Annual CQUniversity Alumni Awards

CQUniversity takes great pride in the achievements our alumni are making in their world. Their accomplishments benefit both society and the University, advancing the common good and inspiring others. The annual Alumni Awards acknowledge and celebrate these achievements by our outstanding alumni in their professional field or community service activities.

Alumni awardees 2024

Outstanding Alumnus of the Year

Wendy O'Brien headshot

Wendy O'Brien 
BA 1994; BA(Hons) 1995; PhD 2000

Dr Wendy O’Brien is a legal scholar and human rights specialist working at the global level. Wendy currently works with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC, Vienna) on human rights-based criminal justice reform and equal access to justice, with a particular focus on human rights and technology. Wendy has had a long association with the United Nations, including volunteer positions as a Board Member and National Coordinator of the Human Rights Program of the United Nations Association of Australia, as well as a Committee Member of the Status of Women Committee. 

Over several decades, Wendy's research has contributed significant new knowledge in the fields of children’s rights, gender justice, violence prevention, and human rights-led law reform. Wendy’s current work focuses on human rights and criminal justice in the digital age, as part of her broader interest in the human rights implications of the increased use of technology in the administration of criminal justice and social policy.

Wendy’s research has been published in leading international human rights and criminology journals. Her co-edited book, Violence Against Children in the Criminal Justice System, was published in 2020.

Wendy was previously a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Deakin University, and she currently holds the role of Adjunct Associate Professor with this institution. Prior to her role at Deakin, she worked as a Senior Specialist in Research with the Australian Crime Commission for seven years, taking a leading role in the delivery of research and policy advice on gender-based violence and the legal and therapeutic responses to child victims and children in conflict with the law. Wendy was also a Lecturer in Literary and Cultural Studies at CQUniversity from 2000 – 2007, after completing her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

Alumnus of the Year (Industry Excellence)

Sarah-Jane Peterschlingmann corporate suit headshot

Sarah-Jane Peterschlingmann
BIT 2005

Sarah-Jane founded the technology company ATech in 2007, just two years after completing her Information Technology degree at CQUniversity. Starting as a web developer, Sarah-Jane grew ATech to multi-million-dollar revenues with an impressive list of clients, including Virgin Australia, Seqwater, the South Australian Government, Airservices Australia and Brisbane City Council. Over the past 16 years, ATech has worked with more than 600 local and international customers providing cloud hosting, managed services and web development.

Sarah-Jane is an acknowledged industry leader and has spoken on topics including entrepreneurship, technology, innovation and leadership at events for Women in Technology, Australian Computer Society, the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), Women in Digital, River City Labs and the Queensland Government. In 2023, she co-authored and featured in a book on wholehearted leadership which became an Amazon international best-seller.

Sarah-Jane is Vice Chair of the Australian Computer Society Queensland Branch Executive Committee. As a strong advocate for women in technology and entrepreneurship, Sarah-Jane has been a member of the ICT Committee for Women in Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneur Convenor and Queensland Branch Executive Committee Member of the Australian Computer Society, and member of the CQUniversity ICT Course Reference Committee. 

Sarah-Jane and ATech have received multiple industry awards over the past decade. In 2023, Sarah-Jane was a finalist for the Lord Mayor’s Business Awards (Business Person of the Year), Women in Technology Awards (Excellence in Industry Leadership), and ARN Women in ICT Awards (Entrepreneur Award).

Sarah-Jane was also the joint award winner of the prestigious 2022 Queensland Pearcey ICT Entrepreneur of the Year Award, recognising outstanding ICT professionals who have demonstrated innovation, taken risks, made a difference and are an inspiration to others in the industry and the wider community.

Alumnus of the Year (Social Impact)

Swapnil Gadgil headshot

Swapnil Gadgil 
MIS 2001

Swapnil is the co-founder and managing director of the multi-award-winning technology company, Therapy Box Ltd, which has a mission to make communication easier for those who require assistance due to physical or cognitive conditions. As well as developing commercial apps to aid communication, Therapy Box is a technical partner that collaborates with academics and clinicians on research projects related to speech, language, and cognition. 

