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Curtin honours four pioneers with Honorary Doctorates

Media release

A trailblazer of Indigenous health research, a pre-eminent Australian economist, an oil and gas executive committed to regional education and a seasoned advocate for access to quality general practice healthcare have been awarded Honorary Doctorates by Curtin University.

Professor Sandra Eades, a Noongar woman from Mount Barker who is currently the Associate Dean Indigenous and Rowden White Chair at The University of Melbourne, received an Honorary Doctorate of Medicine. Professor Eades was believed to be Australia’s first Indigenous Dean appointed to a medical school when she started at Curtin Medical School in 2020, as well as being the nation’s first Aboriginal medical doctor to be awarded a PhD in 2003.

Dr Keith Spence, an oil and gas executive with more than 40 years’ experience who has supported the education, training, resources, science and arts sectors and championed education and training, received an Honorary Doctorate of Engineering.

Dr Janice Bell, the Chief Executive Officer of the Western Australian General Practice Education and Training (WAGPET) and the inaugural Chair of the Curtin Medical School Advisory Board, was presented an Honorary Doctorate of Medicine.

Dr John Hewson, a pre-eminent Australian economist, renowned nationally and internationally for his distinguished career and contributions in business, finance, politics and academia, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Commerce.

Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne said Professor Eades had made an outstanding contribution to medical research, Indigenous health, and to professional organisations.

“Sandra has provided leadership at a national level in Indigenous research and worked tirelessly to gain tangible improvements to the healthcare of and health service delivery to Indigenous populations across the life span,” Professor Hayne said.

“She has made important contributions to a wide range of government, research and academic and non-government committees and organisations, and been generous in sharing her knowledge and expertise locally, nationally and internationally. Not only has Sandra’s research made a real difference to people’s lives, she has also dedicated her time to mentoring and supporting younger colleagues to reach their career goals.”

Professor Hayne said Dr Spence had contributed enormously to the University, as both a Curtin Council member and as a long-time champion of Curtin’s historic and strategic links to Kalgoorlie, playing a key role as the Chair of the Kalgoorlie Campus Council and in the expansion of Curtin’s Agricola student accommodation.

“Keith has been a strong supporter of Curtin’s campus in Kalgoorlie, recognising that students can directly engage with the mining industry when they are based locally,” Professor Hayne said.

“His uniquely collaborative yet results-driven leadership style has made him a stand-out in the resources industry for more than four decades, transforming education and training to benefit students as well as supporting the energy and arts sectors.”

Professor Hayne said Dr Bell had played a significant role in the field of general practice within WA and nationally, as well as the education and training of the medical workforce.

“Janice tirelessly works to improve people’s access to quality general practice in WA and nationally,” Professor Hayne said.

“As the inaugural Chair of the Curtin Medical School Advisory Board, Janice worked to ensure it was shaped to deliver more doctors in WA to fill gaps in the medical workforce.”

Professor Hayne said Dr Hewson had made exceptional contributions to Australian economic policy and the financial system across academia, business, politics and the media, as well as supporting the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre as an Adjunct Professorial Fellow since 2014.

“John is much-admired for his values-based leadership. He is respected as someone who seeks to make a difference for the broadest constituency, and who views economics as an enabler of a better society,” Professor Hayne said.

“He is widely respected for considering economic policies that improve Australian households, businesses, the environment and the economy, while also taking into account the accompanying social and ethical issues.”

Honorary Doctorates are awarded in recognition of an exceptional contribution to a field of endeavour and academic discipline, as well as outstanding service to professional and public life.

These Honorary Doctorates were presented at Curtin University’s graduation ceremony in the past week.