31 October 2021

UniSA Marks 30 Years with Alumni Awards Celebration

2021 Alumni Award Winners: South Australia Police Commissioner Grant Stevens APM LEM, Rising Sun Pictures Co-Founder Wayne Lewis, Dementia Alliance International Chair & Co-Founder Kate Swaffer, and CEO of culturally informed healing organisation We Al-li Dr Caroline Atkinson.
Left-right: South Australia Police Commissioner Grant Stevens APM LEM, Kate Swaffer, Chancellor Pauline Carr, Wayne Lewis and UniSA Vice Chancellor and President Professor David Lloyd. Dr Caroline Atkinson based in NSW was unable to attend due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

There’s so much to celebrate in the University of South Australia’s 30th year as our unstoppable alumni continue to accomplish the extraordinary across the globe.

Among the more than 225,000 UniSA alumni are four remarkable graduates that epitomise UniSA’s spirit – innovation, courage, excellence, and determination – delivering results and leaving the world a better place than they found it.

Pridham Hall’s basketball court and rock-climbing walls were transformed on Saturday, October 30 for the annual milestone that is the annual Alumni Awards gala dinner for the first time in two years. This year though was an extra special celebration as we marked 30 years as the University of South Australia too.

We are so proud to recognise and celebrate our 2021 Alumni Award Winners: South Australia Police Commissioner Grant Stevens APM LEM, Rising Sun Pictures Co-Founder Wayne Lewis, Dementia Alliance International Chair & Co-Founder Kate Swaffer, and CEO of culturally informed healing organisation We Al-li Dr Caroline Atkinson.

Guests celebrating UniSA's 2021 Alumni Awards in the university's Pridham Hall
Pridham Hall was transformed on the night for the first time in two years as the Alumni Awards returned.

UniSA Vice Chancellor & President Professor David Lloyd says the gala dinner is one of the most inspiring annual events, because its where the University pays tribute to the pioneers, innovators, and changemakers who have been influenced by their time at UniSA.

“The past few months have been difficult for all of us but our alumni, as always, have been an inspiration to our current students,” Professor David Lloyd says.

“The alumni we are honouring this year have consistently excelled in their chosen fields, bringing their UniSA education to a wide range of fields and causes.”

“Knowledge, practical skills, ambition and a sense of what’s possible are vital, and our four award winners this year have made a significant difference with their commitment and determination.”

“We are extremely proud of all of them.”

UniSA Video
2021 Alumni Award Recipient SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens APM LEM

South Australia Police Commissioner Grant Stevens APM LEM has spent the past two years, not only ensuring the safety and security of South Australia, but also guiding us through the uncertainty and disruption of the pandemic.

Commissioner Stevens has led and delivered some of SAPOL’s most significant programs, including national outlaw motorcycle gang enforcement, specialist sexual crimes investigations, and service reform initiatives of frontline service delivery and demand management.

A Business graduate, he says he feels privileged to have supported South Australia through COVID-19.

“I continue to be impressed with the South Australian community and the way they’ve accepted the restrictions we’ve had to impose on our community,” Commissioner Stevens says.

“There’s a team effort in responding in the pandemic, but that team includes the South Australian community, and they’ve played a really important role. I’m proud to be a South Australian.”

UniSA Video
2021 Alumni Award Recipient Wayne Lewis

Visual Arts graduate Wayne Lewis, Founder of Rising Sun Pictures, the award-winning visual effects production company, has changed the trajectory of the South Australia film industry and championed the local creative and education sectors.

Throughout his 26 years at the company, Wayne enjoyed overseeing creative film projects – sequences like bringing Harry Potter’s Goblet of Fire to life, transforming Hugh Jackman into Wolverine with six full body scans over his X-Men career, destroying Game of Thrones’ Great Sept of Baelor with wildfire, crashing Oscar-winning Gravity’s space station into the ocean – but he soon became far more invested in how the company could do things differently.

“When I look at some of Rising Sun’s achievements, working on big films is definitely a major one, but what is more interesting is that by staying in Adelaide we created opportunities for a large number of locals and internationals to work here on globally significant projects,” Wayne says.

UniSA Video
2021 Alumni Award Recipient Kate Swaffer

Kate Swaffer became an accidental activist when in the wake of a diagnosis of younger onset dementia she cofounded Dementia Alliance International (DAI), advocating for the millions around the world living with the same diagnosis.

As Chair, Co-Founder and CEO, the Psychology and Arts graduate has been instrumental in DAI’s global advocacy, with the group providing 20 to 30 online support groups a week to members from 49 countries.

“One of the greatest things I ever do is to help someone more newly diagnosed with dementia realise that they don’t have to stay home and die – they can get back to living again,” Kate says.

“That gives me the most meaning of anything in my professional life. To be able to empower people, not only through my lived example but to provide free services for them through DAI – something that nobody else has ever bothered to do – that’s incredibly meaningful.”

UniSA Video
2021 Alumni Award Recipient Dr Caroline Atkinson

While she sadly could not attend the due to COVID-19 restrictions at her home in regional NSW, Dr Caroline Atkinson was recognised as a First Nations superstar who is at the helm of organisation We Al-li, providing culturally informed trauma integrated healing activities throughout Australia and the Asia-Pacific.

We Al-li's Chief Executive Officer and Social Work graduate Dr Caroline Atkinson, works to provide sustainable pathways of positive change for individuals, families, and communities. Her organisation has delivered more than 200 workshops to more than 6350 participants, applying Aboriginal cultural practice.

“We know that trauma is not just something that happens within the brain – it happens in your whole being,” Dr Atkinson says.

“We find indigenous processes of ceremonial release seem to be the best way to heal trauma as we create safe spaces during our workshop-style yarning circles.’’

For more information about the 2021 University of South Australia Alumni Awards and the graduates honoured and their achievements, visit the website here.

2021 Alumni Awards Gala Dinner