Swapnil’s management experience in telecommunications and e-commerce environments, combined with his CQUniversity Master of Information Systems qualification, paved the way to starting Therapy Box in 2009 with co-founder Speech Therapist Rebecca Bright MBE. Their original aim was to develop an iPad app to help people with motor neuron disease communicate more easily. The first product released by Therapy Box Ltd was an app called “Predictable” which responded to an unmet need for people who needed text-based communication aids. In 2014, the company was the youngest to win the United Kingdom’s Queen's Award for Enterprise: Innovation. In the ten years that followed, the app was released in 10 different versions for different territories and has won numerous awards. Over 50 000 people with speech difficulties have been assisted to date. 

Under Swapnil's management, Therapy Box Ltd has now released over 30 specialist apps focusing on communication for healthcare, education and non-government organisations with clients including UNICEF, the United Nations Development Program, Jisc, the National Health Service (NHS) UK, and multiple universities. Therapy Box is currently collaborating with the University of Sheffield’s National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) “Invention for Innovation” (i4i) grant project to identify the risk of Alzheimer’s disease using speech biomarkers, amongst other projects.

Swapnil continues to support health technology companies through investing in public market companies and buyouts of small established companies.

Alumnus of the Year (Early Career Achievement)

Misty Neilson leaning against a tree headshot

Misty Neilson
BSc(Ecol&ConsBiol) 2021

After founding a successful organisation and working in executive leadership in the Community Services sector for a decade, Misty commenced a Bachelor of Science at CQUniversity in 2012 to take her skills and knowledge in a new direction. During her studies, she accepted a position with the North Burnett Regional Council driving their Economic Recovery programs, working closely with various bodies in the Environmental Science and Agricultural industries and subsequently moved into dedicated environmental science-based roles. Misty co-founded a full-service consultancy – Thriive – in 2019 before completing her degree in 2021.

Misty’s business specialises in supporting clients to improve their long-term capacity, viability, and outcomes through professional, business, and environmental services. Misty is an Accounting for Nature accredited expert and an ecologist and conservation biologist who has collaborated with regional natural resources management bodies, Landcare, and tertiary organisations to implement on-ground sustainable agriculture, environmental, conservation and research projects.

Misty is also part of the team at the Burnett Catchment Care Association (BCCA), using her expertise to undertake natural capital and environmental accounting, grants, tenders and funding acquisition, and developing community projects and action plans through research and strategic assessment. She has led projects including a citizen scientist project for the Burnett Koala Program and the Great Barrier Reef Community Action Plan for the Burnett/Baffle region.

In 2022, Misty commenced her role as a Member of the Regional Community Forum for Wide Bay Burnett and the Fraser Coast for the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

In 2024, Misty was appointed as the Chair of the Board of Directors for Forever Wild (Global), leading the organisation in their mission of protecting wilderness by creating ecological and social equity and driving innovation in non-destructive economic activity.

We congratulate all Alumni Award winners for their outstanding contributions and achievements. If you know alumni who are making a difference in their industry, role or community, please let us know so we can recognise them. Alumni can also be nominated by others or self-nominate for the awards using the Alumni Awards Candidate Proposal Form

