2019 Western Australian of the Year Awards

Professions Award Finalists

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The Professions Award is presented in celebration of excellence resulting in major social, scientific or economic impact at a state, national or international level.

Meet our 2019 Professions Award finalists:

Peter Meurs

Peter Meurs is a prominent figure in the professional engineering world where he is best known for his transformative work with Worley Parsons and Fortescue Metals Group (FMG.)

Peter’s remarkable contribution to Worley Parsons has put Perth on the global stage: the city is now recognised as home to one of the world’s largest engineering companies with an impressive 26,000 people working in 112 offices in 42 countries.

Then, as Development Director of FMG, Peter achieved an engineering feat that many believed was utterly impossible – completing a $9.2 billion debt-funded effort to quadruple FMG annual production from 40 million tonnes to 165 million tonnes at two-thirds of the expected cost and completion time.

His efforts transformed the Western Australian economy, creating a local competitor for RioTinto and BHP Iron Ore with 10,000 people working in remote locations and 100 contractors. Peter is also renowned for the effort he devotes to community organisations, including Ronald McDonald House Charities. In 2012, he took up the role as Campaign Chairman for a fundraising campaign that successfully raised more than $23 million towards building a bigger and better Ronald McDonald House in Perth.

As an Elder within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Peter also leads volunteer missions in 22 Asian countries, applying his engineering expertise and deep compassion to all projects. One of his current initiatives is an insulation program for traditional Mongolian homes, “gers”, which enables electric heating. This will eliminate coal burning which has led to severe urban pollution, and is responsible for one in ten Mongolian deaths.

Professor Peter Newman AO

As a globally respected environmental scientist, author and current Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University, Professor Peter Newman AO has undertaken decades of internationally significant research and public advocacy on the science of cities and their sustainability. His research focuses on transport practices and systems, and how urban redevelopment can be sustainably planned to enable residents to integrate with their bioregional and human environment.

He works at a global level as an advisor and lead author in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He has been a visiting Professor in the USA, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Denmark, New Zealand and the UK, contributing to academic work in areas that include urban design, transport, and city planning.

Lauded as an eminent global urban design and transport sustainability expert, Professor Newman is dedicated to advocacy wherever he has a platform. He is an extremely effective and prolific communicator; authoring over 38 articles for ‘The Conversation’, an international online platform championing academic rigour and journalistic flair, and has published books, academic papers and reports for all levels of government. His latest is ‘Lithium Valley: Establishing the Case for Energy Metals and Battery Manufacturing in Western Australia’.

Professor Newman makes a point of including community groups in his research wherever possible, and he often advises communities on strategies for tackling sustainability issues, both in Perth and in regional areas. He has travelled to all parts of the state in his role as WA Scientist of the Year, and is regarded as a highly-engaging speaker whose addresses are always eagerly anticipated.

Professor John Newnham AM

Professor John Newnham AM is recognised as one of the world’s leading authorities in the prevention of pre-term birth – a condition affecting one in 12 Australian pregnancies and the single greatest cause of death and disability in children up to five years of age.

A Professor of Obstetrics at the University of Western Australia, he has been instrumental in making Western Australia an international hotspot for research and clinical excellence in pregnancy and life before birth.

One of Professor Newnham’s most important roles was as founder and principal investigator of the Raine Study in 1989. This pioneering investigation was the world’s first and most enduring pregnancy-focused lifetime cohort project and has focused global interest on WA’s leading research capability.

In 2014, Professor Newnham developed a Western Australian program aimed at safely preventing preterm birth. This innovative initiative (known as “thewholeninemonths”) was the world’s first whole-of-population program across a geographical region, and it led to an eight percent reduction in premature births across WA.

The program’s success resulted in its national rollout in 2018, with Professor Newnham appointed founder and Chair of the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance – the world’s first ever national program of its kind.

He was described recently by the American Editor-in-Chief of the world’s leading scientific journal in his field, as “an intellectual leader of modern obstetrics who has changed the practice of medicine and the lives of women and infants”.

Dr Angus Turner

Dr Angus Turner is a leading eye doctor with a deep passion for helping remote, rural and disadvantaged communities. Vision loss is a devastating problem in our country, with the rate of blindness amongst Aboriginal Australians three times higher than that of non-Aboriginal Australians. Yet Dr Turner stresses that vision loss is preventable, and continues to work tirelessly in this regard.

An Executive Member of the Indigenous and Remote Eye Health Service (IRIS), Doctor Turner is actively engaged in projects that focus on service delivery for isolated communities. This is perhaps best illustrated by his 2016 launch of the Lions Outback Vision Van – a mobile eye health clinic specifically built to service remote WA areas.

Through his dedication and his Lions Outback Vision team, thousands of people no longer have to travel thousands of kilometres from home for sight-saving treatment. This vastly improved access to quality care results in significant social and economic benefits for families, communities and WA as a whole.

Further afield, Doctor Turner is a regular volunteer in South Africa – initially with the Fred Hollows Foundation and more recently independently – helping to establish an eye facility and train health workers in surgical procedures at the Zithulele Hospital.

Closer to home, his current project involves the development of an eye health hub in Broome to service the regional and remote communities of the Pilbara and Kimberley.

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