This is the latest edition of the Menzies Brief - Vol 19, No. 1, 2016
President’s Report – congratulations and thank you
Welcome to the first edition of the Menzies Brief for 2016 – we’re off to a busy start.
First and foremost, I want to congratulate one of my predecessors as MMSA President and Menzies Foundation Director, Professor Robyn O’Hehir, who was awarded an AO for her distinguished service to immunology and respiratory medicine in the Australia Day Honours. We watch with great interest as Robyn moves towards finding a cure for peanut allergy and I’m sure you’d all agree this award is richly deserved.
I have been advised the filming is underway for a new Menzies Foundation video. I cannot wait to see it. Thank you to the scholars who agreed to be involved and tell their stories. It will be a great way to showcase the diversity of those who receive Menzies Scholarships and the paths they take.
Another big thank you also to Kate Peterson, 2007 Menzies Scholar in Law, who represented us at the presentation of the Menzies Centenary Prize at Dimboola Memorial Secondary College just before Christmas. Apparently it was quite a road trip and Kate not only addressed the school about what it means to be a Menzies Scholar, but heard first hand from 2015 Menzies Centenary Prize winner, Nikita Bell, about her early experiences as a nursing student.
Dr Josie Barbaro MMSA President
Secretary’s report – Alumni Advisory Group meets
The newly-formed Menzies Foundation Alumni Advisory Group met for the first time last week. What a great thing it is to have the input and assistance of a range of Menzies Scholars from all professional backgrounds. I will report back on more advisory group activities as the year progresses but firstly I just want to thank those who have taken the time to get more involved this year. The group will meet three or four times a year prior to the Foundation board meetings.
The Advisory Group members are: Josie and myself, Roger Derrington (law), Tina Souvlis (allied health), Anne-Marie Hill (allied health), Dr Nick Huntington (medicine), Oren Bigos (law), Sheree Hurn (allied health) and Kate Peterson (law). The engineers are fortunate to be represented by me!
Another initiative that the Menzies Foundation team is implementing to enhance alumni engagement is a survey of scholars. The survey will be out in the next few weeks and will be designed to get your feedback on communications, events and your involvement with the Menzies Foundation. Please take the time to complete the short survey as it will help shape some of our upcoming activities.
Thank you again for your involvement in all that we do.
Dr Adrian McCallum MMSA Secretary/Treasurer
Menzies Scholars achieve amazing things
Our Menzies Scholars show their leadership in many different ways in the paths they choose. Here are a few recent highlights:
Dr Josie Barbaro's decade-long research into the early detection of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with over 30,000 children, is behind the questions and videos on a new smartphone app, which helps parents spot the ‘red flags’ for ASD. The free ASDetect app, created by Salesforce in partnership with La Trobe University, helps parents and others detect autism-related behaviours to help with early intervention and better outcomes. Josie is the 2006 Menzies Allied Health Scholar. As you would expect with such a major breakthrough, there was significant media coverage and the app was downloaded over 5000 times in the first week.
Dr Nick Huntington's team at the Walter and Eliza Hall have discovered a way to switch on the body’s natural killer cells that detect and kill cancer cells, which may lead to more targeted cancer treatments. Dr Huntington is the 2006 NHMRC/RG Menzies Fellow.
2014 Menzies Engineering Scholar, David Bowly, has been involved in an initiative to deliver a sustainable computer-based teaching program for schools in rural India. The Menzies alumni has a long history of contributing to the community – so much so that it is a core element of our selection criteria across our scholarships. David’s work in India is just one of many examples of our scholars ‘giving back’ and helping create a better world.
Professor Paul Hodges will be leading an $8.8 million program of research across three universities in three states, approaching the treatment and management of back pain and osteoarthritis from all angles. The research is funded by the NHMRC and is a collaborative program between the University of Queensland, the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney. An expert in spinal pain, Paul has PhDs in physiotherapy and neuroscience and is the 1994 Menzies Allied Health Scholar.
Meanwhile Professor Chester Brown (pictured) was one of four barristers (led by the Commonwealth Solicitor-General) acting for the Australian Government in its win over Phillip Morris Asia Ltd. The government successfully defended a challenge to the tobacco plain packaging legislation which was brought under a bilateral investment treaty between Australia and Hong Kong. Professor of International Law and International Arbitration at the University of Sydney, 2000 Menzies Scholar in Law, and a barrister specialising in public international law, Chester is often involved in disputes before international courts and tribunals. Some say the outcome of this case is likely to give other countries confidence to follow Australia’s lead on plain packaging.
2007 Menzies Allied Health Scholar and gambling research expert, Dr Sally Gainsbury, published her latest research showing that moderate risk or problem gamblers report that their problems worsened as a result of exposure to and engagement with social media advertisements for gambling.
In some fascinating research, 2005 NHMRC/RG Menzies Fellow, Dr Adrian Liston, and his team in Belgium found that one of the most important factors that altered an individual's immune system was whether they co-parented a child.
Dr Ben Spagnolo, 2006 Menzies Scholar in Law, has just published his first book, examining the phenomenon of the continuity of legal systems with a particular focus on Australian law and history.
FODMAPs expert and dietician, Dr Jaci Barrett (2006 Menzies Allied Health Scholar), has been talking to a world-wide audience about her research findings into the FODMAPs diet, which assists people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
In the media
Some of the Menzies Scholars are regulars in the media:
US-based Harvard Menzies Scholar (1997-98), economist and public policy expert, Justin Wolfers, is never far from the media, but his recent visit to Australia has given Australian audiences an opportunity to tap into his insights. We particularly liked this piece in the Sydney Morning Herald about how economic decision making is integral to how he lives his life.
