The UOW Alumni Awards recognise and celebrate the outstanding personal and professional achievements of our graduates worldwide in three Award categories: Community Service, Young Alumni and Outstanding Alumni. JACQUELINE WALES discovered why their altruistic viewpoints won them their award.

TASHI WANGMO portrait

THE HONOURABLE TASHI WANGMO
OUTSTANDING ALUMNI AWARD

The Honourable Tashi Wangmo, winner of the Outstanding Alumni Award, has worked tirelessly to build the capacity of the people of Bhutan to achieve a just, fair and prosperous society in times of great change and challenges.

In 1994, Wangmo travelled from the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan to Wollongong to commence a degree in mechanical engineering. She was one of the first Bhutanese students to complete their university education in Australia.

“The course was quite rigorous, but it was worth it,” Wangmo recalls. “If it hadn’t been so rigorous then I wouldn’t be where I am now. I feel that my experience at UOW totally transformed my life,” she adds.

UOW Honorary Senior Fellow Maureen Bell nominated Wangmo for an Alumni Award. When describing her, Bell said: “Tashi is always hesitant to say ‘I have done this’, rather she believes in demonstration through action.

“Her principle of working for the country, for the general benefit of society has never changed. She has always worked with the same spirit of ‘I’m not looking for any reward—I’m just doing my job’,” Bell added

After graduating from UOW in 1997, Wangmo returned to Bhutan to put her engineering degree to work. But over time, an interest in public policy saw her gravitate toward other opportunities.

In 2000, Wangmo joined the National Technical Training Authority as a Planning Officer and became deeply involved in the development of the Vocational Education and Training sector. In 2004, Wangmo joined the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources as Chief Planning Officer and over a four-year period established the Ministry’s Policy and Planning Division, drafted the National Employment policy and managed a report financed by the United Nations Development Program Country Office looking at future demand on human resources.

Then in 2008, Bhutan’s King, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, appointed Wangmo as one of five Eminent Members of the first-ever Bhutanese National Council.

In an official letter of recommendation for her UOW Alumni Award nomination, Bhutan’s Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said: “I have observed her not only as a sincere, hard working, reliable and competent officer but also as a good leader in the field of planning and policy analysis. She is one of the most recognised and active civil servants in Bhutan today, playing an important role in pursuing vibrant democracy in Bhutan.”

When asked about receiving the UOW Outstanding Alumni Award, Wangmo said: “I am deeply touched, humbled and overwhelmed by the recognition honoured to me by the University of Wollongong. The University of Wollongong has not only left an indelible imprint on an earlier part of my life as an undergraduate student, but also having selected me for this prestigious award this year has yet again left a trail, in its own right, in my life even at this stage. I feel ever more inspired and invigorated to continue following my heart in whatever I do hereafter.”

DR TEENA DOWNTON portrait

DR TEENA DOWNTON
YOUNG ALUMNI AWARD

A graduate of UOW’s School of Medicine, Downton is currently a Junior Doctor at Tamworth Rural Referral Hospital, and that’s exactly where she wants to be.

“I think I have an altruistic personality. I want to make a difference in rural health through medicine. Plus, I think working in rural areas provides exciting opportunities and experience clinically that you can’t get in the city,” Downton said

Downton plans to become a rural generalist—a doctor that provides primary and continuing care at the office and on the hospital ward—with specialist skills in obstetrics. Such generalists are a prized commodity in rural Australia where communities often experience poorer health outcomes.

Already, at the age of 26, Downton’s CV includes a list of ‘extracurricular involvements’ almost a page long; evidence of a good-natured and organised young professional.

As Downton continues to gain respect as a doctor and a genuine force for good, she has acquired more significant appointments, including as President of the Tamworth Resident Medical Officer Association and Deputy Chair and Tamworth Hospital Representative of the Junior Medical Officer Quality and Safety Committee for the Hunter New England Local Health District.

“Teena has been an outstanding advocate and face for rural health over several years,” Ms Kay Kent said when nominating Downton for a UOW Alumni Award.

“Her high level of engagement with important stakeholders on issues affecting the future rural health workforce on behalf of her fellow students and young health professionals, has helped to trail blaze a greater number of opportunities for this cohort to provide input into policies and initiatives that will ultimately influence the future of rural health,” Kent added.

“I feel truly humbled to have been selected for the 2014 Young Alumni Award, from among what must be an outstanding pool of high achieving young University of Wollongong graduates in Australia and all over the world,” Downton said.

“I have much to thank the University for with regard to inspiring me along this path. I therefore find it a huge honour for the University to be formally recognising my achievements in this area. I hope it inspires other young alumni of the University to keep achieving.”

GRAHAME GOULD portrait

GRAHAME GOULD
COMMUNITY SERVICE ALUMNI AWARD

A willingness to explore new ways of engaging with the community is a trait that many have recognised in Grahame Gould, Director of Lifeline South Coast and this year’s recipient of the UOW Alumni Award for Community Service.

Lifeline is the national charity that provides 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. During the last financial year alone approximately 15,000 calls were received to its telephone crisis service, which is manned by trained volunteers who can confidently and effectively counsel those that are experiencing a crisis.

Since starting at Lifeline in 1992, Gould has overseen the success of Lifeline South Coast, including driving innovative approaches such as the Good Mood Guide and the Good Mood Safari. Gould has seen quite a few changes in the way mental health issues are managed and treated during his time as Director.

“It has become much more acceptable to discuss suicide and mental health problems and help-seeking has become much more widely accepted,” Gould said.

Lifeline operates with the belief that the broader community can play a critical role in suicide prevention. “Suicide is everyone’s business and Lifeline is just one way people are working together to support each other. It’s about community helping community,” Gould said.

“People who experience depression often don’t have initiative, and that’s part of the illness. If you’re someone experiencing a crisis, you need the people around you to recognise that and take the initiative to get help on your behalf. Everyone has to be involved.”

Professor Frank Deane nominated Gould for a UOW Alumni Award and summarised Gould’s outstanding dedication to his work. “Grahame has made significant contributions to Lifeline, Australia-wide. He is an active voice in trying to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of Lifeline services. Grahame’s leadership in Lifeline South Coast has contributed to this organisation being one of the most respected of Lifeline’s service,” Deane said.


  • THE HONOURABLE TASHI WANGMO
    UOW Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) 1998
  • MR GRAHAME GOULD
    UOW Master of Clinical Psychology 2000
  • DR TEENA DOWNTON
    UOW Bachelor of Medical Science MBBS 2008
    UOW Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery 2012