First published 18 November 2021

Social, business, and educational entrepreneurs, the engineer behind the state’s road safety practices, a broadcaster, a writer, a lawyer, and an Olympian are among those selected for this year’s QUT Alumni Awards, as leaders in their professions.

The awards recognise the achievements of graduates who have made significant contributions to industry and for ‘giving back’ to their areas of expertise.

Entrepreneur Susannah George was named as Outstanding 2021 Entrepreneurial Alumnus, in the first award of its kind for QUT.

 

The Urban List brand founder is recognised among the top Australian entrepreneurs and an influential voice in media.

“Doing more of what you love makes you happier; and happier people are more active, more engaged and more willing to make change in this world,” Ms George said.

“Everything we do is designed to drive more traffic to the businesses and brands we love.”

 

 

Russian-born Elena Gosse (video above) overcame significant childhood trauma and domestic violence to head one the world’s best manufacturers of water disinfection technology.

As QUT’s Outstanding Alumnus (Business), Ms Gosse credits her QUT degree - and conquering a fear of mathematics exams - to help forge her family business AIS Water into an international success story.

“I turned my worst nightmare into a dream and proved I could do anything I set my mind to,” she said.

“If you told me 30 years ago, I would leave Russia, learn English, gain a second university degree in Australia and be CEO of my own company I would not have believed it.”

With double degrees in Business and Creative Industries (2011) and a guiding ethos of creating sustainable solutions for waste products, Brisbane’s Seljak sisters (video below) have woven resourcefulness into a global brand.

 

 

The Outstanding Young Alumni award recipients are leaders in the circular economy, with Seljak Brand diverting more than 6,500kg of textile waste from landfill into manufacturing merino wool blankets.

Five dollars from each sold blanket is donated to the Australian asylum seekers resource centre.

Karina, who studied fashion and advertising at QUT has also completed a fellowship with the Centre for Sustainable Leadership while Sam, who studied journalism and economics, has obtained a Masters in Sustainability from Malmö University in Sweden.

In five years, Seljak Brand has become a global product, expanding to stockists in NZ, Lebanon, Japan, Norway, and Australia.

“No matter what you study or where you think your career might lead, you can create your own future,” Sam said.

Another Outstanding Alumnus pursued his passion of education to help young students understand mathematics concepts by developing classroom resources that are used by more than a million students globally.

James Burnett is the co-founder and Executive Chairman of ORIGO Education, Australia’s largest exporter of print and digital products for primary school-based mathematics education with an annual turnover of $15 million.

 

 

With more than 25 years’ experience, he also contributes to the teaching profession by providing free professional learning webinars for educators across Australia and the USA. And in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ‘ORIGO at Home’, was introduced as a free resource to support students’ continuing learning of mathematics at home.

He said completing a master’s degree in Education in 2003 was a standout of his own tertiary education.

“I chose to do that through course work, and it was special to me as I could do all the pieces of assessment in mathematics education,” he said. “This award is very unexpected and a nice acknowledgement to my commitment to education.”

Indigenous graduates Daniel Browning and Ellen Van Neerven have also been honoured for their contributions to Creative Industries and efforts to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices.

 

 

Daniel Browning is an Aboriginal journalist, radio broadcaster, documentary maker, sound artist and writer. He is the new presenter of the ABC’s Art Show, is the ABC’s Editor of Indigenous Radio and has worked for the national broadcaster for 27 years.

“There's an absolute relationship between what I studied and where I am today professionally,” he said.

Ellen Van Neerven is recognised as one of Indigenous Australia’s leading literary voices.

Involved in the black&write! Indigenous Writing and Editing project from 2011-2017 and again this year, the role is aimed at addressing the underrepresentation of Indigenous editors within Australian publishing.

“I think this award means a lot to my parents who always supported me with the career choices I made,” the Outstanding Young Alumnus award winner said.

 

 

Outstanding QUT Service Award Law Alumnus, Luke Mountford, (video below) is a Partner in HopgoodGanim’s Private Enterprise practice working closely with entrepreneurs, business owners and heads QUT Law Founders’ Scholarship Funds to help first year law students facing hardship.

“QUT really values the role that volunteers play and is a great reflection through its scholarship programs to help students who have come from difficult backgrounds and succeed at university and in their careers,” he said.

 

 

In the driving seat in engineering Queensland’s transport safety and efficiency is QUT Outstanding alumnus Dennis Walsh, who serves as Chief Engineer in the Department of Transport and Main Roads.

Responsible for the roll out of speed cameras, introducing Queensland's smart motorways, and now paving the way for new vehicle technologies on Queensland roads, Mr Walsh (video below) oversees the next generation of smart transport infrastructure.

 

 

“What drives me is making a difference for the people we serve and that attracted me to the public sector and I’m really passionate about making a difference to the lives of Queenslanders,” he said.

Four-time Olympian Bronwen Knox debuted for the Stingers Women’s Water Polo in 2005, attending her first Olympics in Beijing in 2008 and as recently at the Tokyo Olympics where the Australian team finished fifth.

With a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) and post-graduate qualifications, Ms Knox mentors at both elite and grassroots levels and is QUT’s first recipient of the Outstanding Sport Alumnus award.

Ms Knox has played more than 400 games for Australia while also working in Brisbane high schools to build water polo programs. Through Sport Integrity Australia, Ms Knox reinforces ‘clean fair sport’ for athletes and supports female athletes through the International Women’s Forum.

 

 

“There are many accolades as part of a professional career as an athlete but having something that is a combination of both my studies and my sport is fantastic and I didn’t think I could do both,” said of her award.

 

Media contacts:-
Debra Nowland, 07 3138 3151 or media@qut.edu.au
After hours: Rod Chester, 0407 585 901