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Alumnus of the Year Awards

people standing with trophies
2023 Alumnus of the Year Award recipients (from left) Christopher Trace, Keegan Peace, Judith Hickson, Alan Jones, Kerry Betros AM, Floyd Leedie, Jane O’Donnell, Dr Jake Clark, Michael Armstrong and Dr Prabal Barua.

Business leaders, social historians, astronomers, and health, educational and community leaders have been recognised in this year’s University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ) Alumnus of the Year Awards.

The awards acknowledge the outstanding achievements of University of Southern Queensland graduates who have made significant contributions to their professions and their communities.

Chancellor Mr John Dornbusch said the annual awards celebrated the outstanding achievements and impact of the University’s community.

“The inspirational award recipients demonstrate that a commitment to service and excellence is at the heart of being a University of Southern Queensland alumni,” Mr Dornbusch said.

“They all share a commitment to their communities, innovation, and social justice, and we are proud to recognise them as ambassadors making a difference regionally, nationally and globally.”

The University of Southern Queensland has more than 115,000 alumni from 140 countries.

Receiving this year’s Alumnus of the Year award was business leader Kerry Betros, for almost 50 years of service to the community.

Mr Betros has served as the Chairman of the Heritage Bank Board since 2012 and has played a crucial role in steering the organisation’s success. He is now Deputy Chair of the merged Heritage and People’s Choice Limited.

“I would just like to say how proud I am to receive this award,” Mr Betros said.

“My connection with the University of Southern Queensland started in 1968 in my first year out of school.

“The University really got me off to a great start, and I see the good work it has done and the great way the University has progressed.”

The complete list of 2023 Alumnus of the Year Awards is listed below.


Kerry Betros AM

2023 UniSQ Alumnus of the Year and 2023 UniSQ Outstanding Alumnus in Business & Enterprise
Bachelor of Business 1974
Kerry Betros has been a leader in the business and banking community for almost 50 years. He served as the Chairman of the Heritage Bank Board from 2012 until the merger with People's Choice in March 2023 and played a crucial role in steering the organisation’s success. Prior to his role as chairman, Kerry served as a director on the board for three decades. Kerry was selected as the inaugural chairman of Heritage’s finance committee, as well as chairman of the audit committee. Kerry also holds the position of Managing Director for Betros Bros Holdings Pty Ltd and associated companies. Established in 1938, Betros Bros is a Darling Downs-based wholesaler and retailer well known in the community for supporting and employing locals. He has made many valued contributions to the community and his service has been recognised on many occasions. He was honoured with the Centenary of Federation Medal for distinguished contributions. In 2021, he was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM). Kerry is also a Fellow of CPA Australia. He was a previous Director of St Vincent’s Hospital (Toowoomba).

Judith Hickson

2023 UniSQ Outstanding Alumnus in Creative Industries & Humanities
Bachelor of Arts (International Relations & Anthropology) 2010
Judith Hickson’s passionate belief in each person’s unique history shines through her work as an anthropologist and curator. She currently serves as the curator of social history in the Cultures and Histories Program at Queensland Museum. She has previously worked at the National Museum of Australia. Judith has also served as a member of the Australian Museums & Galleries Association and the Australian Migrant History Network. Judith has generously contributed to the communities in which she has lived over many decades, most recently volunteering in a leadership role for Rosie’s Friends on the Street. She has also given many presentations over her career and is regularly involved with UniSQ as a speaker and advisor.

Alan Jones

2023 UniSQ Outstanding Alumnus in Education
Bachelor of Arts (English Literature) 1996; Graduate Diploma of Professional Communications (Public Relations) 2002; and Master of Communications (Public Relations) 2004
Alan Jones is widely recognised as a respected educational leader who has made substantial contributions to the field of education in Queensland. After graduating from UniSQ, he began his career in the classroom before progressing through roles including Head of Department (English), Deputy Principal, and Principal. He now serves as Regional Director for Darling Downs South West in addition to advocacy roles such as Torres Strait Islander Ambassador, recruiting teachers to some of the most remote classrooms in the state.
Throughout his distinguished career, Alan’s exceptional leadership qualities have enabled him to bring about positive change and cultivate a culture of excellence in education. He has exhibited a profound understanding of the intricate dynamics of educational administration.

Floyd Leedie

2023 UniSQ Outstanding Alumnus in Health & Wellbeing
Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) 1999
Floyd Leedie, Chief Executive Officer of Goondir Health Services, is passionate about making a positive difference to Indigenous peoples and communities and has made it his life’s work. He has made significant contributions to the health and wellbeing of communities across Darling Downs, South Burnett and Southwest Queensland.
Floyd has been recognised nationally as a recipient of the AGPAL Aboriginal Medical Service of the Year Award (2013-2014), Quality Improvement awards from the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (2013), and several business excellence awards. Floyd is an innovator who has played a critical role in providing important Indigenous knowledge and cultural insight. His work utilises the integration of research and practice to improve Indigenous health outcomes and healthcare delivery through a collaborative approach with various research teams and stakeholders, including UniSQ, CSIRO and the Menzies School of Health Sciences.

