Young Alumni Award

Honouring the exceptional impact our alumni are having on our island and the world.

Read about our Young Alumni Award recipients or browse our other award category listings.

Distinguished Alumni Award International Alumni Award Foundation Graduate Award

Annabel McKay is a haematology oncology clinical nurse at Brisbane’s Mater Private Hospital and an Associate Lecturer and Academic Clinical Facilitator and Supervisor at the University of Southern Queensland.

She has received the Pride of Australia Medal for Care and Compassion, the Australian Nurse of the Year (Graduate Category), and the Professor Catherine Turner Medal for Excellence in Nursing. She was also a Queensland Finalist in the 2021 Young Australian of the Year awards and a Finalist in the Queensland Young Achiever of the Year awards.

McKay, who is also profoundly deaf, has been nominated as an Australia Day Ambassador from 2015 through to 2023 by the Queensland Premier.

Notable are her philanthropic and education efforts in Cambodia, where she has volunteered as a clinical nurse educator to upskill local staff. Her work has helped create policy change and a shift in mindset, demonstrating and creating an environment that elevates staff and patient safety and promotes nursing autonomy, pride and recognition.

Devonport-born, US-based Felicity Gray is a world leader in her field, working on the ground in Ukraine as Country Director with the humanitarian organisation Nonviolent Peaceforce. She operates on the frontlines of Mykolaiv, Odessa and Kharkiv, aiming to achieve peace, justice and strong institutions as envisioned in United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16.

Since winning the University Medal in 2011, she has enjoyed academic and professional success, with several published articles, and roles in policy development and Federal Parliamentary procedure. She is an expert in the field of civilian protection, particularly in the unarmed and nonviolent strategies that are used by civilians to protect one another in conflict zones.

Image copyright: Nonviolent Peaceforce Ukraine

Sarah Leary is a proud Palawa woman, diplomat and former journalist from North-West Tasmania.

At the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Sarah has led a number of high-profile trade and investment outcomes across the Indo-Pacific. On postings to Vietnam, Cambodia, Solomon Islands and the United States, she has been a strong advocate for supporting the meaningful participation of First Nations people in diplomacy, as well as supporting regional Australian youth.

As advisor to Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Sarah supported Australia’s UN Human Rights Council campaign. She also represented Australia at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2012.

One of Sarah’s proudest career achievements was establishing the successful $52m Pacific Step-up initiative – PacificAus Sports – to deepen Australia’s ties to the Pacific, culminating in the stronger inclusion of Pacific athletes in Australia’s Super Rugby Pacific franchise, and the Tokyo Olympics.

Ms Leah Cameron completed a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws in 2006 and a Graduate Certificate Legal Practice in 2007 at the University of Tasmania.

A proud (Trawlwoolway) Palawa woman, Ms Cameron, is Founder and Principal Solicitor of Marrawah Law, a practice providing legal services in the areas of native title, cultural heritage and commercial law. With offices in Cairns, Brisbane, Melbourne and Hobart, Marrawah Law has grown to be one of the largest Indigenous owned and operated law firms in Australia today.

Ms Cameron founded Marrawah Law on the philosophy of providing comprehensive, accurate and culturally appropriate advice to First Nations clients in relation to personal, government and business interests, advocating for social change and advancing interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

Ms Cameron is the 2021 recipient of the University of Tasmania Young Alumni Award. This year she was also named Indigenous Businesswoman of the Year by Supply Nation and Marrawah Law was named Certified Indigenous Business of the Year. In 2020 Ms Cameron was awarded the Women In Law Excellence Award and the Indigenous Lawyer of the Year at the Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards.

Ms Cameron has recently become a representative on the Australian Heritage Council. As one of two Indigenous members, she represents and advocates for the interests of Indigenous people from right across Australia. She also describes being asked to negotiate and repatriate her ancestors’ remains from the British Museum in London on behalf of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community as her "greatest honour".

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Will Smith

Will Smith completed an Associate Degree in Arts in 2016 at the University of Tasmania and has been working as a police officer for the past seven years. His work as a police officer exposed him to different environments and sides of the community which inspired him to develop his own organisation, JCP Empowering Youth (JCP).

JCP is a proactive Tasmanian-based company which works with young people on a national scale to inspire and empower at-risk youth towards the values of leadership.

JCP runs youth-leadership seminars in schools and leadership camps and intensive programs for vulnerable youth, Tasmanians who are disengaged from schooling, youth offenders, and those experiencing bullying or struggling socially.

Working with the families, JCP take young people out of their environment and into camps and programs which inspire them to be the best version of themselves.

Will has a burning passion for social justice and empowering young people. In 2019 he was recognised as the Young Australian of the Year Tasmania and his desire to help young people has seen him transform lives from Launceston to Lebanon.

