New honours for distinguished ANU academics and alumni

Publication date
Monday, 12 Jun 2017

Distinguished academics from ANU, including a champion of Indigenous history and leaders in astronomy, philosophy and medicine, have been honoured for their contribution to Australian society in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

Leading the honours list are astronomer Professor Ken Freeman of the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and philosopher Philip Pettit, who have both been appointed Companions in the Order of Australia (AC).

Professor Ann McGrath was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her service to education and Indigenous history, while Associate Professor  Mahomed Patel was awarded a Medal in the Order of Australia (OAM) for his contribution to global health and epidemiology.

They are joined by prominent economist and ANU alumni Professor Ross Garnaut, who has served as a Distinguished Professor at the ANU Crawford School of Economics and Public Policy, who was also appointed a Companion (AC).

Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Harding congratulated the winners and all members of the ANU community who have been recognised for their service.

"To be named in the Australian Honours is a magnificent achievement and I congratulate all the winners on the wonderful recognition they have received for their contribution to Australia and the world," Professor Harding said.

"I also congratulate all ANU alumni and friends of the University who have been honoured in the Queen's Birthday Honours."

Professor Freeman's citation said his award was for eminent service to astronomy through pioneering contributions in the field of galactic archaeology, as a leading astrophysicist and researcher, to tertiary science education, to professional academies, and as a mentor of young scientists.

"I am very grateful for this honour, and would like to thank my family and mentors and colleagues, past and present, for all they have done to help me along in my research career," he said.

"I have worked for most of my career at ANU, and my special thanks go to ANU and the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and its directors over the years for making RSAA such a great place to work."

Professor Pettit, who is currently on a shared appointment with Princeton University in the United States, was honoured for eminent service to philosophy through contributions to moral and political theory, as a distinguished academic, and as a leader of public debate on social, economic and environmental issues.

"I feel a rush of things about this wonderful surprise," Professor Pettit said.

"Enormous pleasure, of course, at the honour itself. Embarrassment that so many colleagues and friends seem more deserving. Appreciation for the great generosity of those who made the effort to support the nomination. And a hope that it may help a little to highlight my own discipline of philosophy, in which Australia has been such a prominent centre."

Professor McGrath, Director of the Australian Centre for Indigenous History, was recognised for significant service to the social sciences as an academic and researcher in the field of Indigenous history, and to tertiary education.

Her award came one week after she won the prized Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship from the Australian Research Council.

"I could not have achieved anything without a supportive family and generous mentors and colleagues," she said.

"It's been a particular honour working with Aboriginal people who wanted their history to be better known by the wider community. Amy Laurie, a Gurindji woman, was one of the first to share her rich life experiences with me, partly because her grandchildren did not believe she was a highly regarded drover.

"Oodgeroo Noonuccal was a great inspiration; she fought for equal rights and an equal place in national narratives, for she wanted her people's epic stories to be recognised as histories and part of Australian history."

Associate Professor Patel, from the Master of Applied Epidemiology (MAE) Program at the ANU National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health (NCEPH), was recognised for his service to medicine, particularly to field epidemiology.

Dr Patel has trained frontline experts to deal with breaking public health crises through the MAE program since it was set up in 1991 and helped establish  similar training programs with WHO in India, Malaysia, China and Vietnam. He is currently working to establish a similar program in the Pacific Islands.

Dr Patel paid tribute to his colleagues and students who have passed through the MAE program.

"It's certainly nice to be acknowledged by my peers," he said.

"A real thanks should go to the first director of NCEPH, Professor Bob Douglas who set up the innovative field epidemiology program for Australia. He gave us the opportunity to strengthen the capacity of local, state and national governments to respond rapidly to epidemic threats like SARS, bird flu and more recently Ebola.

"It is gratifying to see so many graduates of the program are now working in leading positions in government departments across Australia, at the WHO Offices in Geneva, and in the Asia Pacific Region.

"Thanks also should go to Associate Professor Martyn Kirk at NCEPH, who has revitalised and strengthened the program despite the lack of Commonwealth funding since 2012."

Other ANU community members honoured include:

  • Mrs Eleanor Joyce Goodman (OAM), who was associated with Burgmann College at ANU from 1999 to 2012;
  • Ms Alice Giles (AM), a former Senior Lecturer and Associate Professor at the ANU School of Music;
  • Professor Robert Saint (AM), a former Professor and Head of Molecular Genetics and Evolution at the Research School of Biological Sciences at ANU;
  • Professor Mohamed Hassan Khadra (AO), inaugural Professor of surgery at ANU Clinical Medical School; and  
  • Professor Linda Joan Kristjanson (AO), former Deputy Chair and Non-Executive Director of the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute at ANU.