Previous Alumni Award winners

  • Outstanding Alumnus of the Year - Bevan Slattery, Bachelor of Business 2014
    Commended for decades of significant industry achievement, along with the commitment of resources and expertise to solve the wicked problems of our global society. 
  • Alumnus of the Year (Industry Achievement) - Patrice Brown, Bachelor of Science (Applied Chemistry) 1992
    Commended as a highly skilled entrepreneur who has demonstrated significant leadership and resilience to develop an award-winning enterprise and strong knowledge-sharing and capacity-building partnerships in complex and specialised areas. 
  • Alumnus of the Year (Social Impact) - Param Singh, Master of Information Systems 2005
    Commended for his visionary aspirations and significant achievements to bring White tech revolution to India and help farmers with technology and tools to move them out of poverty. 
  • Alumnus of the Year (Early Career Achievement) - Clarissa Sempel, Bachelor of Laws 2019
    Commended for exemplary early career achievement including leadership through coaching and mentoring, pro-bono activities and personal and workplace development. 
  • Outstanding Alumnus of the Year - Dr Marjad Page Bachelor of Human Movement Science 2002
    Commended for influencing public policy, participation in and contributions to ground-breaking medical research, and activism and mentoring in the medical community.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Industry Achievement) - Aidan Baron Bachelor of Science (Hons ) 2017, Graduate Certificate in Clinical Ultrasound 2018
    Commended for contributions to best practice, evidence-based patient diagnosis and care; and leadership in research and translation of knowledge, in the field of Emergency Medicine & Paramedicine.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Social Impact) - Selina Tomasich Master of Management (Human Resources) 2007
    Commended for sustained positive contributions to improved quality of life and career opportunities for those in impoverished circumstances, through the provision of hairdressing skills and resources.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Early Career Achievement) - Nareeta Davis Bachelor of Laws 2017
    Commended for achievements in the legal sector, representative roles across Queensland and impact through volunteering.
  • Outstanding Alumnus of the Year - Sheila Doyle Master of Information Systems, 1996
    Commended for her influential leadership in global organisations, championing change, innovation and technology to deliver impressive solutions.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Industry Achievement) - Kumar Parakala Master of Business Administration 2000, Master of Information Systems 1993
    Commended for driving growth as a global leader in Digital Transformation, and Information and Communications Technology (ICT), with a focus on modernisation.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Social Impact) - Tandi Kuwana Graduate Diploma of Mental Health Nursing 2017
    Commended for her advocacy in the field of mental health, specifically for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Early Career Achievement) - Jodie Mlikota Graduate Certificate of Social Innovation 2018
    Commended for her entrepreneurship and energy in founding a successful and innovative start-up business ‘Gathar’.
  • Outstanding Alumnus of the Year - Mr Sean O'Donnell Master of Business Administration, 1996
    Commended for his role in promoting good governance and inclusiveness throughout his career in the banking and information technology sectors, and his significant leadership contributions to philanthropic causes and community organisations.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Industry Achievement) - Mrs Tanya O'Shea Bachelor of Psychology, 2011 and Master of Business Administration, 2016
    Commended in recognition of her significant contribution to regional employment, disability, mental health, and training services through exceptional leadership and management, including the implementation of social innovations.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Social Impact)Mr Leslie Lowe Bachelor of Environmental Science, 2015
    Commended in recognition of his work to preserve cultural knowledge, and to develop modern business models to share this knowledge through education and sustainable Indigenous industries.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Early Career Achievement) - Dr Do Van Huong Doctor of Philosophy (Sciences, Engineering and Health)
    Commended for his contribution to research, education and innovative practical application of cattle embryo transfer technologies, and enhanced relationships between the Vietnamese and Australian beef industries.
  • Outstanding Alumnus of the Year - Mr Jason Titman Bachelor of Business, 1991
    Commended in recognition of his entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen across multiple industries, and significant community contributions.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Industry Achievement) - Mr Wayne Blair  Bachelor of Business, 1994
    Commended in recognition of his significant contribution to Australian film and performing arts.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Social Impact) - Mrs Jade Collins Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Business, 1999 and Master of Business Administration, 2008
    Commended in recognition of her work to create gender equality in business leadership through consumer empowerment and social change.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Early Career Achievement) - Dr Lily Ishak Doctor of Philosophy (Sciences, Engineering and Health), 2017
    Commended for her contribution to research, education and innovative practical applications of environmental sustainability.
  • Outstanding Alumnus of the Year - His Honour Judge Sandy Horneman-Wren SC Bachelor of Business, 1988
    Awarded for his exemplary legal career and significant community contributions.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Industry Achievement) - Mrs Tanya Orman Bachelor of Arts, 1997
    Awarded for her significant contribution to Indigenous Media, advocacy and role modelling for Indigenous people in Australia and Internationally.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Social Impact) - Mr Robin Amatya Bachelor of Business, 2008
    Awarded for his work to empower Nepalese women through Social Enterprise opportunities.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Early Career Achievement) - Mr Paul Tabone Bachelor of Music Theatre, 2008
    Awarded in recognition of significant success in pursuing an international Opera and Musical Theatre career.

