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Inaugural Recipients

Celebrating Alumni Excellence

In our 50th year, Burgmann College announced the inaugural recipients of the Burgmann College Alumni Awards. These awards recognise, encourage and celebrate alumni excellence across a broad range of criteria, for endeavours both inside and outside the College community, and at different levels of accomplishment and life stages. The awards also recognise our outstanding volunteers and staff for their commitment and contribution to the Burgmann community. Our Honorary Fellowship Awards remain the pinnacle of our community’s recognition. The new Alumni Awards Program, however, expands our award program to highlight more of our remarkable alumni through a broader, tiered program.

2021 Distinguished Alumni Award


“It is a great honour for me to receive this award and the recognition of my work and life that it represents. I know that many distinguished people in our society are former residents of Burgmann. It seems to me that our country and perhaps the whole world is in the midst of multiple crises. Leaving aside the pandemic, we have the climate crisis and the race to save a liveable planet for our children and grandchildren. And one reason that is so hard to achieve is that we also have a democratic crisis, with the rise in authoritarianism, and a decline in democratic accountability. In the face of these challenges, the consequences of which could be catastrophic, my wife Sue and I have felt compelled to do anything we can to push in the right direction, and it is very gratifying that the College also recognises the importance of addressing these issues.”

Dr John McKinnon was the founder and senior partner of the Australian branch of Grantham Mayo van Otterloo which, at the time he retired from the business, manage the investments of the majority of the ten largest superannuation funds in the country.

He became director of Australian operations with aid organisation TEAR Australia and completed his PhD on the intersection of finance and poverty alleviation. Since 2012 John, together with his wife Sue (also a Burgmann alumni), has focused on a climate change mitigation projects and donated more than $12m to Australian charities.

While investing in innovative, high-impact early-stage projects including renewable energy and sustainable housing, John saw that small investors concerned about climate change were often locked out of these opportunities.

He developed new ways for people to drive the necessary changes in the finance and infrastructure sectors, co-founding The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility and Infrastructure Access Managers. These organisations have been critical players in the important parts of Australia's transition to a zero – carbon future, including the withdrawal of BHP from pro fossil fuel lobbying of industry bodies and the economic diversification of the world’s largest coal port in Newcastle.

John engineered the rescue and restoration of Australian Associated Press to ensure ongoing trusted, accurate and impartial reporting in Australia's concentrated media landscape, for which he was awarded the Individual Outstanding Achievement prize at the 2020 Australian Impact Investing Awards. John sits on several boards including AAP and is chair of The Australia Institute.

2021 Outstanding Alumni Award


“What motivates me to work for an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation is that I can see the impact that it has and the key role that it will play in achieving generational change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. (…) It has also been an immense privilege to be part of the process of decolonisation. To be challenging Western thinking, including my own, and to be able to learn about culture and language. To be part of that process, that is what motivates me.”

“My advice for future Burgmann residents is to reflect on whether you are in that fortunate situation where you can choose an unconventional path after leaving university and align your career with the changes that you want to see in the world.”

In his years as a Burgmann resident, Jackson Bursill was the driving force behind 'The Neverest Challenge', launching the fundraiser for earthquake victims in Nepal where individuals, or teams of participants, run or walk laps of a hill to simulate climbing Mt Everest. Neverest began in 2015 following the devastating earthquakes in Nepal, and is now an annual fundraising event for the Australian Himalayan Foundation, held in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne with over 600 participants.

In 2017, Jackson paired with fellow long-distance runner Cassie Cohen for Boundless Plains to Share, running approximately 4,000kms from Cooktown (QLD) to Footscray in Melbourne (VIC) with the goal to help change the way Australia talks about asylum seekers and immigrants. The pair used their expedition as a vehicle to showcase stories of incredible people who have overcome tremendous adversity to begin a new life in Australia as a refugee.

Jackson was the 2018 ANU Student Volunteer of the Year (UG) Award, and has been working with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in the Northern Territory since 2018. Jackson is currently the Executive Manager of Corporate Services at Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation in Tennant Creek, NT.

When describing Jackson during his time as a Burgmann resident, his nominee said, “Everyone loved to have Jackson as their friend, because he was loyal, supportive, funny, inclusive, and amazing! Jackson was the first person to step in and organise things when adversity struck, or things needed doing.”

2021 Burgmann Volunteer Award


“Volunteering at Burgmann College fitted with two of my passions – to be useful and to promote financial literacy and understanding. Why I continue to work with the College is the beautiful sense of community and commitment throughout the whole College, residents, staff, and volunteers.”

Betty Ferguson has been the Treasurer of Burgmann College Council since September 2013. Betty has worked tirelessly to ensure that College’s financial arrangements are working in the best interests of the college. In 2020, Betty guided our Board through the College’s most difficult year since inception. It is with Betty’s support and guidance that the college was able to remain open and provide invaluable support to our community and staff.

Betty devotes considerable volunteer hours to ensuring the College’s reporting of annual budgets, end of year financial reporting and quarterly reporting are provided with transparency for all committees including our external banking and guarantee stakeholders. It is with such calmness and humour that Betty sees no obstacle; Betty is a tremendous fount of financial knowledge and expertise.

2021 Burgmann Staff Award


“Not many people get to enjoy their work as much as I do. For me, it’s not just a job. How many people have the opportunity to live their best life and not actually call it a job? I am extremely lucky.”

Margaret Cadman is an invaluable member of the Burgmann community, and her contributions to fostering a welcoming and inclusive culture at the college cannot be understated. Margaret consistently works beyond her formal role to ensure the wellbeing of residents. Testament to this commitment is her devotion to the organisation of social events as well as the long-term relationships she maintains with numerous Burgmann alumni.

Margaret has perpetually gone above and beyond to foster a familial environment at the College with a commitment to equality and non-judgment. Margaret is extremely empathetic which has made her a lifeline for many people during some tough times. Nominated for this award on behalf of fifty recent alumni, Marg’s nominators described Margaret as having, “the biggest heart of anyone of all fifty of us have ever known”.


Congratulations to our inaugural 2021 Alumni Award recipients! The Burgmann Community is proud of you and your accomplishments.