This is the latest edition of the Menzies Brief - Vol 20, No. 4, 2017
From the Chair
And just like that…
As I sign off on my final column as Chair of the Menzies Alumni, from the flanks of Hiunchuli in Napal, I’m reflecting on the fact that this has been a challenging year but I like to think we’re also on our way to scaling some great heights.
Next year promises to deliver a lot as we remember what has been achieved in the 40 years since Sir Robert Menzies’ death and the work the Foundation has done in his name.
It seems all too quick that I have come to the end of my time on the Board as an alumni representative and it’s time for me to hand over the baton to the new Chair, Dr Sheree Hurn and Deputy Chair, Associate Professor Anne-Marie Hill.
It’s been an absolute pleasure to serve on the Board and to have input to the new direction. What is very good news from an Alumni perspective is the overwhelming response from our alumni across the globe to the call for new Alumni Advisory Group members.
Alumni Advisory Group takes off
We’ve had 15 new nominations from places as far afield as Germany, London, Boston, Geneva, Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne, adding to the existing nine members. Talk about getting knocked over in the rush!
It’s a fantastic response and given we are leading into our 40th year with a big agenda ahead, we will seek to involve people in different ways to use their input and expertise in the most productive way.
Thank you to all scholars for considering the invitation and a particular thanks to those who have shown their interest and put their hands up.
I would like to thank Tina Souvlis and Oren Bigos, who have given a lot of their time and energy in the first two years of the group, but have stepped down given their other priorities.
Menzies Alumni name takes effect
Since the last edition of the Brief, we also spoke with many of you at the Alumni Roadshow events around the country. These were very good conversations and the feedback in the survey afterwards indicated those who came found the local networking extremely valuable, whilst also seeking opportunities to connect nationally. Some key details of the findings, and some interesting facts about our whereabouts, are in this edition of the Menzies Brief.
Following the Roadshow, we have now finalised the change of name from the MMSA to Menzies Alumni, as flagged at last year’s MMSA AGM. From now on we will refer to the Menzies Alumni rather than the MMSA – everyone who has received a Menzies scholarship or fellowship will be regarded as part of this alumni, which will continue to grow with the new areas of work.
The other important thing to note, is that the Board has agreed with the proposal to ensure all the money from the MMSA account – collected as fees in the past – will continue to support the Menzies Centenary Prize at Dimboola Memorial Secondary College. The amount is approximately $66,000.
As I hand over to Sheree and Anne-Marie, I want to wish you all a very safe and happy holiday season and I look forward to seeing many of you next year for the 40th celebrations.
Dr Adrian McCallum Chair, Menzies Alumni
DATE CHANGE – 40 year celebrations
The dinner to commence our 40 year celebrations has been rescheduled to Friday 18 May at the Melbourne Museum.
Please note the change from the previously advised March date. More details will follow in the new year.
Farewelling Sir Ninian Stephen
Like so many other organisations who had the honour of his involvement and powerful intellect, the Menzies Foundation lost a great friend and benefactor with the death of The Right Honourable Sir Ninian Stephen KG AK GCMG GCVO KBE QC in October.
Chair of the Menzies Foundation, Professor Simon Maddocks, paid tribute to the former governor-general, who helped shaped the Foundation as its Chairman from 1992-1998.
“The Menzies Foundation was lucky to have such a great Australian and preeminent legal mind as its leader in the 90s,” Professor Maddocks said.
“During his period as Chair we marked the Centenary of Sir Robert Menzies’ birth with the establishment of the Menzies Oration on Higher Education in partnership with the University of Melbourne, the development of the documentary ‘Menzies in his time’ and a seminar on the Legacy of Sir Robert Menzies at the National Library in Canberra, featuring prominent speakers who had worked with Sir Robert.”
Sir Ninian was also Chair when the Menzies alumni (Menzies Memorial Scholars' Association) first met with the Menzies Foundation Board. This group continues to this day and ensures ongoing scholar input at Board level.
As in all his professional roles, Sir Ninian left an indelible impression on the people he met and worked with and is remembered extremely fondly by the alumni, board and council members.
The Foundation will continue to acknowledge the legal brilliance of Sir Ninian Stephen with a law scholarship named in his honour, which will be offered in 2018.
New Menzies Allied Health Professor appointed
Improving musculoskeletal health and reducing persistent pain are some of the research areas of Professor Michel Coppieters, the newly appointed Menzies Foundation Professor of Allied Health Research at Griffith University.
Professor Coppieters' work is in physiotherapy with a focus on treatment of neurogenic disorders. He has previously held positions at The University of Amsterdam, The University of Queensland, Kathmandu University and University Hospital Leuven, Belgium.
