Awards fit for a queen go to ANU experts

Four ANU researchers and teachers, one graduate and a former fellow have all been recognised in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours.
8 June 2020

The architect of Australia's higher education contribution scheme (HECS) and a doctor who has helped refugees are two ANU experts awarded in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours.

Professor Bruce Chapman and Professor Christine Phillips are among 710 Australians who received awards in the General Division of the Order of Australia. 

Professor Chapman, based in the ANU College of Business and Economic, has been made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) - the second most prestigious of the Queen's Birthday Honours.

His award recognises his "distinguished service to higher education, particularly in the field of economics and public policy, and to professional societies".

Professor Chapman developed HECS, an income contingent loan scheme which allows students to defer their payment for university once they are earning enough to pay back their fees through tax.

The radical idea was implemented in 1989, transforming higher education and unlocking a university education for thousands of Australians. It has since been adopted around the globe and applied across other fields.

Speaking to The Canberra Times, Professor Chapman said: "It just seemed such a sensible thing that people would only have to pay for university when they were in a position to do so.

"It really came from discussions with smart people. No other country was doing this."

Professor Chapman has previously been named a Member of the Order of Australia (AM). In 2017 he won the Australian Financial Review's Higher Education Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2012 was named the Australian newspaper's most influential person in higher education, among many other accolades.

Also receiving an Officer of the Order of Australia is Indigenous scholar and ANU graduate Professor Marcia Langton. She graduated with an honour's degree from ANU in 1984, becoming the University's first Indigenous honours graduate in anthropology. She is the foundation chair of Australian Indigenous studies at the University of Melbourne, and also worked on the 1989 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

In 2019 Professor Langton was appointed co-chair of a senior advisory group convened by Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt designed to exmaine giving Indigenous Australians a voice at all levels of government. Professor Langton's AO recognises her distinguished service to tertiary education, and as an advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.              

Professor Phillips, who is based in the ANU Medical School, has been recognised for her significant service to medical education, to migrant and refugee health, and to medicine. She has been named a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her service.

In addition to her research and teaching at ANU, Professor Phillips is the Medical Director of Companion House Medical Service - the ACT's refugee health care service. More than 10 years ago, she co-founded the Refugee Health Network of Australia and has previously advised the UNHCR and the Migration Council of Australia.

Speaking to the ANU Medical School about her work, Professor Phillips said she is also committed to mentorship and paving the way for younger women in medicine.

"I think the mentorship of women by women is critical in medicine and probably anywhere.  My own non-linear career has been in some ways typical for many women. It has involved years out of the paid workforce with children, and some sideways steps rather than upward movement along the way."

Other ANU experts also recognised in this year's Queens Birthday Honours include Professor Walter Abhayaratna and Professor Paul Smith. Both professors are based at the ANU Medical School. 

Professor Abhayaratna has been recognised with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his service to medicine in the Australian Capital Territory, while Professor Smith has been named a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to orthopaedic medicine as a surgeon and to medical administration.

In a profile with the ANU College of Health and Medicine, Professor Abhayaratna, who's work focuses on cardiology, said treating a heart attack was "relatively easy".

"What I prefer is talking to patients. Connecting with people and supporting them to change their whole mindset-as well as their lifestyle-so they're not back in the hospital next month. That kind of communication and connection, it's the art, not the science, of medicine."

ANU graduate, Dr Michael Banyard who completed his PhD in immunology at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, has won a Medal in the Order of Australia (OAM) for his work in veterinary science. His work also covers conservation biology, which brings together zoologists, veterinarians and ecologists.

He told The Canberra Times this work is more important than ever.

"Two years ago it would have been hard to emphasise how important this area is, but today, with the bushfires and the COVID-19 virus, there can never be a clearer example of how important our environment is to our survival," he said.

Dr Banyard has also worked at JCSMR in the field of experimental pathology.

Former HC Coombs Creative Arts Fellowship winner, Mark Opitz, was also named in the 2020 Queen's Birthday Honours. He has been named a Member (AM) of the Order of Australia for significant service to the performing arts, particularly to music production.

Known for creating the sound behind Australia's greatest bands like INXS, The Divinyls, Cold Chisel, The Angels and AC/DC, Mr Opitz was named the 2018 HC Creative Arts Fellow at ANU.

Speaking at the time of the award he said he wanted his fellowship to honour HC Coombs' beliefs about inclusivity.

"I'm at the point in my career where I've learnt a lot and I have a lot to pass on and the Coombs Fellowship is an amazing vehicle for this," he said.