Jane O’Donnell

2023 UniSQ Highly Commended Alumnus in Health and Wellbeing
Bachelor of Nursing 2003
Jane O’Donnell has dedicated her nursing career to caring for rural and remote communities – providing exemplary, community-centred care in remote locations across four states over two decades. She spent four years as the sole emergency responder in a 200km radius in central Queensland, where she founded a preventative health clinic teaching local children about health. Jane later oversaw 85 staff in a leadership position at Western Australia’s second-largest regional hospital. She has since returned to her hometown of Dalby and now serves as Director of Nursing and Midwifery. In this role, Jane has led a culture of transparency, accountability, and consistency. Jane also actively champions for UniSQ students and graduates as they prepare for their own health careers. Jane continues to be committed to the community, including leading the establishment of a Community Advisory Group and as lead member of the District and Disaster Management Group.

Christopher Trace

2023 UniSQ Outstanding Alumnus in Law & Justice
Bachelor of Laws 2016
Christopher opened his legal practice in 2019 – consisting of Heritage Conveyancing, Heritage City Legal and Heritage Family Law – to serve the Ipswich and Springfield communities. He is passionate about giving back to the community and he and his firm routinely provide pro-bono service to Ipswich and Springfield residents. His firm regularly employs current UniSQ students and alumni. Christopher was the previous coordinator of the Augustine Heights Neighbourhood Watch and Assistant Treasurer for the Ipswich Region and organised the Augustine Heights Halloween fundraising event. He was the previous president of the Ipswich City Orchestra and helped it to become incorporated. Christopher is a pro-bono lawyer for Metro Arts in Brisbane. He has provided assistance to the Domestic Violence Action Centre and is an ardent supporter of Drought Angels, which supports farming families.

Prabal Barua

2023 UniSQ Alumni Award for Excellence in Research
Doctor of Philosophy (Business) 2020
Prabal Barua is CEO and Director of Cogninet Australia and has distinguished himself through professional, academic and community service. He is an entrepreneur who has built several successful ICT companies that employ over 200 staff, including many UniSQ alumni. Prabal is a highly successful business entrepreneur who regularly partners with a wide range of UniSQ staff in research. Through his companies, he has been an essential industry partner for competitive research grants and has also directly awarded grants to UniSQ research teams and provided scholarships for UniSQ research students. He has built a strong research profile with over 100 publications. Prabal is also the Academic Dean at the Australian International Institute of Higher Education; an Adjunct Professor at the University of Southern Queensland; a member of the ICT Industry Advisory Board at UniSQ; and a member of the ICT Programs Leadership & Governance Committee at UniSQ.

Michael Armstrong

2023 UniSQ Alumni Community Service Award
Master of Arts (Creative Arts) 2021
Mike Armstrong is an Australian Army veteran turned award-winning artist and author. He began his art studies at UniSQ while deployed and now works in a variety of mediums from his art studio in Canberra. Mike has used his art to process his post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis and support other veterans with the disorder. Mike helps veterans find their voice and tell their stories and works collaboratively with the Australian National Veterans Art Museum on his project, Voices of Veterans. He is experienced in running workshops on everything from classical oil painting to paint making. He has also studied martial arts for most of his life and holds black belts in several arts, including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). His organisation, Rogue BJJ is a revolutionary studio supporting the Canberra BJJ community through delivering small group and individualised training to support growth, community and personal expression. He supports veterans and first responders connecting to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a healing modality.

Jake Clark

2023 UniSQ Young Alumnus of the Year
Doctor of Philosophy (Astronomy) 2022
Jake Clark completed his highly successful PhD studies at UniSQ in 2022 and has since dedicated a public service career to ensure underserved young people can better access science and research that reveals the wonders of space. After graduating in August 2022, he began working at the intersection of science communication, social science and data science to better tell the many stories and far-reaching impacts of science for Australia’s National Science and Technology Centre, Questacon. In May 2023, only 10 months into his employment, Jake won the government-wide award Australian Public Service Early Career Data Award, highlighting his innovative and resourceful solutions to real-world problems. Jake also regularly contributes to the framework and implementation of sustainability within Australia’s professional astronomical research community as an active member of the Astronomical Society of Australia’s Education and Public Outreach Chapter’s steering committee.

Keegan Peace

2023 UniSQ Highly Commended Young Alumnus of the Year
Bachelor of Education (Primary) 2019
Keegan is a successful and respected young educator who has made significant contributions to the Ipswich and Brisbane communities. In 2020, he was awarded the Independent Education Union's Beginning Educator Award, highlighting his early achievements in the field of education and advocacy. In 2022, he received the Algester Queensland Day Award after being nominated by a parent in his class. Keegan's commitment to energising his learners and engaging with the parent and school community has also earned him a spot as a finalist in the 2023 Australian Education Awards. Beyond his work in the classroom, Keegan actively contributes to his school community by running a successful after-school history club. He also serves in varied roles through the Queensland Teacher's Union and actively volunteers his time for the Queensland Care Army. He has authored and released two books, "The Polka Dot Prince" and "Conrad Curlew Makes a Newspaper”.