and through community volunteering and activism. In 2006, together with members of the Melbourne and Sydney Darfuri diaspora communities, Stephanie played a critical role in establishing the Darfur Australia Network (DAN), raising awareness in Australia about the Darfur crisis and advocating to the Australian Government to protect and assist those affected by the conflict. In addition to her fundraising activities and staff and volunteer recruitment, Stephanie was the inaugural President of the DAN (2006 – 2007), and was served additional terms at the helm in 2009 and 2012. As a result of her tireless efforts in aide of the Darfur Australia Network, Stephanie a well-respected and much loved figure in the Darfur community.

In 2007 Stephanie established and directed the first ever refugee camp simulation – Oxfam's Refugee Realities. This program was designed to educate Australians about the experiences and rights of refugees around the world. Initially located in Melbourne, the simulation involved the coordination of over 200 volunteers, ran for over 8 weeks, and was attended by more than 7,000 people. Partners such as the UNHCR, the Australian Red Cross and the Refugee Council of Australia partnered in the project, which was subsequently funded by AusAID and offered in Canberra and three additional regional locations in 2009 and 2010.

Stephanie has consistently demonstrated her academic ability and excellence, from academic awards earned at The University of Melbourne through to her more recent peer-reviewed publications. As a passionate campaigner for global justice, Stephanie is tireless in her attempts to make the world a fairer and more equal place.

Congratulations Stephanie Cousins, recipient of a 2015 Rising Star Award for Young Alumni.

Acceptance Statement

"It's a great honour to receive this award! I started my Arts degree with a passion for art history, ended it with a passion for politics and social justice – and sampled many genres in between. That's the genius of an Arts degree, particularly at a place like Melbourne Uni where you can get the breadth and depth you need to figure out your path.

I've been incredibly fortunate to find my way from Melbourne Uni to some inspiring organisations like Oxfam Australia and Amnesty International. So far it's been a career path of discovery rather than design, sparked by an internship at Oxfam and a general realisation that some institutions will actually pay you to go disrupt the status quo for good (generally only after a healthy dose of volunteering!). It's opened my world and taken me to some amazing places like Kenya and Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. I've met some incredible people – people who have overcome almost incomprehensible adversity and yet dedicate their lives to a more compassionate and just world.

Now in my role as Government Relations Manager at Amnesty I meet with politicians from all sides to argue the case for human rights at home and abroad. Sometimes it feels like change is appallingly slow, or even regressing – whether it be Australia's policies towards asylum seekers, the treatment of Indigenous Peoples or Australia's incredible shrinking aid program. But every setback is a reminder of how important it is for Australia to have a thriving human rights movement. That's what I want to be part of, and it's wonderful to be recognised for doing the work I love.

Many thanks!"

Thomas Woodroofe, MIR (2012)

Having founded Left Right Think-Tank in 2009 (for which he was recognised as the Young Victorian of the Year), Thom's first significant foray into international affairs resulted from the opportunity to study overseas in the US, Europe and Asia as part of his undergraduate arts degree. During this period, Thom interned with the then-US Congressional Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the then-Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. As one of the youngest people ever to be invited to join the prestigious Australian American Leadership Dialogue, it was during his time living and studying abroad that Thom first turned his eye to opinion writing. Today his name is attributed to more than 100 published pieces ranging from a profile piece on Kevin Rudd (which was the most read contributing piece in Fairfax that year), to a large number of opinion contributions on Australian foreign policy, becoming a regular contributor to ABC TV.

When he returned to Australia in 2011 to complete his honours thesis on Australia's campaign for the UN Security Council, Thom grasped the opportunity to help galvanise public support behind the campaign. Through his writing, Thom outlined the case for Australia's bid, culminating in a joint op-ed piece coordinated by Thom and including Kevin Rudd, Alexander Downer and Gareth Evans. Since helping to build the bipartisan case for supporting Australia's bid, Thom has consulted with a number of different countries about how they can best structure their own campaigns for the UN Security Council.

In 2011, Thom also began work to establish Global Voices, which now provides Australia's leading opportunity for young people to attend international diplomatic events. Through Global Voices programs, almost 150 young people have now travelled overseas, fully-funded to events such as the G20, APEC and various UN meetings. Since graduating from a Master of International Relations in late 2012, Thom has worked with Independent Diplomat, the world's first non-profit diplomatic advisory group. Thom is currently supporting the Republic of the Marshall Islands, one of the lowest lying atoll nations, as they build their diplomatic capacity to influence negotiations for a new global deal on climate change. Working closely with the President, Foreign Minister and Senior Officials as they structure their diplomatic efforts, the Marshall Islands have become one of the most vocal vulnerable countries on climate change during this period.

