Ordinary people doing extraordinary things – true advocacy!

Thank you to all those that nominated their heroes for the 2016 Research Australia Health & Medical Research Awards. 2016 has seen the highest number of nominations and the stories are amazing. We look forward to sharing some of them with you.

The Advocacy Award recognises an Australian from the community, the media, or a celebrity who has raised community awareness about the benefits of health and medical research. Which of these amazing people below will join the ranks of the prestigious Advocacy Award alumni including: Dr James O Little AO, Professor Ian Hickie AM, Li Cunxin, Stephen R Leeder, Ita Buttrose AO, OBE, Mark Beretta, Karen Livingstone and Connie Johnson & Sam Johnson

Discover previous winners in all Award categories, including video’s from the 2015 winners.

2016 Advocacy Award Nominees

Matthew Ames

Matthew Ames_research australia

Nominators: Mathilde Desselle | Institute of Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland

Matthew Ames is tireless advocate and ambassador for The University of Queensland Institute for Molecular Bioscience’s Community for Open Antimicrobial Drug Discovery (CO-ADD), which is a global, open-access research program looking for new antibiotics to combat drug-resistant infections.

Matthew was 39 years old when what started as a sore throat resulted in the loss of all four of his limbs. He had contracted a streptococcal infection resulting in toxic shock and was never expected to survive. Matthew has now beaten the odds, spurred on by the fact that he is the father of four young children and husband of a very dedicated wife determined to grow old with him.

Since 2013, Matthew has shared his experiences and recovery on his blog, ‘Renovating Matthew’. Matthew now shares his story of resilience with others. In addition to supporting our global open-access research program, he has also been communicating with government and the general public about disability services on behalf of those like him who fall through the funding cracks, and to raise awareness of issues affecting amputees. Furthermore, Matthew recently became part of the Bionics South East Queensland Initiative, supporting improved clinical outcomes in the area of human bionics.

Matthew’s pioneering spirit has been evident in his own recovery. In November 2015, Matthew was the first Australian to undertake a Targeted Muscle Re-innervation (TNR) surgery, which required him to travel to Chicago with his OPRA Osseointegration surgical team from Melbourne. As a result, the procedure should become available to others in Australia later in 2016.

Despite having to undertake extensive international travel to California to undergo further surgery on his arms, Matthew and his family donated their time and energy to share their personal story and call for donations to support antibiotics discovery and infection diagnosis research.

Brenda King
SIDS Stampede


Nominators: Rita Machaalani | Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Karen Waters | Children’s Hospital at Westmead

Brenda came to the attention of hospital staff in 2011 when she was referred to research on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by one of the physicians who had taken care of her baby boy after having had a near-miss SIDS incidence. When Brenda came to understand what SIDS was all about and how fortunate she was that her son survived his episode, she vowed to help raise awareness but also funds to help SIDS research in the field continue. This is especially significant as the Children’s Hospital laboratory is the only one actively conducting SIDS research in NSW.

To do this, Brenda developed the SIDS stampede and has made this an annual event, raising approximately $134,000 over the past 5 years that it has been running. These funds have been used to raise scholarships for students and for the everyday running of the laboratory and experimental work.

Brenda does this in her own time, in between being a working parent and she purposely chose to hold the stampede in Windsor, where she grew up, to raise awareness and enable the community there to take part each year. This means the community has the chance to band together for a good cause and raise awareness of this heartbreaking syndrome.

Brenda was nominated by the Children’s Hospital staff as an acknowledgment of all her hard work and effort in supporting and raising funds for their research. It was described as being done “tirelessly, with great joy and enthusiasm” and providing much needed support to keep the laboratory going.

David Croft

Nominators: Prof Pankaj Sah | Queensland Brain Institute and Jeff Maclean | Index Group

Rugby Union star David Croft hung up his boots in 2008 after playing five internationals for the Wallabies and more than 100 games for the Queensland Reds.  Today, he uses his influential voice to be a powerful advocate for research at the Queensland Brain Institute at The University of Queensland. David was a driving force behind QBI’s innovative concussion campaign #nobrainnogame, launched in June 2016. His passion – from project conception to delivery –  has boosted awareness of concussion symptoms in the broader community and raised vital funds for medical research.

In 2015 David signed up as an inaugural member of QBI’s Sydney Chapter – a group designed to expand the Institute’s networks and allow long-term high-capacity donors to engage with QBI in a meaningful way.  Often our Chapter members have very personal reasons for becoming involved; from the outset David wanted to address concussion at a professional and amateur level and, in particular, the long-term effects of brain injuries.

QBI also regarded concussion as a priority issue, given the 42 million cases across the globe each year and concussion’s links to dementia in the long-term. As the home of almost 500 neuroscientists, QBI was perfectly positioned to research concussion from multiple angles.

He encouraged other sporting icons to sign on as Ambassadors.  His ideas sparked useful discussions for webpage design and the social media campaign.  He has been a willing and articulate interviewee for media outlets across the country.  He enlisted his friends to the #nobrainnogame hashtag on Twitter, which encouraged people to “put up their hand” if they’d had a concussion experience, in turn directing them traffic to the QBI webpage for more information.  He spoke at the successful press conference launching the campaign, and has followed through with his own contacts in the media.  He is embarking on a grassroots education campaign at schools across the south-east of Queensland.


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