Alison Chatres, Tony Chong, Rebecca Tomkinson, and Dr Heston Kwong JP honoured for professional achievements and community service.
Diplomacy, human rights and gender equality; a prominent legal career and mentorship; stewardship of an Australian health service icon; and protecting lives during the pandemic; – these are the diverse capabilities of four Murdoch University alumni celebrated at RAC Arena last night.
Diplomat Alison Chatres, commercial lawyer and philanthropist Tony Chong, Royal Flying Doctor Service WA chief executive Rebecca Tomkinson, and Dr Heston Kwong JP, Assistant Director at Department of Health, Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, were recognised as Distinguished Alumni for their contribution to their profession and the community.
As Western Australia’s original free-thinking university, Murdoch was founded on values of diversity, inclusivity, and innovation, and while every path is different, Murdoch graduates leave grounded in the university’s core values of social justice, equity, sustainability, global responsibility; innovation and entrepreneurship.
Interim Vice Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander said all four had risen to the challenges they faced and found a way to give back and make our community a better place.
“What unifies them all is the evident application of the knowledge, insights and skills acquired to build impressive careers,” she said.
“There comes with a university education a responsibility to take what knowledge has been acquired and go out and do good.”
Professor den Hollander said all four had truly distinguished themselves through career achievement, service to the community, and personal integrity.
The annual Distinguished Alumni Awards honour and celebrate Murdoch alumni who have gone into the world and truly made their mark in diverse fields, with only 30 recipients since the Awards’ inception 10 years ago.
In 28 years as a diplomat, Ms Chatres has represented Australia across the globe, including as the nation’s High Commissioner to the Republic of Kenya and as Australia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT).
She is known for her work in advocating for gender equality and human rights issues, and among many career highlights, counts the time she delivered a statement on behalf of Australia in the UN General Assembly Hall, as a “pinch yourself moment”.
At Murdoch, Ms Chatres completed a Bachelor of Science majoring in populations resources and technology.
Today she is the Assistant Secretary with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Africa Branch, and credits her time at the university with providing the bold and forward-thinking foundation she needed to pursue her goals in international relations.
“I recall that phrase about how university is about how you learn, more than what you learn. As I left and entered the workforce, I felt that was so true,” she said.
Having come from a family of lawyers, award winning commercial lawyer Tony Chong initially had no desire to join the profession, he wanted to be an accountant.
But a chance meeting with the first Dean of the Murdoch Law School, the Honourable Emeritus Professor Ralph Simmonds, persuaded Mr Chong to a double degree in law and accounting, and today he is a Managing Partner at global law firm, Squire Patton Boggs.
He serves as a principal adviser to high-net worth individuals and corporate entities, specialising in mergers and acquisitions and the Asian commercial business environment.
However, Mr Chong said his career success has given him the opportunity to fulfil his true passions of philanthropy and mentoring.
Tony sits on the boards of a number of organisations, funds a scholarship, mentors young people, and is now working to provide opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“Looking back on it, university taught me a lot about independent thinking, it taught me about how you should conduct yourself in life,” he said.
“Murdoch University is a special place for me, it has given me every opportunity that I have now in life, so now I’m in the privileged position of being able to give back.”
Leading an emergency hospital, regional airline and five bases across the world's largest health jurisdiction is no easy feat, throw in a global pandemic and things get tricky.
Not for RFDS WA chief executive Rebecca Tomkinson who remained clear-headed and compassionate as she led her team through a period of adaptation so they could continue to provide life-saving treatment to communities across WA.
Ms Tomkinson, who completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Public Policy at Murdoch, was the first in her family to go to university, it’s an achievement she is very proud of, as she is of her role at the RFDS.
”It’s an incredible privilege with such a great sense of what it means to be Australian,” she said.
“Still today we don’t send a band-aid, we send a plane to some of the most remote areas anywhere in the country.”
While the past eighteen months have been some of the most challenging of her professional life[MS1] , Ms Tomkinson said leading the RFDS WA team, particularly through the coronavirus crisis has been the highlight of her career.
Dr Heston Kwong JP
Almost 40 years ago, Dr Kwong chose to study medicine at university because he had a simple goal, he wanted to help people.
Today is he recognised as a global leader in health governance and is one of the most high-profile government officials in Hong Kong.
Among his responsibilities as Assistant Director at Department of Health, Dr Kwong manages emergency response, which over the last 18 months has included handling quarantine, vaccines and other matters regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
He played a similar role when the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic hit Hong Kong in early 2000, quickly establishing a unique IT infrastructure and interface to aid controlling the outbreak. His work so pivotal it received international recognition.
Dr Kwong believes in professional development, and among his many degrees, has a Master of Business Administration from Murdoch.
“It gave me a unique exposure to the business world,” he said, “
“I was able to meet a range of entrepreneurs from China and Hong Kong. They were very proactive in their field and I was able to learn from their skills, vision and own development journeys and it provided me with an incredible network of skilled professionals.”
Studying at Murdoch helped Dr Kwong and his fellow Distinguished Alumni Ms Chatres, Mr Chong and Ms Tompkinson, to solve challenges at home and around the world.
As the University’s namesake Sir Walter Murdoch said in 1926, “the only education out of which good can come is the education which teaches you to think for yourself, instead of swallowing whatever the fashion of the moment may prescribe."