Alumni awardees 2017

No awards this year due to the realignment of award timing.

Alumni awardees 2016

  • Outstanding Alumnus of the Year - Mr Jasjit Kang Graduate Diploma of Management, 1992 and Master of Business Administration, 1993
    Commended for leading with integrity and a commitment to excellence in governance, and for his role in expanding humanitarian programs across his organisation to make a significant impact in India.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Industry Achievement) - Mrs Sherene Devlin Bachelor of Nursing, 2003
    Commended for her outstanding contribution to the field of nursing and primary health care, recognised as the first nurse practitioner to specialise in Psoriasis Management in Australia.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Volunteer Contribution) - Mr Wai-Man Woo Master of Business Administration (General Management), 2000
    Commended for his long-term volunteer leadership in Education and the Arts, and for advancing the commercial relationship between Australia and Hong Kong through his significant contributions to the Australia Chinese Association of Hong Kong.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Early Career Achievement) - Miss Cilla Pershouse Bachelor of Music Theatre, 2006
    Commended for her outstanding achievement in regional performing arts through the creation of a successful online children’s educational entertainment platform.

Alumni awardees 2015

  • Outstanding Alumnus of the Year - Dr Brian Babington Graduate Diploma of Management, 1988
    Commended for his work and enduring commitment to advancing the well-being of communities, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable members, in Australia and internationally.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Industry Achievement) - Ms Joan Warner Master of Business Administration (General Management), 1999
    Commended for her leadership, recognition of opportunities, drive for innovation, and advocacy activities in the Australian and Asia-Pacific commercial radio industry.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Volunteer Contribution) - Mr Joel Buchholz Bachelor of Education (Honours-Secondary), 2003
    Commended for his significant and beneficial volunteer contributions of time, energy and knowledge to the betterment of CQUniversity and regional communities.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Early Career Achievement) - Dr Aleicia Holland Bachelor of Science (Biology) (Honours), 2009 and Doctor of Philosophy (Sciences, Engineering and Health), 2014
    Commended for her significant early career achievements, and contribution to policy advancement and practical improvements in a field of research of international importance.

Alumni awardees 2014

  • Outstanding Alumnus of the Year - Ms Carolyn Hardy Graduate Diploma of Management, 1997
    Commended for passionate advocacy and a history of strong leadership for women's and children's rights worldwide.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Industry Achievement) - Mrs Judi Newman Master of Learning Management, 2006 and Bachelor of Science (Psychology), 2016
    Commended for her commitment to developing leadership potential in the education sector, and for her focus on continuous improvement and innovation throughout her career.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Volunteer Contribution) - Mr Tim Griffin OAM Bachelor of Engineering (Civil), 1992, Graduate Diploma of Management, 1994 and Master of Business Administration, 1996
    Commended for his significant and beneficial volunteer contributions of time, energy and knowledge to CQUniversity, the Central Queensland region and the Engineering community.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Early Career Achievement) - Mr Blake Harvey Bachelor of Engineering (Co-op), 2005
    Commended for his significant leadership in the Engineering industry, and his continued involvement with the CQUniversity Engineering program, early in his career.

Alumni awardees 2013

  • Alumnus of the Year (Volunteer Contribution) - Mr Justin Power Master of Sustainable Development, 2007
    Commended for exemplary participation on the Rockhampton Regional Engagement Committee as a member and Chair. His ideas have created improved accessibility to CQUniversity for our communities.
  • Alumnus of the Year (Early Career Achievement) - Mr Chris Shields Bachelor of Engineering (Co-op), 2004
    Commended for his commitment to pursuing development opportunities, leading to outstanding achievements early in his career. Chris is acknowledged as an excellent role model with natural leadership abilities and immense potential to continue to excel in his vocation.