Ten of La Trobe’s Boldest Thinkers

Ten of La Trobe’s Boldest Thinkers

‘There is no greater evidence of a university’s success and lasting contribution to society than the achievements of our most notable alumni,’ former La Trobe Chancellor Adrienne E Clarke AC once said.

To celebrate the culmination of our 50th anniversary year, we look back at some of the many brilliant minds who have studied with us and gone on to make a phenomenal, positive impact on Australian life and beyond.

Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM, Human Rights Lawyer, CEO of Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Behavioural Science)

Kon Karapanagiotidis began the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in 2001 as a small food bank in Footscray for asylum seekers living with virtually no basic support. Independent of Federal Government funding, the ASRC is grown to become the largest provider of aid, legal and health services to people seeking asylum in Australia. With the help of 1200 volunteers and 60 staff, the centre assists around 2,000 people each year.

Karapanagiotidis’s commitment to human rights was acknowledged with a Churchill Fellowship in 2010 and an Order of Australia Medal in 2011.

Dr Yong Cai, Physicist
PhD in Physics)

Since completing his PhD in Physics, Dr Yong Cai has worked at state-of-the-art synchrotron facilities around the world. Currently at New York’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, he is leading the Inelastic X-ray Scattering Group, which is working on the world’s brightest X-ray project, the Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II).

The NSLS-II delivers world-leading intensity and brightness, allowing scientist to probe the fundamental properties of matter, which will pave the way to new scientific discoveries and innovations.

As an international student from China, Dr Cai not only started his career studying with us but also says ‘La Trobe was my first foreign experience outside of China’.

Andrew Cameron OAM, Nurse and Humanitarian Aid-Worker
Bachelor of Nursing)

Andrew Cameron OAM has been recognised nationally and internationally as a leader in the nursing profession. His career has taken him to some of the world’s most troubled places, including Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Kenya and Yemen.

In 2011, Cameron received the highest international distinction in nursing – the rarely awarded Florence Nightingale Medal ‘for exceptional courage and devotion to victims of armed conflict’.

In 2004 he was named Australian Nurse of the Year and in 2013 received the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to the nursing profession. He currently lives and works in Birdsville, Queensland, at one of the country’s most remote inland clinics.

Cornelia Lenneberg, World Vision Regional Leader
BA Politics, Hons; MA Politics)

With more than 25 years’ experience in international development leadership, Cornelia Lenneberg is a committed advocate for some of the world’s most vulnerable people. In her role as regional leader at World Vision, Lenneberg has overseen the organisation’s humanitarian response, long-term development and advocacy programs across 14 countries, including the Syria crisis in Lebanon, Jordan and Northern Syria as well as long term programs in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

In 2005 Cornelia was seconded to Aceh Indonesia in the wake of the devastating Tsunami.

World Vision’s regional strategy is dedicated to sustainability improving the wellbeing of 10 million of the most vulnerable children, through relief, rehabilitation, health, education, economic development and child protection programs.

Tim Flannery, Environmentalist and Writer
Bachelor of Arts)

Tim Flannery is an internationally-acclaimed scientist and conservationist, and one of Australia’s leading thinkers on climate change. Among his many accolades, he was named Australian of the Year in 2007 and currently chairs the Copenhagen Climate Council, an international climate change awareness group.

Notably, he was the Chief Commissioner of the Climate Commission, a Federal Government body providing climate change research to the Australian public.

When the Abbott Government dissolved the Climate Commission and sacked Flannery, Flannery launched the Climate Council – raising $1 million to fund the body – believing it integral the Australian public had access to an independent authority on climate change science.

Maureen Wheeler, Lonely Planet Founder and Director
Bachelor of Social Work)

While a Bachelor of Social Work doesn’t generally lead to a lucrative publishing career, Maureen Wheeler went from studying ‘how to improve people’s lives’ to, ultimately, changing the way we travel. Wheeler co-founded Lonely Planet Publications with her husband Tony Wheeler in the early ‘70s, which went on to become the largest travel guide book publisher in the world. The couple sold Lonely Planet to the BBC in 2013 for a cool $100million.

Returning to her roots, Wheeler took on the role of Adjunct Professor at La Trobe in the Department of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality.

Wheeler has been awarded Australian Business Woman of the Year and an Order of Australia.

Andrew Sinclair, Deputy Director of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
PhD Biological Science)

Professor Andrew Sinclair leads an internationally recognised research group that focuses on gonad development and dysfunction, and the underlying disorders of development (DSDs – also known as intersex disorders).DSD is more common than you may think and can be extremely traumatic for the individual, and cause profound psychological and reproductive consequences. Professor Sinclair’s research aims to improve outcomes for affected children – and for their family.

He has received numerous national and international awards including the Outstanding Research Award from the Royal Society UK, the 2009 Sutherland Award for contributions to Human Genetics, and the 2010 Emil Steinberger Memorial Award from the American Society of Andrology.

Dr Hala Raghib, Cardiovascular Researcher
(Bachelor of Biomedical Science, Master of Business Administration)

Kuwaiti-born Palestinian Dr Hala Raghib is a remarkable young achiever, who came to Australia as a non-English speaker at the age of 12 to become an award-winning cardiovascular researcher.

Dr Raghib’s ground-breaking research lead her to develop a testing system that predicts the effect non-cardiovascular drugs will have on the heart. Her research was tested on human cells – not animals cells – pioneering a technique that could significantly help reduce the use of animals in pharmacological testing. Her results are widely acknowledged by the scientific community as being superior to animal models, providing better predictability of the drug effects on humans.

Dr Raghib was awarded La Trobe’s coveted Young Achiever’s award, the Young Arab Australian Achiever’s award in Science and the Australian Museum Eureka Prize.

Elizabeth Proust AO, Business leader
Bachelor of Arts, Hons, Sociology)

Elizabeth Proust AO is one of the most influential Australian women and a leading business figure. Her roles have included serving as Deputy Director-General of the Department of Industry, Technology and Resources from 1987, CEO of the City of Melbourne from 1990, and Secretary of the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet – the most senior public service position in Victoria – from 1995.

Her professional commitments have been balanced by her steadfast contribution to charitable community organisation in the arts, family services and education, for which service she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2010.

‘My personal philosophy is to make a difference,’ Proust AO has said. ‘If you can do that and have some fun along the way, then life’s pretty good.

Tim Matthews OAM, Paralympian
(Bachelor of Outdoor Education)

Tim Matthews competed in three successive Paralympic Games in 1996 (Atlanta), 2000 (Sydney) and 2004 (Athens) winning five Paralympic medals including three gold which included two world records.

Beyond competitive sport, Tim has worked extensively as an advocate and leader within the disability sector. He has volunteered for numerous disability charitable groups including Limbs4Life, for which he is a patron and Whitelion among others.

Tim is a generous mentor to aspiring Paralympians and has devoted his time to coaching and inspiring athletes to achieve their own sporting goals, including coaching 2012 Paralympic gold medallist and amputee, Kelly Cartwright. In 1996 Tim’s achievements were recognised with an Order of Australia Medal.