The twelfth annual Melbourne Foundation for Business and Economics Dinner was held on Wednesday evening to great fanfare at the National Gallery of Victoria.
Guests from across the business sector, Foundation Board and Alumni Council members, staff from the Faculty and University, and select students all met in NGV’s great hall for a night of connection, fundraising and celebration.
The purpose of the Foundation Dinner is to secure a strong endowment so that the most deserving students can get access to the best education, regardless of their geographic, economic, or cultural circumstances. The Foundation Dinner also showcases the world-class research produced by the Faculty, and connects the University of Melbourne to corporate Australia.
After canapés in the forecourt, courtesy of First Nations chef, Nornie Bero, guests were also invited to an exclusive viewing of the Gabrielle Chanel Fashion Manifesto exhibition, currently on display at NGV, until 25 April.
Professor Paul Kofman, Faculty Dean, welcomed guests as many old colleagues, friends and acquaintances were reunited after two years of COVID-19-related separation. He also welcomed members of the Faculty’s alumni community – a network more than 72,000 members strong.
Each year, the Alumni of Distinction Awards are presented at this event, recognising alumni who have achieved excellence in their chosen professions and made an outstanding contribution to government, business, education, and the non-profit sector. These recipients join an esteemed group of previous Alumni of Distinction awardees and exemplify the Faculty’s aspiration to educate leaders who make a global difference in business and the wider community.
In 2022, the award winners were:
Rachel Yang – Rising Star Award for Young Alumni Recipient 2022
Rachel completed a Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Arts, and Diploma of Modern Languages (Italian) at the University of Melbourne in 2011.
Rachel is a Partner at Giant Leap, Australia’s first 100% impact venture capital fund backing mission-driven founders solving the world’s most pressing problems. She is a consistent supporter and builder of the Victorian entrepreneurship ecosystem, showing her commitment to not only her own success, but that of her peers and the wider community.
“I was incredibly surprised and honoured to be receiving this award, particularly alongside such accomplished professionals not only this year, but also the amazing recipients in years past,” Rachel said.
Robin Bishop – Leadership Award Recipient 2022
Robin received a Bachelor of Commerce, a Bachelor of Laws (Honours), and Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne in 1995.
His role as founding partner of BGH Capital, along with his experience at Macquarie Capital, demonstrate his excellences in business, and his Directorship at the Burnet Institute, and ongoing work as Commissioner on the Australian Football League Commission, demonstrates his commitment to community.
“It’s wonderful to be recognised by this esteemed Faculty, especially among the calibre of award-winners tonight. It’s a great honour to be a part of this alumni community, and I look forward to many more years of connection.”
Paul Bassat – Entrepreneurial Leadership Award Recipient 2022
Paul holds a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Melbourne, 1990.
Paul started his career as a lawyer and practised for six years, before co-founding SEEK in 1997. He then served as a director of Wesfarmers from 2012 to 2018 before co-founding and partnering Square Peg, which is a venture capital fund focused on empowering exceptional founders across Australia, Israel and South East Asia. He has served on the AFL Commission since 2012 and is a director of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation and the P & S Bassat Foundation.
“Melbourne Uni plays an incredibly important role in Australian life and the Business and Economics faculty is a key component of that. I am really honoured and humbled to win this award,” he said. “The pursuit of excellence and the importance of learning and curiosity are key attributes that were instilled in me during my Commerce degree.”
Professor Margaret Abernethy AM - Faculty Award Recipient 2022
Maggie Abernethy, former Dean of the Faculty, established the Melbourne Foundation for Business and Economics to raise scholarship funds so that those experiencing financial difficulty could study at the University of Melbourne. Maggie has long been a champion for providing the brightest minds with access to a world-class education.
Maggie also established the Foundation Dinner when she was Dean and is delighted and extremely honored to be accepting this award at the 12th annual dinner of the event she conceived more than a decade earlier.
Rod Sims AO – Outstanding Achievement Award Recipient 2022
Rod holds a Bachelor Commerce (Honours) at the University of Melbourne, 1973.
Rod collected the Outstanding Achievement Award, which recognises his outstanding passion and leadership demonstrated throughout his distinguished career. As Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), he leads one of the most challenging enterprises in the country. In addition, he has advised some of Australia’s largest companies in his role as Director of Port Jackson Partners Limited and has been involved at a high level in numerous government and private roles. Rod’s achievements in each of these roles makes him a truly deserving recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award.
“Recognition in this way by the alumni of the Business and Economics faculty is something we all deeply value,” Rod said. "The Faculty, and the University, taught me about the importance of learning and curiosity. It taught me about economics and commerce and, through campus life, opened my eyes to the world…[these awards] are an honour to receive, as is the recognition from this great University and Faculty.”
After the Alumni of Distinction awards were bestowed, the hall was invited to hear from Heaven Mulugeta Hailu, a third-year Bachelor of Commerce student and recipient of The Duncan and Jan Andrews First in the Family Scholarship.
“As the first in my family to attend university, I was extremely nervous for what was to come,” Heaven said, “The scholarship has enriched my experience studying Commerce and has opened doors to internships, mentorships, and a community of inspiring people.”
Unique and delicious food from chef Bero’s team continued to satiate the crowd. Native ingredients like saltbush and warrigal greens, lemon aspen, wild sunflower roots, bunya nut and yam pate stimulated plenty of conversation on how we can incorporate more indigenous foods into our everyday diets.
Before long, it was time to hear from the night’s keynote speaker, CEO and Managing Director of CSL Limited, Paul Perreault. Since joining CSL in 2013, the company has grown to become one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies, with more than 25,000 employees providing lifesaving therapies to more than one hundred countries around the world.
Perreault shared some of his biggest learnings over the years. “Learning for me is a never-ending quest,” he said. “My advice is to ask questions, listen intently to the answers and reach out for help when you need it…most people are willing to help, you just need to ask.”
“Knowing when to stay silent and when to speak up are underrated skills,” he continued.
“Who could have predicted the pandemic?” he asked the room. “We have the foresight to predict that these things happen. MRNA technology took 30 years to happen. It was in development before the pandemic. It takes time, effort, and an ecosystem to happen.”
“The best leaders I know are able to see around the corners. The most successful people I’ve known in my career actively work on foresight. If I didn’t take the time to look ahead, I wouldn’t be here tonight.”
The Right Honourable the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Sally Capp, closed the evening’s affairs, emphasising Perreault’s message that we need to find preventions over cure. And continue to find opportunities in the crisis. “How do we sponsor a culture of invention in the best of times, not just the worst of times?” She asked, leaving attendees with plenty to think about over roving deserts.
The Foundation Dinner wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of many sponsors, the Foundation Board, and the Faculty staff who put the event together.