In 2010 Professor Coppieters received the University of Queensland Foundation Research Excellence Award. He has been the Chief investigator on competitive grants to the value of $2.3 million in both Australia and Europe over the past 10 years. He has also been associate investigator on a number of grants including a $7.5 million NHMRC Program Grant.
The Menzies Foundation provides funding for the Allied Health Professor position as part of its 5 year funding agreement with Griffith University. Read more about Professor Coppieters' work.
Serena takes her leadership to the next level
Taking the big jump from feeling safe, supported and surrounded by family in a small town in Queensland to studying at the University of Melbourne, is an experience that will guide the mentoring efforts of the 2018 Menzies Indigenous Mentoring Fellow.
Proud Mamu Waribarra woman from Tully in Far North Queensland, Serena Rae Thompson, has just been awarded the Menzies Fellowship, to spend 12 months as the mentor to the Year 7 students at the Melbourne Indigenous Transition School in Melbourne.
Engineering Scholar Olsen Garland has started his MBA at the London Business School (LBS), while Nathan Van Wees is completing a BCL at Oxford University.
The two scholars shared their first experiences with us.
For electrical engineer, Olsen the highlights have included listening to lectures from some of the world’s leading minds, playing his first game of Rugby, being appointed to the Board of the LBS Energy Club, not to mention hiking the Inca Trail as part of a world wind trip on the way to London. Read more.
For lawyer Nathan, it was hard to put into words how lucky he feels to be studying at Oxford, exploring all the Oxbridge clichés and taking advantage of a serendipitous meeting with former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in a bookshop. Read more.
Final UK Scholars’ Dinner: The 2017 UK scholars – including Olsen and Nathan – and several of our UK alumni were the very lucky attendees at the final dinner at the House of Lords hosted by the Britain-Australia Society in early November.
The dinner, which has been funded by the Menzies Foundation for many years, will no longer take place in this format, however we will seek alternative models to allow the Menzies Alumni to gather in the UK to network and share experiences and ideas. This is something the Menzies Alumni Advisory Group will be discussing this year.
Scholars granted over $10 million in latest NHMRC round
Menzies Scholars were awarded fellowships and project grants from the NHMRC valued at over $10.7 million in the latest round of announcements. They include:
2012 NHMRC/RG Menzies Fellow, Associate Professor Sarah-Jane Dawson, who was awarded a Career Development Fellowship ($476,728) at the University of Melbourne, for her work on circulating tumour DNA. Assoc-Prof Dawson was also awarded a Research Fellowship ($640,210) and a project grant valued at nearly $3.3 million, for a project specific to breast cancer. Coming hot on the heels of her CLS Centenary Fellowship, Sarah-Jane’s research at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre will receive an incredible boost.
2011 NHMRC/RG Menzies Fellow, Dr Susanna Park, who is with the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre, was awarded a Career Development Fellowship of $431,000 for her work on assessment strategies, treatments and risk factors in neuropathy and neuromuscular disease.
1988 Menzies Scholar in Medicine, Professor Stephen Graves, from the University of South Australia, was awarded a project grant ($765,349) for his work enhancing joint replacement outcomes through national data linkage.
2015 NHMRC/RG Menzies Fellow, Dr Si Ming Man, now at the Australian National University, received two New Investigator Grants - one to the value of $624,955 for his research into the role of DNA sensing in the pathogenesis of colorectal cancer, and the other for research into Type I interferon signalling in bacterial infection ($738,274).
For research he is doing under the auspices of the University of Adelaide, 2010 NHMRC/RG Menzies Fellow, Associate Professor Dan Worthley received a project grant of $724,876 for his project ‘Bridging the GAPP between the laboratory and clinic to prevent Gastric Adenocarcinoma and Proximal Polyposis of the Stomach (GAPPS)’.
1994 Menzies Allied Health Scholar, Professor Paul Hodges, will progress his research into targeted pelvic floor muscle training for urinary incontinence after radical prostatectomy at the University of Queensland with the assistance of a project grant of $953,035.
Professor Jamie Vandenberg, Director of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Centre and Menzies Scholar in Medicine, was awarded a project grant of $713,035 to use high resolution imaging technologies to get a better understanding of how drugs bind to ion channel proteins.
2004 NHMRC/RG Menzies Fellow, Professor John Pimanda, at UNSW, was awarded two project grants with a combined value of over $1.4 million - one for Investigating the Molecular Basis for Drug Resistance and Disease Relapse in Myelodysplastic Syndromes and the other for the project Molecular and Functional Characterisation of Induced Multipotent Stem Cells.