As a 2014 Rhodes Scholar, Thom has moved to Oxford and now completes this work part-time while he writes a thesis on the role of small states in international diplomacy. As a young alumni, Thom has made a significant impact on Australia's foreign policy; a fact reflected in his recognition by the Diplomatic Courier Magazine as one of the world's Top 99 Under 33 Foreign Policy Leaders in 2013.

Congratulations Thom Woodroofe, recipient of a 2015 Rising Star Award for Young Alumni.

Acceptance Statement

"It is a real honour to be recognized alongside Stephanie with the extremely weighty title as this year's 'Rising Star Alumni'.  While I came to The University of Melbourne and the Faculty itself quite late (having completed my studies at that "other university" out there in the eastern suburbs), it still left a distinct impression on me.

Indeed, having just returned to study at Oxford University, I feel I can testament to the fact that the supervision really was first class, the seminars really were world leading, and the support for extra-curricular engagement really was unparalleled – how many students at other universities could say for example that they were tutored by Australia's greatest foreign minister, that they were supervised by Australia's leading mind on the UN, and that their Faculty placed great trust as a major sponsor in a NGO they were starting?

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that if it were not for the relations I formed in Parkville, or the teaching that I benefitted from and the cohort I mingled in, that I would not be where I was today Рno clich̩ intended.

Thank you so much."

Contribution to the Faculty and University

The Contribution to the Faculty and University Award is bestowed upon 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. The 2015 Contribution to the Faculty and University Award goes to Michael Bartlett, in recognition of his tireless commitment to the study of Classics at The University of Melbourne.

Michael Bartlett, BA (1976), GDipEd (1977)

Educated at The University of Melbourne and Cambridge University, Michael's passion for the classical world continues to this day. In collaboration with Associate Professor Chris Mackie, in 2008 Michael established the lecture series, 'Classics in the city', a thrice annual event where the topics are devoted to various aspects of antiquity including ancient philosophy, literature, history, music, mythology and archaeology. With the noble goal of stimulating the minds and lives of Melbourne's business community, Michael believed there was a real opportunity to link business and classics by allowing the business world to have its intellectual curiosity met while the University engaged with industry and showcased the talents of its classics department.

In 2013 a key priority of the Melbourne Humanities Foundation Board was to support a Chair in Classics at Melbourne. Former University Chancellor Dr Ian Renard announced his intention to support this initiative and Foundation Board Member and Classics alumnus Michael Bartlett initiated a fund for this purpose. Championing all things classical on the Melbourne Humanities Foundation Board, Michael was instrumental in chairing the dedicated group raising funds to support the teaching of Classics and Ancient World Studies. The group's goal was to see the Chair of Classics – one of the first chairs established by the University in 1854 – fully funded in perpetuity to ensure that the legacy of the ancient world endures for future generations. On 11 April 2013, in his role as Chairman, Michael was able to see the first stage of this task come to fruition. The sum of $20,000 was given to the Faculty of Arts for the purpose of establishing a fund to be known as the 'Classics Trust Fund'. The Classics Trust Fund support classics within the Faculty of Arts, including objectives such as the establishment and endowment of a chair of classics, teaching and research, purchase of equipment and facilities and for the support of general classics initiatives.

Congratulations Michael Bartlett, awarded the 2015 Arts Alumni Award for Contribution to the Faculty.

Acceptance Statement

"How often have you woken up from a repeated and particular dream in a panic and cold sweat? My repeated panicked dream is sitting my final university examination in Classical Greek. It is curious that my particular dream kept recurring even forty years after the original memorable event. Now, the Jungian dream analysts among you would have innumerable theories concerning the origins of my dream, but I am pleased to inform you that I arrived at a resolution all by myself and no longer experience that ordeal.

In my case, my subconscious was obviously crying out for a balancing of my passion for the Classics. While considering my formal education at Melbourne Grammar, The University of Melbourne and The University of Cambridge, I realised that the cause of my particular issue was the fact that I had completed 12 years of Latin and only 4 years of Greek. And my sleep patterns were restored simply by enrolling in some Greek courses in Melbourne University's Community Access Program and thereby beginning the joy of redressing my Classical imbalance.

I would like to acknowledge the inspiring, always characterful and at times long-suffering Teachers of Classics at those three great educational institutions. Back then, I did not have the academic or emotional maturity to be an exemplary student. In fact, I claim that back then I achieved first class honours for absolutely everything … except my academic studies. However, each of those patient educators inspired in me an abiding love of the Classics. To set the academic record straight though, you should know that when I was recently studying Greek at the University of Melbourne, via the Community Access program, as a mature age student and over three successive semesters, I did actually achieve straight first class honours– genuine ones, of which I am very proud.

