Australia Day honours for UOW academics

Professor Tracey Moroney and Associate Professor Philip Laird awarded Medals of the Order of Australia

Australia Day honours for UOW academics

Two University of Wollongong (UOW) academics have been recognised for their contribution to their fields and to society in the 2021 Australia Day Honours List, announced on Tuesday 26 January.

Professor Tracey Moroney, Executive Dean (Acting) of the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health and Head of the School of Nursing, was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to medical education, particularly to nursing.

Mathematician Associate Professor Philip Laird was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his significant contributions to the rail freight and passenger transport industry.

Professor Tracey Moroney, OAM

Professor Moroney said she was surprised to learn she was going to be awarded an OAM – and grateful to her nominee.

“It is literally the greatest honour I have ever received and testament to the little girl who always wanted to be a nurse. I just don’t think she ever realised the difference she would make. I hope that I make a difference every day,” Professor Moroney said.

After graduating as a registered nurse, Professor Moroney worked in a variety of positions in clinical practice for 10 years, including as a Clinical Nurse Consultant (Neurosciences).

“I always wanted to be a nurse, as I felt that I could contribute positively to people who need care and to use my knowledge and skills to advocate for excellence,” she said.

In 2000, Professor Moroney moved into the higher education sector to pursue an interest in teaching.

In the university system, she has held a number of senior leadership positions, including as Dean of Nursing at the University of Notre Dame Australia, and Head of the School of Nursing, Deputy Dean and now Acting Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health (SMAH) at UOW.

“I love teaching and supporting students to become transformative registered nurses,” Professor Moroney said.

“In my leadership roles, I am focused on helping staff to provide excellence in student-centred learning approaches. I enjoy curriculum development and research into teaching and learning. I am also interested in early career nurses and supporting them in the transition to professional roles.

“I enjoy all my leadership roles and in particular this new acting appointment. The opportunities to grow and innovate as a faculty are most exciting. We are a great team in SMAH. I believe my leadership skills, including my ability to be calm, collaborative and my trust in others, have always worked in my favour.”

Professor Moroney is also Chair of the ANZ Council of Deans of Nursing and Midwifery and member of large number of professional committees, including a Commonwealth Ministerial appointment to the Nursing and Midwifery Education Advisory Network, and a member of the ANMAC RN Standards Committee.

Professor Moroney said that being elected Chair of the Council of Deans of Nursing and Midwifery was one of her proudest moments as a nurse – second only to her new Australia Day honour.

“This award is my proudest moment and is a testament to those who are dedicated to nurse education and the student experience.”

Associate Professor Philip Laird, OAM

Associate Professor Philip Laird was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his significant contributions to the rail freight and passenger transport industry.

Professor Laird’s strong association with the University goes back to 1974 when he joined the University as a Lecturer in Mathematics. He is currently an Honorary Principal Fellow within the School of Mathematics and Applied Statistics.

Originally from New Zealand, Professor Laird has always been passionate about the evolution of railways and how railway networks are operated around the globe.

In 1970s when Professor Laird was visiting Canada to complete his postgraduate studies, he realised that the Canadian railways network was more advanced than Australia’s rail network. That, and subsequent visits to Canada on study leave made him realise the possibilities of improving the Australian railways network to better transport freight and passengers and reduce the overall operational costs.

“The rail system in Canada was much more advanced at the time and it encouraged me to start looking at not only doing research in Mathematics but transport as well,” Professor Laird said.

“My thanks are due to late Professor John Blake, head of the department in the 1980s who encouraged me to do research in rail transport.

“I was awarded my first major grant in 1990 to research land freight transport energy use between Sydney and Melbourne and the transportation of coal.”

Professor Laird was also the inaugural National Chairman of the Railway Technical Society of Australasia and then served on the awards committee for nineteen years. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport and a Companion of the Institution of Engineers

His experience with railways was not just limited to Canada but other countries such as Japan’s high speed railways network – the Shinkansen – and New Zealand’s own rail system, which inspired him to research further into Australian rail networks.

His research work has examined options for rail track upgrades in Australia to reduce its operational costs and cut emissions.

He credits his family and rail industry partners who helped him reach many milestones in life.

“The award means a lot to me and all credit goes to my family and many friends in the rail industry without whom this achievement was not possible,” Professor Laird said.

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