Ben Stokes

Ben Stokes grew up on a farm on the North-West Coast of Tasmania after being adopted from an orphanage in Sri Lanka, by a loving Tasmanian family.

Ben completed his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Tasmania in 2005 and has created the life he wants for himself and others. A life where diversity of knowledge and experience is celebrated, and one that is built on radical inclusivity, which has become a cornerstone for the vision of his company, SocialTable. SocialTable is a global social networking platform that connects like-minded people through virtual and in person networking opportunities.

Internationally, Ben is completing his Executive Master of Business Administration in the United States, has been selected to be part of both the StartOut Growth Lab, a start-up incubator located in San Francisco, and RBL1, an incubator based in Austin, and in 2020 was asked to address the UN General Assembly for their Leaders on Purpose Summit, where he had the opportunity to speak directly to the top 200 CEO’s globally about living a life of purpose. He also rebuilt the orphanage he was from and continues to support more children through education and financial contributions to help them also achieve their goals.

Sophie Weston has demonstrated success in her nursing profession through her commitment to global and tropical health. Graduating as one of the top students on the Dean’s Honour Roll from the University of Tasmania with a Bachelor of Nursing in 2012, Sophie has worked as a specialist nurse across Australia and internationally, including in major transplant units and remote settings.

Sophie is currently part of a multidisciplinary team at the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin that conducts large international clinical trials into novel malaria treatments in the Horn of Africa and the Asia-Pacific. At the height of the COVID pandemic, she accepted a secondment to work on a multi-site clinical trial investigating effective treatments for hospitalised COVID patients in Australia, New Zealand and India.

She is particularly passionate about engaging communities in research, which is often challenging in resource-limited and international settings. She has recently started her own research project to assess the current practises of dissemination of study results within the malaria research community to develop best practice guidelines for feedback to research participants.

Tara Howell

Graduating from the University of Tasmania with a Bachelor of Business in 2012, Tara Howell wasted little time in founding her own marketing consultancy firm, before joining forces with leading creative enterprise S. Group as partner/director.

Tara's passion for Tasmania and desire to position the State as the world leader of high-end tourism experiences culminated in the establishment of the acclaimed 'Blue Derby Pods Ride', a three-day mountain biking experience in the temperate rainforest of North-East Tasmania. The guests indulge in Tasmanian food and wine, and stay in unique, architecturally designed accommodation pods.

Blue Derby has earned Tara a 2018 Tasmanian Tourism Silver Award for Adventure Tourism, the 2018 Tasmanian Young Achiever of the Year for Tourism, and the 2017 Trailblazing Innovator of the Year Award, all in the business's first two years of operation.

In 2019 Tara co-founded Change Overnight – a 31-bed hotel here in Launceston where guests can ‘give back’ to nominated charities – local, national and international - during their stay.

Tara and her team are committed to supporting Tasmania, prioritising local employees and Northern Tasmanian businesses. Tara vows to continue to advocate and innovate for a more sustainable world, and believes in striving for equality in opportunity, and especially gender equity.

Dr Jessica Melbourne-Thomas

Jess is the recipient of an Alumni Achievement Award for her work in the fields of Antarctic marine ecosystems and climate change research.

Dr Jess Melbourne-Thomas has a Bachelor of Science with Honours 2002, Graduate Diploma of Marine Science 2010 and a PhD in Quantitative Marine Science from the University of Tasmania.

Jess is a Transdisciplinary Researcher and Knowledge Broker with CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere. She was a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford from 2003-2005 and is a Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Jess was one of Science & Technology Australia’s 30 Superstars of STEM in 2018, and one of twelve women scientists to have her portrait featured as a constellation on the ceiling of New York’s Grand Central station as part of GE’s Balance the Equation campaign.

Jess is passionate about encouraging greater representation of women in science leadership and is the co-founder of the global Women in Polar Science (WiPS) networks, as well as the Homeward Bound project which took 78 women with a background in science on a leadership journey to Antarctica in 2016.

In 2020 Jess was named the Tasmanian Australian of the year.

Dr Chris Hughes

Dr Chris Hughes undertook his medical studies at the University of Tasmania, including placement at Burnie’s Rural Clinical School.

He completed a Bachelor of Medical Science in 2007 and a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery in 2008.

Dr Hughes was honoured by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners with the 2016 General Practice Registrar of the Year.

After a few years practicing away, he has returned to his home region and is at practice in the Saunders Street Clinic, in Wynyard. He is highly regarded by his colleagues and the wider community.

Dr Hughes is a passionate champion for the importance of General Practice, especially in rural and regional settings.