So, after five years of Teaching Latin and English at Secondary School, one and half years as a Research Assistant to a Federal Shadow Minister and thirty years in the Financial World, which included the privilege of living and working in London, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore, and my classics books accompanied me wherever I was, what role does Classics now play in my life back in Melbourne?

Well, I derive great joy from helping and encouraging my three sons with their Latin homework. I try to read as widely as possible on Classical themes. Professor Mary Beard and Boris Johnson are my current favourite authors. I attend a weekly Latin reading class in the City – a delightful break from commerce. I am very proud of the fact that, with The University of Melbourne's help, we have instituted a very popular series of lunchtime talks in the City on Classical themes. This initiative is now into its eleventh year.

With a small Committee of like-minded professional men and women, as part of the University's Foundation for the Humanities, we have undertaken to raise $5M towards funding a Chair of Classics in perpetuity at The University of Melbourne. Due to the extraordinary efforts of many individuals, and two in particular, we have almost completed this first task. And then, for the benefit of future generations of Melbourne University Classics students, we shall begin raising funds for another Classic Teaching position, in perpetuity, and then another one!

I feel honoured, humbled and indeed overwhelmed to be the recipient of the 2015 Arts Alumni Award in the category of 'Contribution to the Faculty and University', for which I would like to thank sincerely the Dean, the Faculty and the University of Melbourne."

Leadership Award

The Leadership Award is awarded to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in business, community or government. In 2015, the Faculty of Arts is proud to present Erika Feller with this award, for her inspiring leadership in the field of refugees and humanitarianism.

Erika Feller, BA (1972), LLB(Hons) (1972)

Erika Feller is the Assistant High Commissioner of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which oversees the protection of 34 million refugees, internally displaced and stateless people through the development of UN policies, law procedures and framework. She monitors the movement and treatment of refugees around the world, including in Australia.

Erika was previously Head of UNHCR's Department of International Protection and spent considerable time as an Australian diplomat, including three overseas postings as well as senior appointments in Canberra. With more than 40 years of experience in international human rights and refugee law, a field in which she is a widely acknowledged authority, Erika has published extensively in many major refugee and international law journals. In her 19 years at UNHCR, she has served in a variety of capacities in the Department of International Protection, but also as the High Commissioner's Regional Representative for Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore, and regional coordinator for the Comprehensive Plan of Action for Indo Chinese refugees in South East Asia.

In addition to involvement in many of UNHCR's major field operations, Erika has closely followed developments in asylum policy and practice globally, including the European harmonisation process, regional protection initiatives in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, migration and asylum issues, sexual and gender violence problems, and policy and practice on internal displacement. She directly managed UNHCR's Global Consultations in 2001, which set the international protection agenda for the start of the new century, and has also served as UNHCR's chief negotiator of protection agreements with governments, as well as of multilateral arrangements with agency partners.

Congratulations Erika Feller, awarded the 2015 Arts Alumni Leadership Award.

Acceptance Statement

"I am deeply grateful for the honour bestowed upon me through this award. My thanks go to the Committee which has conferred it and I also extend my congratulations to all others whose achievements are being recognised tonight. It is a source of regret that I could not be here in person, but a long-standing, previous and overlapping commitment to deliver the 2015 Sir Kenneth Bailey Oration has made this impossible. I wish the ceremony every success.

Leadership is a difficult quality to capture. It means different things to different people. My view of it aligns quite closely to a characterisation once offered by former US Secretary of State Kissinger. He said: "the art of being a leader is to get his (her) people from where they are to where they have not been". I would go on to couple this with an observation attributed to Albert Schweitzer, that: "example is leadership".

Leadership for me is a style, an attitude, a competence, and an art. How effective you will be as a leader will be determined, I believe, by the extent to which you have a clear guiding vision; you exercise authority which is understood and fully respectful of age, gender and diversity considerations; and you accept and take responsibility. One of the most impressive leaders I have worked with was a former United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees, Mrs Ogata, from Japan. She very broadly commanded loyalty, liking and respect. This was partly because she was always clear and consistent in her policies and was meticulous about her personal and professional behaviour. She dealt with conflict, did not avoid it, and was as transparent as is possible at that level about her assessments and her expectations. One knew where one was with her.

