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John Curtin Medal honours two visionary leaders

Media release

A passionate health professional who transformed nursing in WA and a world-renowned orangutan conservationist have been awarded the John Curtin Medal at a special ceremony held today.

John Curtin Medallists honoured
Curtin Vice Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry and Curtin Chancellor Dr Andrew Crane with the 2019 John Curtin Medallists

Patricia Tibbett and Leif Cocks are both leaders in their fields and have made outstanding contributions to saving lives – both in our hospitals and the jungles of Indonesia.

A former Executive Director of Nursing, Ms Tibbett’s determination and drive led to key innovations in the nursing profession, including the creation of a professional career framework.

Her vision of a nursing culture that valued and contributed to research saw her start the Nursing Research Foundation which promotes a dynamic partnership with universities, including Curtin, and Royal Perth Hospital.

Mr Cocks, the Founder and President of The Orangutan Project, has dedicated his life to raising public awareness and funds to help protect the critically endangered species – growing his charity from a three-volunteer outfit to a respected multi-million dollar global agency.

Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry congratulated both recipients, adding their dedication and courage made them worthy winners.

Professor Terry said Ms Tibbetts had taken on the formidable challenge of campaigning for the development of nursing as a true profession and not just a job.

“Ms Tibbett cleared the path for thousands of WA nurses, supporting and advocating for changes to empower nurses to make a difference in our communities,” Professor Terry said.

“She has worked tirelessly over a long and distinguished career to push for the recognition of nurses as critical players in delivering quality healthcare to Western Australians.”

Professor Terry said Mr Cocks’ dedication to conservation had earned him a global reputation as a leader in driving positive and lasting changes for orangutan protection and survival. He is also President of the International Elephant Project, International Tiger Project and Wildlife Asia, and the Vice President of the Orang Utan Republik Foundation.

“For more than 20 years, Mr Cocks has dedicated his time and passion to improving the plight of orangutans in the wild, rescuing 84 from dangerous captive situations and even taking his fight to the courts as an expert witness to stop deforestation,” Professor Terry said.

The John Curtin Medals are presented each year on, or close to, October 7, the anniversary of John Curtin’s appointment to the office of Prime Minister in 1941.

The John Curtin Medal is awarded annually by the University to recognise individuals or organisations displaying the attributes associated with Australia’s World War II Prime Minister – vision, leadership and a commitment to community service. The 2019 John Curtin Medallists join 43 other outstanding individuals and organisations that have been recognised with Curtin University’s most prestigious non-academic award since 1998.