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Distinguished physiotherapist earns Curtin Lifetime Achievement Award

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Curtin University Alumni Achievement Awards 2015 recipients announced

Curtin University’s Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Jega Jegasothy, a graduate of the University’s predecessor, the Western Australian Institute of Technology (WAIT), during the University’s Alumni Achievement Awards ceremony.

With an international career as a physiotherapist, volunteer, mentor and researcher, Jega worked for 37 years as a clinician. She also worked alongside the United Nations and the World Health Organization to improve the lives and outcomes for adults and children with amputation and disability in Cambodia.

Curtin Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry said the Awards showcase the qualities and values of its graduates.

“Alumni are our greatest asset and many go on to drive the economic and social prosperity of our nation and across the globe,” Professor Terry said.

“Our focus is to ensure our graduates leave Curtin with an openness to different perspectives and new ideas; a desire to make a difference; and the skills to lead, to be innovative, and to ‘think big’.

“Careers take many twists and turns and some of the alumni recognised have achieved spectacular success in fields far removed from their original studies, but with the skills and perspectives gained at Curtin, we hope to have contributed to their successes.”

Other award recipients include Peter Lee, a leading Western Australian architect who now works at the international design firm HASSEL; Dr Mariya Ali, a children’s rights activist who has worked in politically and religiously sensitive regions and improved the lives of millions children across the world; Ashleigh Nelson, an injury management worker and Commonwealth Games gold medallist; and Dr Sandy Chong, a mentor and supporter who empowers young women in South East Asia to achieve their professional aspirations.

The Awards recognise Curtin graduates for the significant and valuable contributions they make to society. These contributions could be in the local, national or international communities they support, personal achievements or success in their professions.

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Award Winners and Categories:

Professional Achievement Awards
Open to all Curtin graduates who have demonstrated outstanding accomplishments in their field of endeavour, and have strived to set a standard of excellence in their professional field.

Mr Joachim Tan (Curtin Business School)
Joachim Tan was recently recognised by GasToday magazine as one of the top 20 most influential leaders in the Australian gas industry. Following his graduation from Curtin in 1998, he has forged a successful career in business, economics and energy in both the public and private sectors. He has played an important role in the development of the Western Australian energy sector, developing the pipeline easement calculation formula that guides the WA Government on easement charges. Outside of his professional career, Joachim volunteers as a board member and director at several not-for-profit organisations and provides consultancy advice to the Singapore Chamber of Commerce (WA).

Andrew Whitehouse (Health Sciences)
Professor Whitehouse is an internationally-renowned researcher into autism spectrum disorder. After graduating from Curtin in 2002, he completed a PhD at the University of Western Australia and now directs the Autism and Related Disorder research team at the Telethon Kids Institute in Western Australia. Andrew’s team hopes to identify prenatal risk factors for autism. Andrew has published two books and his research has garnered worldwide media interest in TIME, The New York Times, CNN, and the BBC among others. He has won numerous awards and accolades including WA Business News 40 under 40 (2012) and was named as one to watch in The West Australian’s list of 100 Most Influential Western Australians (2013).

Mr Peter Lee (Humanities)
Peter Lee is the driving force behind iconic Perth developments such as the new Perth Stadium, Brookfield Place and one40William. He is regarded as one of Western Australia’s premier architects and has won a number of state and national architectural awards. Peter is currently a director at the international design firm HASSEL where he is responsible for leading a multidisciplinary international design team engaged in a diverse range of major local, national and international projects. His commitment to the architecture industry is illustrated by his position on a number of state and national industry boards including FORM, an independent, non-profit arts organisation that harnesses creativity to generate richer places, community, and cultural life in Perth.

Mr Michael Turkic (Humanities)
Michael Turkic is an accomplished actor, director and educator in the film and theatre industries. After graduating from WAIT in 1983, Michael began his career as an actor in several ABC shows and series as well as theatre productions. In the late 1990s, he became a director for several national touring productions including Grease – The Mega Musical, Happy Days and The Sound of Music. Michael’s excellent work within the film and theatre industries was recognised with an ARIA Award in 1988. In recent years he has lectured in musical theatre at several institutions and was a founder of interCulture casting & management (iCCAM) which is dedicated to the inclusion and promotion of artists of a non-Anglo heritage and supporting artists living with a disability.

Mr Theerasak (Beer) Opatsuwan (Science and Engineering)
Less than 10 short years into his engineering career, Theerasak (Beer) Opatsuwan has made significant contributions to the standardisation of engineering practices. Since graduating in 2006, he has also been prolific in representing Australia at international engineering conferences and sharing this passion as a mentor to young engineers and fellow graduates. Earlier this year he received the prestigious Queensland Young Professional Engineer of the Year award and was a finalist for the national award. In his role as the Network Substation Standards Engineer at Energex, Theerasak was instrumental in the emergency response to the Queensland flood crisis in 2011.

