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Star pair awarded for SKA commitment

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As part of recent Australia Day celebrations, two West Australians were awarded Australia Day Team Achievement Medallions for their contribution to the Australia/New Zealand bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope project.

The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), a joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western Australia, is working closely with the Department of Commerce and others throughout Australia and New Zealand to provide the international community with the best site to host the next generation telescope.

ICRAR Outreach and Education Manager, Pete Wheeler, and Penny Griffin of WA’s Department of Commerce received the highest level of recognition for their efforts.

Mr Wheeler said the pair received their award as part of a team contribution to the design and delivery of an engagement strategy highlighting Australia and New Zealand’s desire to host the SKA mega-science project.

“Each year, in the lead up to Australia Day, the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science & Research recognises outstanding performance of individuals and teams working on nationally significant projects in the preceding year,” Mr Wheeler said.

“It’s a real honour to receive this award. It’s not why we do the work we do, but it’s great to have a chance to look back on a job well done, particularly when it involves a team of people working so hard to secure this project for Australia and New Zealand.”

Mr Wheeler said if the two countries were chosen as the host site, thousands of antennas would be located in ‘radio quiet’ areas throughout Australia and New Zealand.

“When connected and operational, these antennas will work together to create the world’s biggest radio telescope, capable of seeing the first light from the first object to exist in the Universe. It’s a very exciting project,” he said.

Curtin Professor of Radio Astronomy Engineering and Deputy Director responsible for Engineering at ICRAR, Professor Peter Hall, said ICRAR’s success had been a testament to the quality of its staff and their dedication to the SKA initiative.

“ICRAR is one of three pillars of the Australian SKA bid and its staff take seriously their role in briefing the world on the technical and other advantages of the Australian site,” Professor Hall said.

Australia Day Team Achievement Medallions were awarded on 25 January 2011 to members of the intergovernmental Taskforce that managed Australia and New Zealand’s participation and presentation at the International Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Forum in the Netherlands in 2010.

Recipients included four officers from the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research in Canberra; and three external contributors, one from New Zealand’s Ministry of Economic Development and two from Western Australia.

Their achievements are credited with clearly positioning Australia and New Zealand’s bid as the candidate site able to deliver the best science to the international community.


Pete Wheeler
ICRAR Outreach and Education Manager

Andrea Barnard, Public Relations, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 4241, Mobile: 0401 103 755, Email:  


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