2019 Award Winners

Each year, Sancta acknowledges the efforts and achievements of alumni who have made outstanding contributions within Australia and internationally in their chosen fields, in many spheres of endeavour and walks of life.

The Awards for 2019 were announced at the Annual Gala Dinner and Alumni Awards at The University of Sydney’s majestic Great Hall on 23 May 2019. Six outstanding alumni were recognised on the evening.


ROSEmary (Rowe) Morrow

The University of Sydney Alumni Award for International Achievement

Rosemary (Rowe) (FR ‘66) is a pioneer of permaculture and has spent a career of over 40 years providing aid and education to people the world over. Rowe works largely with traumatised people in dangerous and war-torn parts of the world, particularly with communities where generations of knowledge have been lost with those who have died in the conflict. Having created a globally applicable coherent framework for cultivated systems that will enable people to live, Rowe provides these people with the practical skills to transform their own lives.

Rowe received her alumni award at The University of Sydney’s Alumni Awards ceremony on 2 May 2019. Read more

“I think the most significant thing about Sancta is that is a wonderful refuge, it is a place to regroup, a place to have intellectual discussion and it is a place to be accepted. Most of all, it is a place to be safe.”

Sunny paia’aua

graduate award for social impact

Sunny (FR ’12) is the founder of OiOiOi, an organisation which spreads mateship through a shared sense of experience, mutual respect, and unconditional assistance between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. This is done by engaging local Indigenous artists and providing them with a platform to showcase their artwork on a national and international scale on the shoes of players from multiple national sporting codes. Sunny is also a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, and the Chair of the QLD Red Cross Youth Advisory Committee. She was invited to be part of the International Red Cross/ Red Crescent movement whereby she mobilised young Australians and gained valuable insights that will contribute globally to the Red Cross’s Strategy 2020.

“It’s no secret that the disparities Indigenous Australians experience – incarceration rates, life expectancy, resilience post-disaster – is not up to standard… While I was at Sancta, I really honed in on the “that’s not right” spirit and that was a pivotal time that led me to what I work for today.”

professor margaret alston oam

alumni award for the empowerment of women

Margaret (FR ‘71) is currently Professor of Social Work at The University of Newcastle, and Professor Emeritus at Monash University. She has worked for many years to improve the lives of women through gender equity, undertaking national and international studies to identify issues and find solutions. At Monash, Margaret established the Gender, Leadership and Social Sustainability (GLASS) research unit, attracting up to 20 PhD students. She has supported many students, particularly women, through their studies at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. She is a member of the UN Women’s Major Group, was awarded an OAM for her services to working and rural women, and has recently completed projects on gender and climate change with OXFAM and UNESCO.

“To all the young people: When you see a challenge, really look it in the face. You’ll be uncomfortable but there’s no room for complacency now. Put rights and social justice at the centre of your work and never stop learning because humanity depends upon it.”

Dr julia atkin

Alumni award for innovation

For over 30 years, Julia (FR ’68) has worked with teachers, school leaders, designers and architects, from early childhood to tertiary institutions to develop and transform education appropriate to the knowledge era and to the demands of the 21st Century. She has mentored educators throughout Australia, NZ and USA, whilst being a guiding light in education internationally with bodies such as the OECD as an educational advisor, and the World Bank in designing schools for learning in Central Asia. Julia continues to innovate learning for all by teaching teachers how people learn and by designing curricula and environments for effective, personalised learning to take place.

“The real power of education is to enable each individual to know themselves, their aspirations and their passions to set them on the path to become who they can be in order to live a full life and contribute to the lives of others.”

RenÉe bolot

alumni award for professional achievement

Renée (FR ’99) works as a LifeFlight nurse bringing lifesaving treatment to patients throughout Australia and around the world, via helicopter and fixed-wing planes. With her extensive experience in ICU and emergency departments throughout Australia and the UK, Renee mentors young nurses and assists in the management of Royal Brisbane Hospital’s Disaster portfolio. She has assessed aeromedical teams internationally, enabling them to improve their clinical and safety systems and currently reports directly to the Queensland Government on preventative and improvement strategies and for the future needs of LifeFlight. Renée continues to develop her professional career through her study of a Masters in Public Health, majoring in Aeromedical Retrieval.

“In my job I see people in their most vulnerable states every day. I’ve realised that they just want you to be honest, to be compassionate, and they want to know they are loved. If I can do that for them, and show others to do the same, I’ve done my job.” 

mavis claire pirola oam dsg

alumni award for religious service

Mavis (FR ‘54), alongside her husband, Professor Romano Pirola OAM, has devoted her life to self-funded ministries of marriage and family. She has played a significant role in the Church, including 27 years of service to the Pontifical Council for the Family and has established the Parish and Marriage Resource Centre and the Family Working Group – which was the precursor to the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council. In recognition of her ‘faith and scholarly-based leadership in promoting the nature and integrity of marriage within the Catholic tradition’, Mavis was awarded an honourary doctorate at ACU in 2016, and has recently been made a Dame of the Order of St. Gregory for distinguished services to the Church in the Archdiocese of Sydney.

“May Sancta Sophia College continue to provide a strong base from which young women can launch themselves into a new and fulfilling future for the sake of others.”