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The Menzies Brief - Vol 18, No. 4, 2015

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  Vol 18 No. 4  |  1 September 2015  

Hello Visitor,

This is the latest edition of the Menzies Brief - Vol 18, No. 4, 2015


September 2015

President’s report – vote for your next Secretary

Dariel de SousaVoting is well underway for the next MMSA Secretary. Thank you very much to Adrian McCallum, Nick Huntington, Kate Peterson and Sheree Hurn who have all put their hands up for this important leadership position. I would also like to thank all the others who considered the role or indicated an interest for next year – the response was overwhelming and a great reflection on the enthusiasm for taking the MMSA to the next level to increase engagement with our alumni.

All MMSA members will have received an email asking them to vote ( for their preferred nominee for the position of Secretary by 4 September - if you didn't receive the email, please contact AJ Epstein to update your contact details. For those of you who have not yet voted, please do so as soon as possible.

It’s probably a timely reminder to Menzies Scholars who haven’t signed up as MMSA members, it’s just a click way now with an online registration, so if you or someone you know should be a member, please think about joining: It takes just a few minutes and it’s free.

Dariel De Sousa

Secretary’s report

Josie BarbaroOne of the things that perhaps sets us apart when we apply for a Menzies Scholarship is that we are not just assessed on our academic achievements, although they play an integral part. The Menzies Foundation is looking for those who also demonstrate outstanding leadership qualities and a commitment to the community too. In other words, well-rounded individuals.

With this in mind, we are looking to start a Scholar Photo Competition – and let’s be honest, seeking some great images we might use!  We’d love to see what you’ve been up to and your creative skills with the camera. Despite how all-consuming it can become sometimes, life is not all about work and study (gasp!), so share some of the other things you’ve been doing. You never know, your photo might end up being the star of the show. Of course, shots in your professional environment would be great too.

annual report 2014

David Bowly and friends starred on this year’s Menzies Foundation annual report. You could be next. Or maybe you can see yourself on some of our new Menzies Foundation promotional material (coming soon).  

As an incentive we are offering a $100 book voucher for the best image we get this year. There is a catch. The images need to be high resolution images (and that means really big – at least 3600 x 2400 pixels at 300 dpi or larger, so the size of the image might be 2-4 MB or more) and of course we will need your permission to use them.

Let’s see what you can do behind or in front of the lens. Email your images and your approval to use the image to Kate Nolan or ask her for a link to the Menzies Foundation Drop Box. 

Josie Barbaro

Menzies Scholars achieve amazing things… 

Jacob Creek and sugar glidersOur fellow alumni have continued to demonstrate their high quality skills and leadership. Here is a selection of the latest stories:

  • 2013 Menzies Scholar in Engineering, Mahala McLindin, has recently returned from Oxford working out how to create water management policies that are easy to implement while taking into account social equity and environmental protection.
  • 1993-94 Harvard Menzies Scholar, Dr Esther Charlesworth, provided an update on the organisation she established – Architects Without Frontiers – and the satisfaction of bringing design services to those marginalised by poverty, conflict or natural disaster.
  • 2007 Allied Health Scholar, Dr Sally Gainsbury, has published more ground breaking research on the convergence of gambling and gaming.
  • 2013 Menzies Scholar in Law, David Heaton, was back in Australia last month to present some of his thesis material at a Constitutional Law conference at the University of Melbourne and while he was here talked to us about his Oxford experiences.
  • Meanwhile, Fielding Menzies Tertiary Scholar, Jacob Creek, (pictured) is in his first year of a Bachelor of Environmental Science at Deakin University and adjusting to life moving from Nhill to Melbourne.

In the media

Menzies Scholars from all professions have been getting their fair share of media coverage in recent weeks too. Here’s just a sample of what we’ve heard or read from them:

Sharon Oberstein

  • Current Allied Health Sciences Scholar, Sharon Oberstein, (pictured) featured in the Brisbane Times and Sydney Morning Herald, talking about her research project to help vision-impaired drivers stay behind the wheel.
  • Always fascinating and articulate, Professor Julian Savulescu (1994 Menzies Scholar in Medicine), spoke to 720 ABC Perth about the potential issues and excitement surrounding experiments to grow brain cells in a petri dish.
  • The Sydney Morning Herald focused on the link between social media and young people gambling when Dr Sally Gainsbury’s latest research was published.
  • One of our newest Harvard Menzies Scholars, Matthew Tyler, featured on Monash University’s alumni website talking about his plans to shape the future of politics.
  • And if you look closely at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute’s 100 Years of Discoveries for Humanity TV advertisement, which is running now to celebrate the centenary, you can see 2007 NHMRC/RG Menzies Fellow, Dr Nick Huntington, writing something complex on the window – he’s the one in the black shirt!

If we’ve missed anything, please email it to Kate Nolan.

