UNSW community celebrated in King’s Birthday Honours

June 12, 2024
Mental Health UNSW Sydney

From the history of Australian mammals to improving mental health care and cancer medicine, UNSW community members have been honoured across a range of disciplines.

UNSW academics, alumni and former colleagues have been named in this year’s King’s Birthday Honours in recognition of their outstanding achievements and contributions across a broad range of fields.

UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Attila Brungs offered his personal congratulations to those awarded with honours.

“At UNSW we strive to have the greatest positive impact on society, and I applaud members of our community who have been recognised in the Birthday Honours for doing so. They have dedicated themselves tirelessly to their areas of expertise to improve the lives of communities we serve,” Prof. Brungs said.

“Emeritus Professor Suzanne Hand’s research on Australian mammals, Conjoint Professor Jackie Curtis’s work bridging gaps between physical and mental health care, and Conjoint Professor Tracey O’Brien’s dedication to improving outcomes for people with cancer are examples of academics who have made significant contributions to Australian society.”

Emeritus Professor Suzanne Hand

Prof. Hand was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service to palaeontology and zoology, particularly as a fossil bat and marsupial researcher, and to tertiary education.

“I am honoured to be nominated, and thrilled that palaeontology, zoology and teaching are recognised in this citation. It is really special for me and my colleagues, students, friends and family. In my soul, I know that what we collectively do in studying and interpreting the record of life, and enthusing the next generation, is significant and important, and to have recognition of that is very rewarding,” Prof. Hand said.

A vertebrate palaeontologist from the School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences (BEES) at UNSW Science, Prof. Hand’s research focuses on the history of Australian mammals. Her work also extends to continuing climate and environmental change in Australia, New Zealand and Oceania, and the implications of that change for forest and island faunas.

Prof. Hand was the co-lead in the discovery of hundreds of fossils at Murgon in southeastern Queensland, a 55-million-year-old fossil deposit that documents animals present in Australia before it split from Antarctica 50 million years ago. The world’s oldest songbirds were among other extraordinary finds at Murgon.

Conjoint Professor Jackie Curtis

Prof. Curtis was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to medicine, particularly as a mental health clinician and researcher.

“I have been both humbled and very proud to receive this award, but also feel this is really for the work of a team. I have been privileged to work both as a clinician and researcher with people living with serious mental health conditions such as psychosis, including young people at the beginning of their contact with mental health services,” Prof. Curtis said.

“Working as a psychiatrist in the public health system, I have always been drawn towards improving the service and system landscape, in particular to address physical health inequalities for people living with mental illness as well as to increase access to mental health (especially in young people) and physical health care. I have been lucky to be able to work with wonderful colleagues over the years and I do believe that this is a collective award – and that together, we can improve the lives of people experiencing mental health issues.”

Prof. Curtis is a Conjoint Professor in the Discipline of Psychiatry and Mental Health at UNSW Medicine & Health, and Executive Director of the Mindgardens Neuroscience Network. Her research and clinical work over several decades have focused on early psychosis and youth mental health, with the aim of reducing health inequalities and increasing life expectancy.

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