Mrs Ogata came originally from academia, which may explain her particular style of listening and learning. Talking of coherent and principled narratives, or the lack thereof, I suggest that our politicians could take a leaf out of Mrs Ogata's book and give greater priority to this when it comes to refugees and asylum policies. I admit upfront a certain bias, given my many years working in favour of refugees, but I have been alarmed by the failure of the debate in Australia to better reflect refugee realities on the ground – to properly and compassionately take into account the problems of refugees, and the host countries which bear the biggest burden, rather than to be so exclusively driven by the local asylum dilemmas as such. The discussion here, at least as I have been exposed to it, has become ever more mired in polemics and a bewildering mass of misinformation and has fuelled attitudes locally and policies nationally and regionally which are both alarmist and defensive, not to say legally on the margins and morally indefensible. I can only characterise it as a failure of leadership where politicians are more driven by the polls and the imperatives of staying ahead politically than by consistent values or a coherent vision. As the refugee situation becomes ever direr, internationally, let's hope our leaders will see the wisdom of leading by example and move boldly forward to accept their responsibilities in a more collaborative and compassionate spirit.

My time at Melbourne University was one I look back on with great fondness and appreciation. It prepared me well for the professional life which was to follow. I commend the University's management and its staff for upholding the high standards of teaching and research for which it has become now so well-known and I am sure that this will be to the benefit not only of the generations it is educating but the world into which they take their knowledge and skills. I hope this will include the world of humanitarian endeavour, which is ever more in need.

Thank You."

Lifetime Achievement Award

The Arts Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to an individual who has made an outstanding, long-term and internationally-recognised contribution to their field of endeavour. The Faculty of Arts is thrilled to award a Lifetime Achievement Award to Peter Singer in 2015. Peter is an internationally recognised moral philosopher and proponent of effective altruism.

Peter Singer, BA(Hons) (1968), MA (1969)

Professor Peter Singer, AC is often described as the world's most influential living philosopher. Peter completed both a Bachelor and Master of Arts at the University of Melbourne. He is an Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, and Laureate Professor at our own School of Historical and Philosophical Studies. A moral philosopher, Peter has has authored countless articles and more than twenty books.

Specialising in applied ethics and approaching ethical issues from a secular, utilitarian perspective, Peter's canonical text in animal rights and liberation theory, Animal Liberation (1975), saw him inducted into the United States Animal Rights Hall of Fame in 2000. He serves on the Advisory Board of Incentives for Global Health, the NGO formed to develop the Health Impact Fund proposal as well as the advisory board of Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP). In 2004 Peter was recognised as the Australian Humanist of the Year by the Council of Australian Humanist Societies, in 2006 he was voted one of Australia's ten most influential public intellectuals, and on 11 June 2012, he was named a Companion of the Order of Australia for "eminent service to philosophy and bioethics as a leader of public debate and communicator of ideas in the areas of global poverty, animal welfare and the human condition."

In his latest book, Peter presents a challenging new movement in the search for an ethical life: effective altruism. Building upon the simple but profound idea that living a fully ethical life involves doing the 'most good you can do', the movement requires a rigorously unsentimental view of charitable giving, urging that a substantial proportion of our money or time should be donated to the organisations that will do the most good with those resources. To be a worthy recipient of our support, an organization must be able to demonstrate that it will do more good with our money or our time than other options open to us. Effective altruism extends our knowledge of the possibilities of living less selfishly, and of allowing reason, rather than emotion, to determine how we live.

Congratulations Peter Singer, recipient of the 2015 Arts Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award.

Acceptance Statement

"It's particularly nice for me to receive this award in the very lecture hall where I attended my first philosophy lecture, which I think was 51 years ago. It is appropriately, therefore, a lifetime achievement, although I do hope I haven't quite finished achieving just yet.

As I sat here tonight watching so many young people receiving awards for their excellent work in the Faculty of Arts, I want to say that I felt that I was very fortunate with the excellent education that I got here, which after leaving The University of Melbourne, enabled me to go on to study at Oxford and teach at Oxford, NYU and Princeton, and to feel that I could engage equally with the world class standard.

Continuing on from the remarks of Erika Feller, I think it is important for you [students] to think about what you want to do when you leave this place. You will have had marvellous years of study and education, learning to think for yourself and learning to develop a whole set of skills that will equip you for excellence throughout the years to come. But the question is then, what are you going to do with that?

I believe we have a lot of opportunities to do good in the world. I urge you to think about the ways in which you can do not just some good in the world, but the most good you can do*. That's not something that everybody thinks about. There are a variety of opportunities out there in terms of the direction that the younger people in this audience (and young people in general) are heading. As one of the people in the effective altruism group, Will MacAskill calculated, you're likely to spend about 80,000 hours working on your career. So if you're going to spend 80,000 hours working on your career, its worthwhile spending not just an hour or two, but maybe 1% of that, say 800 hours, or roughly 20 weeks,  whatever it is, spend a reasonable amount of time thinking. I urge you to consider what choices are you going to make? What is going to both suit you and enable you to make that contribution to the world?

* This is a shameless plug for the title of my new book!

Thank you."