Matthew Tyler, currently at Harvard studying a Masters in Public Policy at the John F Kennedy School of Government, has been quite prolific in the media. To mark the release of the 2016 Closing the Gap statement, he and a fellow-student from the UK, provided their thoughts in an opinion piece in The Age.
Having built a strong body of research on various aspects of online gambling, Dr Sally Gainsbury tends to be the first point of call for media wanting to talk about gambling issues. She spoke to 720 ABC Perth about the ways online gambling companies are targeting young male gamblers.
1995 Menzies Law Scholar, Renee Leon, was named as one of the country’s key policy shapers, in her role as Secretary of the Department of Employment.
And a potential future scholar – well certainly a history buff – 14-year-old Queenslander, Angus Murray (pictured with Menzies Foundation CEO, Sarah Hardy), had his moment of fame late last year, when he took out the National History Challenge prize in the special category on Sir Robert Menzies, sponsored by the Menzies Foundation.
Menzies Scholar Spotlight – Dr Keryn Proctor
2004 Menzies Memorial Scholar in the Allied Health Sciences
What is your job?
I work at the Bouverie Centre in Brunswick, Melbourne, which is part of La Trobe University. I have three roles:
Psychologist, family therapist and lecturer – Clinical and Academic Program
Program Manager of the Indigenous Program, and
Acting Program Manager – Research.
What is the most fulfilling aspect of your work?
Working closely with my team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous family therapists/researchers and contributing to closing the health and education gap, particularly in regional and urban Victoria.
How has the Menzies Scholarship helped you?
As a mature aged (early career though) researcher, the Allied Health scholarship was critical to me being able to take the time to complete my PhD and continue to work in both a complex mental health and qualitative research role.
What is the book that has influenced you the most?
Landscape gardening (dry rock wall building), gardening generally and bushwalking.
How do you describe leadership?
The capacity and willingness to inspire collaboration and generate enthusiasm for a diversity of tasks and ideas to translate into action.
To facilitate the space for critical reflection.
If you were Prime Minister of Australia, what would you do first?
I would enshrine in legislation a treaty that acknowledges the first nation peoples of this land as the traditional custodians of the land, and change the offensive words in our national anthem that describe Australia as a land that is ‘young and free’.
2016 Menzies Scholarship dates
If you know anyone who would benefit from a Menzies Scholarship and has the kind of academic and leadership potential the Foundation looks for in scholars, please let them know the dates our scholarships will be offered this year.
We will communicate each opening and closing date throughout the year, but here is an early indication of the timing for each Menzies scholarship and you can also visit our website for more details.
Menzies Research Scholarship in the Allied Health Sciences
Opens: 1 May
Closes: 30 June
Menzies Scholarship in Engineering
Opens: 1 June
Closes: 31 July
Menzies Scholarship in Law and Sir Ninian Stephen Menzies Scholarship in International Law
Open: 1 July
Close: 31 August
Back to school support for families
The Menzies Foundation has provided some additional financial support to families in the Wimmera region of Victoria by partnering with the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) to fund back-to-school vouchers.
The Back to School program run by FRRR addresses inequality and enables students to feel part of the school community. The program has been running nationally since 2005 and is based on a belief that quality education should be accessible no matter where you live.
This is the first year the Menzies Foundation has been involved with a contribution of $5000 to be distributed to Wimmera families.
The Menzies Foundation provides a range of support for students in the Wimmera region as part of our efforts to perpetuate Sir Robert Menzies' beliefs about the impact of education on the wellbeing of all Australians.
First Fielding Menzies Tertiary Scholars head to Ormond College
In 2016 the scholarships provide students from the Wimmera (in north-west country Victoria) the chance to study at the University of Melbourne with full board at Ormond College for the duration of their degree.
The two scholarships, created in partnership between the Fielding Foundation, the Menzies Foundation and Ormond College, were offered to year 12 students from schools in the Wimmera region and awarded based on academic achievement, contribution to the community and financial need.
The Fielding Foundation is a Private Ancillary Fund and we would like to acknowledge the generosity of Peter Fielding and his family who provide funds for these scholarships.
New Zealand takes the PM's XI trophy
Did you know that the man who created Australia’s first decimal coins also created the Menzies Memorial trophy and Menzies medallion awarded to the man of the match in Prime Minister’s XI fixtures?
Stuart Devlin featured in this story in The Age recently to commemorate the 50th anniversary of decimal currency in Australia.
Meanwhile, the Menzies Memorial trophy and Menzies medallion were presented to the New Zealand team, who kicked off the summer with a win over Australia at Manuka Oval in Canberra, in the game that was created by Sir Robert Menzies in 1951.
New Menzies Foundation newsletter
This week we are sending a version of the Menzies Brief – Menzies Brief ‘lite’ if you like – to our external stakeholders for the first time. It will go out approximately four times a year with details about your achievements, stories about new scholars and scholarship timelines as well as news about other programs run by the Foundation. We will not include the Scholar Spotlights and other ‘in-house’ information like the columns from the MMSA President and Secretary.
If there is someone you know who would benefit from getting our news, please ask them to subscribe at the bottom of the Menzies Foundation home page.
You are welcome to subscribe too, although you will find it is very similar to the Menzies Brief.
Have we got your profile?
Coeliac researcher, Dr Robert (Bob) Anderson (1997 NHMRC/RG Menzies Fellow), is working on a vaccine for coeliac disease at a US-based clinical development stage biotechnology company, ImmusanT. We’ve just updated his bio (which was sadly missing before) on the Menzies Foundation website. If your bio is out of date or non-existent, please let Kate or AJ know and we will rectify the situation as soon as possible.