Director starts at Menzies Health Institute Queensland

Professor Sheena Reilly, the Director of the Menzies Health Institute Queensland, has recently taken up her new position at Griffith University.

There to help position Griffith University as a leader in world-class research, Professor Reilly took up her role in mid-July, coming from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the University of Melbourne.

The Menzies Foundation and Griffith University are partners in the MHIQ, which was launched in April and will position the university as a world leader in allied health.

You can read more here about Professor Reilly’s thoughts on her new role.

Mr Brian Doyle AM – Chairman, Menzies Foundation, Professor Suzanne Chambers, Professor Allan Cripps and Professor Sheena Reilly

Photo: Mr Brian Doyle AM – Chairman, Menzies Foundation, Professor Suzanne Chambers, Professor Allan Cripps and Professor Sheena Reilly at the launch of the Menzies Health Institute Queensland. Image courtesy of Ryan Rix and MHIQ.

Spotlight on… Professor Adrian Liston 

Adrian Liston sAdrian Liston is Professor of Translational Immunology at the University of Leuven and the VIB, Belgium. He works in an independent research laboratory at the University, which he set up in 2009. Adrian is the 2005 NHMRC/RG Menzies Fellow.

What is your job?

Professor of Microbiology & Immunology at the University of Leuven (Belgium) and Director of Translational Immunology in the Flemish Biotechnology Institute.

What is the most fulfilling aspect of your work?

Discovery. Science is really a terrible career in so many ways, and yet it attracts many of the best and brightest because it holds out the promise of discovery. There is nothing quite so satisfying as unravelling a new gene network that leads to diabetes, or finding the mutation that holds the key to curing a sick child.

What is the book that has influenced you the most?

Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre - it's a must-read for anyone in the medical research industry. It is a book that is shocking in how it reveals systemic defects in pharmaceutical research, development and sales, and yet it is also eminently practical (even hopeful) in giving simple advice that would remedy the situation.

Who would you most like to meet and why?

Sir David Attenborough. A gentleman in the literal sense of the word. Since childhood Sir David has nurtured in me (and countless others) a love of biology. For me, Sir David is the world’s most effective advocate for animal rights, environmentalism, evolution and atheism. All this is perhaps because he rarely talks about any of these topics directly; he cultivates the fertile mind and plants the seeds of knowledge.

What are your passions outside of work?

As Rosalind Franklin said, “Science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated”.

How do you describe leadership?

Leadership is moving forward in a way that inspires others to move forward with you. A scientific leader will open up a new field of research, opening the gates for others to follow and build upon. The best scientific leaders are those who allow others to take the lead in building once the new field is open and look instead for the next opportunity for breakthrough.

Who would make a better leader? Engineer, doctor, researcher or lawyer and why?

The effectiveness of a leader will always depend on the context, and the individual’s qualities will always trump that of professional training. That said, different professions do hone different skills. Engineers apply proven rules with precision, doctors are trained at pattern recognition and decision making, and lawyers are trained to find loopholes to prosecute their agenda.  As a researcher myself, I would say our most important attribute is the ability to critically assess our own opinion based on data available, and, most importantly, change our opinion if new data does not support it. Perhaps over the short-term the training given to engineers, doctors or lawyers may be the most efficient, but for long-term progress, nothing beats the scientific approach of data over ideology.

If you were Prime Minister of Australia, what would you do first?

Looking at the bigger picture, the most important change needed is to bring the scientific approach into policy creation and political decision making. By this I mean an approach to policy where we start by critically looking at all the data (and not just the data that supports our ideology), assessing the effectiveness of previous policy approaches (with an international eye), designing new policy (that include measurements of effectiveness), and tweaking policy when failures are identified. This scientific approach to policy should be standard, but many of the failures of the current government stem from a triumph of ideology over data.

Australia’s terrible record on the environment (such as our failure of leadership on climate change) stems from a failure to accept the consensus data on the scale of the problem. Our record on refugee rights is not only a moral failure, it is also a data failure – a key policy of the government is to keep data on the abysmal conditions of refugees away from the voting public. Opponents of same-sex marriage prophesise varied doomsday scenarios without looking at the decade-long experiences in Europe. Economic policies seem more tailored to the electoral cycle than to long-term objectives, and so forth.   

CEO update

Sarah HardyThe 2016 Sir Robert Menzies Research Scholar in the Allied Health Sciences will be announced this week. Keep your eyes on the Menzies Foundation web home page, Twitter and LinkedIn for details of our newest alumnus. Details will also be revealed in the next edition of The Menzies Brief, when we will also let you know the successful Engineering, Law and International Law scholars (the applications are all in).

Thank you to all of those who are involved in the process of reviewing applications and interviewing candidates – it is great to have former scholars involved and you make our life so much easier. Not only that, we ensure the right outcome.

Very soon we will also have details of the Menzies Centenary Prize winner, which is funded jointly by the MMSA and the Menzies Foundation.

Sarah Hardy
CEO, Menzies Foundation

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