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CELEBRATING MURDOCH UNIVERSITY'S DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI AWARDEE- MATHILDA D'SILVA

Updated: Jan 2




The 2023 Murdoch University Distinguished Alumni Awards—a convergence of excellence and celebration—offered a profound journey filled with pride and gratitude. Among an illustrious group of exceptional individuals who've left indelible marks in their fields, the anticipation during the nomination period set the stage for an event that would honor professional achievements, community service, and personal journeys. As a recipient of this esteemed award, the joy of being acknowledged among peers who've contributed significantly to their communities and professions was overwhelming. In fact when I received the email telling me I was selected, I had a degree of disbelief.





The most famous Murdoch University Distinguished Alumni Award winner was famous sportscaster, Seven Network’s Basil Zempilas who today is the Mayor of Perth.

It was surreal to see his posters just outside the hotel I was staying at and realise we had something in common- not just the same journalism lecturer!









Seeing that the last time I was in Perth was when I graduated close to 20 years ago, it was a very emotional journey to be back in a place I spent years of my life building a foundation for my career that I had no idea years later I would come back and review. A great thanks must be given to the Murdoch University Singapore Alumni Team and Australian Alumni Singapore who nominated me for this award and the heart warming excellent coordination from the Murdoch University Alumni office who organised an afternoon for me to tour Murdoch, catch up with my old lecturers and fellow cohort mates and sit at Bush court's grassy lawn remembering old stories and chuckling.


The speeches delivered by the recipients resonated deeply, echoing sentiments of resilience and transformation. The diversity among the alumni recipients was striking. Professor Pat Dudgeon’s unwavering dedication to Indigenous mental health showcased the profound impact our alma mater had on her aspirations for social justice, raising millions to not just break down walls but dismantle them completely. Each awardee, from Professor Andrew Knight's groundbreaking work in animal welfare which began with him protesting in Bush Court against the university's treatment of animals during vet science lessons to Dr. Chris Sarra's transformative efforts in Indigenous education, represented excellence in different facets. Elaine Pearson’s journey, from strong opinions to a seasoned advocate for human rights, highlighted the transformative power of education- even sitting in Asian prisons as a testament to her dedication to have human rights protected. Among the esteemed group was Mitch Taylor, a testament to youthful dynamism and innovation starting with an initial investment of $100,000 and turning a uni project- Koala.com into a company with a remarkable turnover of $13 million in its inaugural year, setting the stage for rapid expansion. His commitment to sustainability, nurtured at Murdoch, shone brightly through his entrepreneurial endeavors.


The evening was not merely an acknowledgment of achievements; it was a testament to Murdoch’s legacy of nurturing individuals who reshape industries, advocate for change, and make a difference in society. The camaraderie among us was palpable, fostering connections beyond the awards.



My own story, one of transformation ignited by personal struggle, unfolded amidst this esteemed group. Two decades ago, life at Murdoch University in 2000 was a blend of hope, creativity, and perseverance. It was very moving to see the caterers setting up while I delivered my speech- that was how I put myself through university, cooking and catering for university events with my buddy Nina Siew in a venture we called Chutney Chicks. Between working on student projects, waitressing in restaurants and car detailerships- yes I cleaned cars to pay my way through university- I was truly blessed to have some of the toughest and most demanding esteemed media lecturers:


Dr Glen Stasiuk, Johnny Mac aka Mac Daddy, Damien Fasolo, Martin Mhando, Chris Smyth, David Cohen—still resonate in my mind. I vividly recall the winter nights spent in edit suites, crafting short films with my loyal companion and dog, Mr. Brown, keeping me company. As Murdoch University was a Vet Science uni, we could bring our pets into lectures and tutorials- most of which were held on the grass. This was exactly the hippie university life I wanted, to be spurred to further knowledge and not forced to memorise a text.



Post-graduation, my journey took an unexpected turn. From being offered a role as an ABC regional correspondent, I found myself in Singapore, queuing amidst thousands to participate in Singapore Idol, eventually ranking as number 6. This catapulted me into a vibrant career spanning TV, radio, and social media—a trajectory shaped by Murdoch's ethos of exploration and multidisciplinary learning. A freak exposure to polluted water would yet again change my life's direction and Ocean Purpose Project was born.





Murdoch’s ethos of constant improvement became integral to my entrepreneurial journey advocating for ocean conservation.

Beyond the awards, the venue itself, Boola Katitjin, stood tall as an icon of innovation and sustainability—a building that epitomizes Murdoch University’s commitment to circularity, collaboration, and innovation. This architectural marvel, the first of its kind in Western Australia, pays homage to the Nyoongar people who counted this location as a place for women's knowledge, its heritage and embodies principles of sustainability and student-centered learning. In fact the Australian High Comissioner of Singapore, Mr Allaster Cox had met me a few months prior and extolled the virtues of the building so intensely it was a joy to behold.


As the event concluded, it renewed my commitment to driving positive change, instilled by Murdoch University. It was not just an accolade but a reminder that our work continues, carrying forward the torch of knowledge, compassion, and innovation. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to Murdoch University for this honor, to my fellow recipients for their inspiring journeys, and to the institution's faculty and staff for shaping us into the change-makers we’ve become. May this award remind us that our collective endeavor—driven by knowledge and compassion—continues to impact the world around us, shaping a brighter future.


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