Volunteer Leadership Award
Open to all Curtin graduates who have demonstrated a significant contribution to Curtin University, including alumni chapters/associations, through the donation of their time, resources, committee membership or as an ambassador/advocate for Curtin, above and beyond their career responsibilities.

Mr Joerex Tsang
Since graduating in 2005, Joerex Tsang has continued his association with Curtin as a key supporter and driver of alumni activities in Hong Kong. Joerex is the Secretary for the Executive Committee of Curtin University’s Alumni Association Hong Kong, is the University’s Relationship Manager to the Federation of Australia Alumni Association and Austrade in Hong Kong, and was previously the Chair of the Curtin University Hong Kong Management Committee. In each of these roles, Joerex has played an important role in strengthening Curtin’s relationship with alumni in Hong Kong and the greater community. In his professional role, Joerex is the Assistant Marketing Manager for Frank Templeton Investments, Hong Kong, and is responsible for the implementation of marketing strategy to increase brand awareness in Hong Kong and mainland China.

Global Impact Award
Open to all Curtin graduates who, through outstanding professional contributions and/or volunteer leadership, have contributed significantly to society by improving or enriching the lives of others and the welfare of humanity, on an international scale. This may include, but is not limited to, contributions through a project, on behalf of an organisation or work during relief efforts.

Dr Mariya Ali
Dr Mariya Ali has devoted her professional career to improving children’s rights internationally. Since graduating in 1998, Mariya has worked at major international organisations including the World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Action for Children and Oxford Brookes University, and her work has been presented to the ICCPR Committee and the UK Parliament’s All Parliamentary Groups. Mariya’s professionalism, passion and knowledge of children’s rights has enabled her to work successfully in politically and religiously sensitive regions and her work has improved the lives of millions children across the world. More recently, Mariya has resumed her successful academic career as Honorary Knowledge Exchange Associate in the Law Department at Oxford Brookes University.

Young Alumnus Award
Open to Curtin graduates aged 30 years or under at the time of nomination, who have demonstrated excellence in their field of endeavour, and/or made a significant contribution to the community through volunteer service.

Ms Ashleigh Nelson
Ashleigh is a dual Commonwealth Games gold medallist, having played a pivotal role in the Australian women’s hockey team at the 2010 and 2014 games. During her time as a student, Ashleigh successfully managed both study and hockey commitments and now works part-time at IPAR in the area of injury management and assisting injured workers return safely to their workplace. Away from the hockey field, Ashleigh is an ambassador for the suicide-prevention charity RUOK? for which she raised $32,000 in 2014 while trekking the Kokoda Trail, and a mentor for the charity Ladder which supports at-risk youths.

Community Service Award
Open to all Curtin graduates who have contributed significantly to the wellbeing of others through voluntary service in the community, either locally or globally.

Dr Sandy Chong
Dr Sandy Chong is inspiring young people across South East Asia to achieve their career dreams. Sandy recognises the impact education has had on her career and has been determined to give back to the community by mentoring young people, conducting leadership workshops and public speaking. In particular, Sandy has been instrumental in supporting young women. She has served as an Executive Member on the United Nations Association of Australia, at the United Nations Women International Women’s Day Committee and has secured significant philanthropic support for major United Nations projects from her clients.

Lifetime Achievement Award
Open to all Curtin graduates who, over the course of their lifetime, have built an outstanding reputation based on exceptional contributions to their field of endeavour and/or the community and inspired others to strive for excellence. This is the most prestigious and highest honour award of all the Alumni Achievement Awards.

Ms Gnanaletchumy (Jega) Jegasothy
Gnanaletchumy (Jega) Jegasothy has had a distinguished career as a physiotherapist both nationally and internationally as a clinician, volunteer, mentor and researcher. Following her graduation from WAIT in 1979, Jega became a physiotherapist at the Royal Perth Hospital where she worked tirelessly for 37 years and became a Senior Physiotherapist in the Neurosurgical Rehabilitation Unit. In this role, Jega was an important figure in the development of the State Rehabilitation Centre for Neurosurgery and Acquired Brain Injuries. In 1992, she travelled to Cambodia as a volunteer senior physiotherapist and worked alongside the United Nations and the World Health Organization to improve the lives and outcomes for adults and children with amputation and disability. More recently, Jega has been a key figure in the Late Effects of Disability Clinic, a service that provides rehabilitative support for adults with disabilities acquired at childhood. Jega’s remarkable career was recognised in 2012 when she received the Australian Physiotherapy Association (WA) Branch Presidents Award for her contribution to the Association.

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