Congratulations to all successful recipients of NHMRC grants and fellowships.
National History Challenge winner
Leo Ng from Marist College in Canberra has taken out the National History Challenge special category ‘Sir Robert Menzies and today’s Australia’ with an essay addressing the question ‘Did Sir Robert Menzies contribute to a better world?’.
Leo was awarded the prize for the special category on Sir Robert Menzies at the National History Challenge awards at Parliament House, where he was congratulated by Menzies Foundation CEO, Sarah Hardy. The Foundation has sponsored the special category for the last three years. This is the final year of the sponsorship. Read more (including Leo’s essay).
Feedback positive for Alumni gatherings
Over 40 scholars attended the Menzies Alumni Roadshow events in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.
This represents 28 per cent of our Australian-based alumni, with 44 per cent having RSVP’d to say they would attend. It was notable that the Brisbane and Perth alumni showed up in force, with a rare opportunity of a local Menzies gathering.
It was an opportunity to update people on the new work areas of the Foundation and the next steps, which survey respondents said they found valuable.
Of those who attended and completed the survey, 84 per cent rated their event good or excellent, with 9 out of 10 saying they would recommend attendance to fellow alumni.
Just over half indicated that the most valuable aspect was the opportunity to meet and reconnect with other scholars and many called for a state-based event annually. There is some work for us to do in venue selection to allow more easily for quiet conversations.
With more analysis of the comments, there is the potential to alternate between state-based and national events, so that scholars can make connections in their home states but also maintain the wider network.
People are looking for opportunities for more information sharing or professional presentations by alumni as well as the opportunity to talk and network. The Alumni Advisory Group will work with the Foundation staff on the possibility of low-cost events to ensure all of this can be accommodated.
Thank you to everyone who attended and completed the survey.
Pictured: Allied Heath alumni Dr Leanne Hassett, Professor Colleen Canning, Bernadette Brady and Dr Sheree Hurn at the Sydney Alumni gathering.
Where we live
We thought it might be interesting to share a breakdown of the location of the Menzies Alumni.
This graph is based on our 208 post graduate scholars, with 65 currently located overseas.
Our scholars achieve amazing things
“One of the exciting aspects is how I’ve been able to transfer my skills from science and journalism into teaching in ways that I didn’t expect.” Dr Carina Dennis, geneticist and 1993 NHMRC Menzies Fellow, has taken her evidence and research capabilities honed as a medical scientist, combined them with her communication skills as a journalist and editor, and is now using them to full effect in her third career as a teacher. Read about her journey to a career that is exceeding expectations.
Associate Professor Sarah-Jane Dawson has recently been awarded the CSL Centenary Fellowship. The Fellowship will expand on research she started as part of her NHMRC/Menzies Fellowship and aims to demonstrate the value of blood-based circulating tumour DNA testing in better treating and monitoring cancer patients. We caught up with Sarah-Jane to present her Menzies medallion and talk about her work at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the University of Melbourne. Learn about the use of ‘liquid biopsies’ for gentler, more thorough cancer testing from Sarah-Jane on video here.
Dr Bob Anderson’s trials of a vaccine for coeliac disease will progress to the next stage after his company, ImmusanT raised $40 million to fund the Phase 2 clinical trial of Nexvax2. The trials are being conducted in the USA and the therapeutic vaccine is designed to induce immune tolerance in celiac (coeliac) disease. Dr Anderson is the 1998 NHMRC Menzies Fellow.
Liverpool Hospital senior physiotherapist Bernadette Brady’s PhD project "Culturally responsive pain management" has been awarded a NSW Health Award (Bernadette is pictured below with her team). The results of a research trial by the current Menzies Allied Health Research Scholar will lead to the development of planning tools that practitioners can use to help them quickly explore a patient’s cultural influences on their pain. The trial results featured in a recent SBS news story.
Menzies Law Scholar, Renee Leon, was appointed Secretary of the Department of Human Services as part of the latest departmental head changes announced by the Prime Minister.
A research discovery led by Melbourne researchers, including Dr Ken Pang, 2008 NHMRC/Menzies Fellow, has demonstrated how viruses can trigger immunity. The research was published in the journal Immunity and the discovery is likely to lead to a new class of therapeutics.
2001 Menzies Allied Health Research Scholar, Dr Deborah Walsh, from the University of Queensland’s School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, has conducted research with her collaborators showing that women in domestic violence relationships may delay leaving a violent relationship if their partner has threatened their animals.
