Awards recognise universities for making lives better

November 15, 2023


Lisa Paul AO PSM, Chair of the Shaping Australia Awards judging panel

I consider myself lucky to have spent much of my professional life working in and around education – lucky because I have seen up close its power to transform lives and our nation for the better.

In my 12-year tenure as secretary of the federal Department of Education, I had the privilege of helping shape policies to underpin every level of Australia’s education system – from early childhood through to higher education.

Celebrating great teaching and learning and seeing the impact of astonishing research ranks high among my career highlights. I am honoured to have the opportunity to chair the judging panel for Universities Australia’s Shaping Australia Awards – a new program to celebrate the contribution our universities and the people in them make to our nation.

The incredible people on this judging panel are passionate about our universities and all that they do to make our nation safer, stronger and more prosperous for the benefit of all Australians.

Universities are engines foreconomic growth. They address inequality through access to education, educate about 1.5 million people each year, run a multibillion-dollar export industry, support more than 250,000 jobs and underpin small businesses through the supply chains they generate.

On top of this, they are vital partners of government in delivering national priorities – from the energy transition and health crises to geopolitical change and economic uncertainty. We cannot rise to these challenges and opportunities without the skilled workers our universities educate or the research and development they undertake.

That’s why the institutions and the people in them deserve to be celebrated.

The Shaping Australia Awards will do just that, recognising excellence across research, teaching and community service and honouring the myriad ways universities shape our nation’s future. The Problem Solver award will recognise an individual or a team’s workor research that has changed or has the potential to change the lives of Australians for the better.

The Future Builder award will recognise an individual or a team that has gone over and above to equip their students with the knowledge and skills they need to make a positive impact in the world.

The Community Champion award will recognise an individual, team or university with strong links to its community and the people who call it home, not just those who attend the institution.

The judges understand the value of universities and the people in them, but we want the nation to as well.

We want Australians to know the teachers forming creative, flexible minds, ready to tackle the biggest challenges as members of a skilled workforce that makes our economy hundreds of billions of dollars bigger.

We want Australians to know the researchers preparing us for the future – following in the footsteps of those university researchers before them who developed life-changing inventions such as Wi-Fi, the bionic ear, penicillin, the pacemaker, printable solar cell technology and the medical ultrasound.

We want Australians to know the university teams or individuals going over and above to serve their local community, in good times and bad, from coming together to celebrate a worthy cause or pooling resources when natural disasters strike.

This is what our universities, the people in them, do, and they do it on behalf of the nation and for all Australians. It’s time all Australians knew about it and celebrated it.

I’m excited to be joined on the judging panel by an eminent group of judges who reflect the national significance of the Shaping Australia Awards. My fellow judges include:

  • Sir Peter Cosgrove AK CVO CNZM MC, former governor general of Australia.
  • Mr Kurt Fearnley AO PLY, three-time Paralympic gold medallist.
  • Ms Michelle Gunn, editor-in-chief of The Australian.
  • Mr Nicholas Moore AO, special envoy for Southeast Asia
  • Professor Brian Schmidt AC FAA FRS, vice-chancellor of the Australian National University and Nobel laureate

The judges understand the value of universities and the people in them; we want the nation to as well.

Nominations for the Shaping Australia Awards close on November 20. Visit for more information.