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Announcing the recipients of the 2023 Burgmann College Alumni Awards

It is with great pleasure we announce the recipients of the 2023 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.

Distinguished Alumni Award

Watch the video message from Martijn Wilder

“What's really important is, as best you can, try to make a difference and try to make a contribution to public life. And, at the same time, just be kind to people along the way."

Martijn is a world leader in climate law and sustainable investing. With a background in economics and law, Martijn is focused on developing innovative policies, ideas and investments that enable our economies to rapidly transition to net zero, while at the same time preserving our natural ecosystems. Martijn has retained over many years the accolade of the world’s leading climate change lawyer and the Star individual by Chambers Global Law Guide.  

Martijn was head of Baker & Mackenzie’s global climate change law and finance practice for 20 years, and was formerly Chair of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and a Founding Director of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. He has worked as President of WWF-Australia and Chair of the NSW Climate Change Council and the Law for Development Initiative.   

Martijn is the Founder and CEO of Pollination, a specialist climate change investment and advisory firm, accelerating the transition to a net zero, nature positive future. Martijn was a Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Scholar and he was awarded an Australian Honour (AM) for his contribution to climate change law and the environment. 

Martijn's nominator notes that they put his name forward "for his distinguished service to the Australian community and to humanity at large, including the advancement of human knowledge and the protection of the natural environment."

"During his residency at Burgmann, he contributed greatly to the intellectual, social and sporting activities. That he has spent his career dealing with the urgent issue of climate change and ways of bringing this about is a continuation of the germ of an idea developed while he was a Law student by writing a thesis on the environmental issues facing the growing human activities in the Antarctic."

Outstanding Alumni Award

Watch the video message from Heather Webb

“[Working at the Aboriginal Legal Service] was a really special experience. I always felt very privileged to be trusted by people to act for them and for them to share so much of themselves with me.”

Since graduating from Arts and Law (with Honours) from ANU, Heather Webb has made a significant contribution to both the law and social justice in Australia. Heather commenced her legal career as an associate/tipstaff to a District Court Judge in New South Wales (NSW), which was followed by a role working in the Dubbo Office for the Aboriginal Legal Service of NSW (ALS). 

Her nominator notes, "Throughout her almost 9-year career working at the NSW ALS, Heather has assisted a countless number of clients that live in some of the most disadvantaged communities across New South Wales. Despite having spent most of her life in Sydney, her ability to develop a rapport with people from all walks of life across so many diverse rural and regional communities is a testament to her humility, good humour and genuinely kind nature. Along the way she has also mentored a number of junior lawyers and provided invaluable support to her colleagues, some of whom also attended ANU and Burgmann College. 

Outside of her busy schedule defending those in need, Heather has been a great support to Burgmann alumni, and has travelled long distances to attend weddings, birthdays and other celebrations marking important milestones of Burgmann College alumni. Whether it be someone going through a generally rough patch, or another person having difficulty finding accommodation in a country town or capital city, Heather has always gone out of her way to support Burgmann College students since leaving in 2009. This is on top of all the people she has helped in her role as an Advocate with the NSW ALS in Redfern, Parramatta, Dubbo and countless other regional offices. This is a testament to her fierce intellect, and the time, energy and dedication she has given to both her profession and the community.  

By many accounts, working as a solicitor in the not-for-profit sector/community sector is not an easy job, and certainly not a lucrative role. In the process Heather has developed into one of the most talented legal minds, who continues to serve some of the most vulnerable people in New South Wales. She should be commended and recognised for this amazing contribution! Her example serves as a reminder to all Burgmann students that one can make a real difference to society."

Burgmann Volunteer Award

Watch the video message from Fiona Nixon

“It is both enjoyable and fulfilling to give unswerving service to a beautiful and generous community where every person feels valued and cherished."

In 2022, Fiona became a member of the Burgmann College Alumni Association Committee and, in addition, began volunteering one day per week in the College’s Advancement Office, travelling each week from her home in the Southern Highlands to work on site at the College alongside our staff.

Throughout 2022, Fiona supported the College’s alumni engagement activities, contributing across a range of activities including support with newsletters, fostering engagement with alumni events, and assisting with the College’s lost alumni program. Fiona’s dedicated service and warm and inclusive nature to Burgmann College is helping to foster and continue the connection that many of our alumni have with the College.

In addition to her volunteer service, Fiona made an outstanding contribution to the College’s 50th Anniversary celebrations by producing the most extraordinary and beautiful floral arrangements which were enjoyed and celebrated by our attendees.

Fiona’s association with and service to Burgmann College reaches much farther back than 2022, however. Fiona, husband Ralph, and daughter Alicia joined the Burgmann family when her daughter Harriet joined the community as a resident in 2015. A dedicated advocate for mental wellbeing, a vibrant and motivated young woman living a life of service, Harriet was President of the 2016 Civic to Surf initiative and was dedicated to raising awareness of youth mental health issues in connection with Batyr at the ANU. Harriet passed away in a tragic accident in late 2016, a loss that was felt deeply in the Burgmann community and a loss that is still felt to this day.

Since 2017, Fiona, Ralph and Alicia have maintained a close connection with the College. They are frequent visitors, and they established and continue to maintain a beautiful friendship garden at the front of the College in Harriet’s memory; a quiet reflective space which is enjoyed by the whole community, with plants selected so that there are blooms throughout the year.

As Fiona's nominator says: “Fiona is a talented, kind-hearted and generous person who makes a positive difference not just to Burgmann but to the wider community. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award.”

Staff Recognition Award

Watch the video message from Nerrida Higgins

“The Vice-Chancellor has said that Burgmann is the gold standard, and we are. However, Burgmann is more than that to me. It’s an extension of my family."

For the past seven years Nerrida has delivered exceptional service and contribution to the College as Manager, Business & Finance.

As Nerrida's nominator says, "Every aspect of financial management has been improved under Nerrida’s direction and guidance. This includes personnel records, accounting systems, external audit and taxation compliance, contracts and payroll, budgeting, reporting, and monitoring. Managing our relationships with ANU and banks presents ongoing challenges which Nerrida negotiates with courage and sensitivity to ensure that College needs are provided for, and the College position is protected.

During recent years the impacts from natural disasters (bushfire smoke, hailstorms, pandemic) have been large, unrelenting, and scary for our financial operating conditions. Nerrida has proven her capabilities and dedication in rising to address these difficulties, inventing and implementing new procedures quickly, developing new monitoring and analysis tools to inform and support complex decisions by Board and management.

Through Nerrida’s service, the College has more than just survived, it is thriving and is much better placed to achieve a flourishing future."

Our sincere congratulations to all the recipients of our 2023 Alumni Awards!

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