In the media
The Menzies Scholars are frequently cited, called for their expert opinions, or asked to write for the media. Here is just a sample of recent highlights and it’s fair to say a wide range of issues are addressed:
1982 Harvard Menzies Scholar, Professor Hilary Charlesworth gave her thoughts on Australia’s election to the United Nations Human Rights Council in this piece for the University of Melbourne’s Pursuit.
Current Harvard Menzies Scholar, Sibella Matthews (pictured), was interviewed on ABC AM following the release of the Northern Territory Royal Commission findings, saying Australia is breaching the UN Rights of the Child Convention.
1991 Harvard Menzies Scholar, Professor Kim Rubenstein, was quoted in the New York Times, speaking about the Australian parliament’s constitutional issues and the rules under Section 44.
2008 Menzies Allied Health Research Scholar, Associate Professor Anne-Marie Hill, headed to Perth local radio to seek research participants for her falls prevention work at Curtin University as part of a World Café.
Sex, marriage equality and assisted dying, 1994 Menzies Scholar in Medicine, Professor Julian Savulescu, addressed it all in this article for The Conversation.
MIT’s Assistant Professor Tracy Slatyer, 2006 Harvard Menzies Scholar, rated a mention for her research in this New Yorker piece on dark matter.
2002 Harvard Menzies Scholar, Alexandra West wrote an opinion piece for Investment Magazine on the value of embracing sustainable development goals.
Associate Professor of Architecture at Colombia University and 1992 Harvard Menzies Scholar, Felicity Scott, spoke recently at the Friendly Fire conference in Berlin about the crises of citizenship and the strategic reversals of power that may occur in moments of crisis.
Menzies the man
We don’t often share stories about Sir Robert Menzies himself, but this story from ABC Canberra, for which we secured the release of some of his home movie footage, gave a great personal insight into one of his passions.
The 16mm projector Sir Robert used to screen his silent movies for family, friends and colleagues has gone on display at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House. Read more
Menzies Foundation Director and Sir Robert’s grand daughter, Diana Menzies, along with her brother, Robert, attended the opening of the exhibition in Sydney.
Sir Robert is listed as one of the people in the category, ‘The Resilient’, which brings together those Australians who have proven their ability to survive despite adversity.
Menzies Institutes’ wrap
Griffith University and Menzies Health Institute Queensland are home to the new Gold Coast Biobank a purpose-designed biostorage facility giving a major boost to translational medical research. In a first for the Southern Hemisphere the biobank includes automated biostorage, which can cater for up to 100,000 specimens.
Professor Ian Anderson AO delivered the annual Menzies Oration for the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin recently on the topic ‘Democratising Data/Building a platform for Indigenous Development’. If you’d like to hear what he said, the recording is online.
The Menzies School of Health Research was also successful in securing over $14 million in funding in the latest round of NHMRC grants.
Two new members have been appointed to the Menzies Foundation Board.
Chris Butler has been appointed the new Treasurer of the Foundation. Chris was a partner with Arthur Andersen / Ernst&Young (EY) from 1988-2015, including Managing Partner of EY’s Ho Chi Minh City office for five years. Chris acts as a consultant on a part time basis to both EY and Mutual Trust Pty Ltd. He is a chartered accountant.
The new Chair of the Foundation’s Investment and Finance Committee is Harvey Kalman, Executive General Manager of Corporate Trustee Services with Equity Trustees Limited. Harvey will also be a Director on the Board. Harvey has over 25 years’ experience in the financial services industry. Previous experience includes KPMG, consultant to the Funds Management industry and ANZ Banking Group.
From the CEO
It is quite unbelievable that it is nearly Christmas…again!
As a write my last Menzies Brief column, most of you will know by now that I am moving on from the Menzies Foundation to take up the role of CEO at the RE Ross Trust in Melbourne. Having been at the Foundation for over four years I have gained many friendships and learnt an enormous amount from those alumni whom I have had the pleasure to be able to meet, not only across Australia but also overseas. I thank all those individuals who have given me great support and courage over the last few years.
Since our last Brief we have continued to work hard on refining our new areas of work. We have continued to consult with professionals from around Australia and held several additional board discussions as we start to think what role we can play and how these new areas of work will be delivered. Like all new areas of learning, once you delve deeply into the research, the more you uncover and the greater and broader the issue becomes, which exposes a raft of opportunities. We want to make sure we contribute to our newly defined areas in the most effective and efficient way, and as such make some final decisions is taking a little longer. However next year marks the beginning of our 40th year and we fully intend to let everyone know what these new opportunities will look like, early next year.