Life Changing

Western Sydney College celebrates alumni successes and raises $2 million for life-changing refugee scholarships

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Western Sydney University has recognised the outstanding contributions of its alumni community and raised $2 million for refugee and asylum seeker scholarships as part of its Town & Gown gala.

The University’s prestigious Alumni Awards showcases graduates who have become trailblazers and leaders in their fields, demonstrating excellence throughout their careers. The winners were announced as part of the Town & Gown fundraising event held on Saturday 29 October and hosted by Ray Martin AM.

High-achieving alumni were recognised across seven award categories – alumni of the year, professional excellence, breakthrough alumni, international leadership, Indigenous excellence, innovation and entrepreneurship, and Hawkesbury alumni.

Among the impressive award winners was Dr Holly Harrison, who received the coveted Chancellor’s Alumni of the Year Award.

Dr Harrison completed a Bachelor of Music with Honours in 2010 and a Doctor of Creative Arts in 2014, and is currently the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s Composer in Residence. Working at the highest artistic level in Australia and abroad, Dr Harrison was recognised for her significant contributions to her local community and beyond.

As part of the Town & Gown celebrations the University also announced it was establishing the ‘Peter Shergold Refugee and Asylum Seeker Scholarships Fund’ – named in honour of Professor Peter Shergold AC, who retires from the University in December after 12 years of exemplary service as Chancellor.

The endowed scholarship fund recognises Professor Shergold’s legacy as a leading voice for education, social justice and social inclusion, who has advocated tirelessly for the refugee and asylum seeker community. With generous support of sponsors and donors, the event raised $2 million to help support scholarships for refugee and asylum seeker students.

Western Sydney University Chancellor, Professor Peter Shergold AC, warmly congratulated all the Alumni Award winners and said they are an integral part of the University’s history – past, present and future.

“We are incredibly proud of our alumni community – a network of over 200,000 graduates located throughout Australia and across the globe. We are delighted that these awards shine a spotlight on their incredible success and how they are going from strength to strength in their personal and professional endeavours,” Professor Shergold said.

“All of these worthy award recipients enrich their communities in many and varied ways and are part of the University’s story. We thank our alumni from all our antecedent institutions for sharing their inspiring journeys with us and with the communities of western Sydney and beyond.”

Professor Shergold said the naming of the scholarships fund in his honour was a particularly special moment as part of his final Town & Gown event, before retiring from the University at the end of the year.

“I have had the privilege of witnessing first hand the immense contributions that refugees make when they receive the support and encouragement they need,” said Professor Shergold.

“I hope to leave a legacy of ongoing change by establishing a scholarship fund, so life-changing scholarships for refugee and asylum seeker students can be offered in perpetuity.

“Scholarship opportunities help empower refugees and asylum seekers to take back control of their lives. In turn, the recipients of those opportunities and their families enrich the economic, social and cultural lives of all Australians – we all benefit.”

Town & Gown is Western Sydney University’s flagship fundraising event. It is made possible with the generous support of sponsors:


  • Blackmores Foundation
  • Brydens Lawyers
  • Walker Corporation


  • Charter Hall
  • GJK Facility Services
  • Richard Crookes Constructions
  • Stockland

Western Sydney University’s Alumni Award winners for 2022

Chancellor’s Alumni of the Year Award

Winner: Dr Holly Harrison 

Doctor of Creative Arts, 2014 I Bachelor of Music (Honours), 2010

Composer in Residence, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra

Holly has a steady stream of commissioned work by musicians, ensembles and orchestras working at the highest artistic level in Australia and abroad. She performs in international festivals, and serves as Composer in Residence, teacher, and mentor for high school music students, as well as early career composers.

This award recognises the significant contributions made by alumni in their local communities and beyond. This is the highest honour the Alumni Awards can bestow and decided at the discretion of the awards judging panel when considering nominations for all the other award categories.

Professional Excellence Award

Winner: Mariam Veiszadeh

Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice, 2008 I Bachelor of Laws, 2007 I Bachelor of Economics, 2005

Chief Executive Officer, Media Diversity Australia

Mariam is a lawyer, diversity and inclusion practitioner, and a social commentator. She is the Founder and Chair of the Islamophobia Register Australia, an executive in the Afghan Australian Advocacy Network, among other positions. Proud of her refugee background, she is passionate about championing the rights of minority groups through her voluntary roles, sizable social media following, interviews and written work.

This award recognises outstanding leaders within their industry, profession or field of research who have achieved sustained success throughout their career that is noteworthy and exceptional.

International Alumni Leadership Award

Winner: Sulinna Ong

Bachelor of Arts (Honours) – Music, 2000

Global Head of Editorial (Los Angeles), Spotify

Sulinna is a leading international player in the music industry at the helm of all curation and programming for Spotify. She is responsible for some of the most influential playlists in the world. Sulinna started her journey in A.I. and robotics, moving on to work in almost every major sector of the music industry, spanning artist management, record labels, the live concert business and streaming.

This award recognises and honours international alumni who have excelled in their chosen field, and whose accomplishments enhance the prestige of Western Sydney University.

Breakthrough Alumni Award

Winner: Dr Hoda Karimipour

Doctor of Philosophy – Engineering, 2020

Senior Environmental Advisor, UN-Habitat

Hoda is a researcher, environmental engineer, and environmental activist. She held a variety of positions at United Nations (UN) organisations, including her current role at UN-Habitat, and previous roles at UNDP Iran, UNEP Nairobi-Kenya, and UN-ESCAP, among others.

This award recognises the achievements of alumni who have performed exceptionally well in their first ten years following graduation from Western Sydney University.

Indigenous Alumni Excellence Award

Winner: Dr Angela Dos Santos

Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery, 2011

Neurologist and Stroke Physician, Alfred Health/The Royal Melbourne Hospital

Angela is Australia’s first, and currently only, Aboriginal neurologist and stroke specialist. As a practitioner and researcher, she is addressing the unmet needs of First Nations families impacted by and at risk for stroke.

This award recognises Indigenous alumni who have excelled in their profession or made an outstanding contribution to Indigenous Australian communities within Greater Western Sydney and/or beyond.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship Alumni Award

Winner: Laura Simmons

Bachelor of Applied Science – Occupational Therapy, 2013

CEO and Founder, Theratrak Pty Ltd

Founder and Principal Therapist, Live Be Explore

Laura has worked across Sydney as a private paediatric occupational therapist. She founded Theratrak, an innovative technology solution designed to improve clinical workflows and access to disability services. Laura is active in mentoring new therapists in using digital tools.

This award recognises alumni who have demonstrated excellence in the fields of research, innovation, creative thinking, and/or technology and highlights the impact of their work.

Hawkesbury Alumni Award

Winner: Gloria Tabi

Bachelor of Applied Science – Environmental Management & Tourism, 1998

Founder, Voice Everyday Racism

CEO and Workplace Inclusion Specialist, EVERYDAY INCLUSION

Gloria is the author of ‘Inclusive Teams & Workplaces: Everyone Wins!’. She is currently completing a post-graduate degree in Research Studies at Western, specialising in social analysis on race, social inequalities, and anti-racism. Gloria guides business leaders to cultivate workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion; this supports business effectiveness in today’s changing workforce demographics.

This award recognises Hawkesbury alumni who have excelled in their professional career, community life, international affairs or business.

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