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Techies Score Gold In Queen’s Birthday Honours Listings

Things are moving up a little, it seems, in getting government recognition for outstanding work in the technology arena. In past CDN reports on Australian honours lists we have seen almost no techies make the grade, while dentists and golf players have chalked up gongs by the dozens.

But this year’s Queens Birthday awards, announced yesterday, contained multiple gongs for techies – all very well deserved.

The effervescent Marita Cheng, pictured, founder of Aubot which among other things makes a telepresence robot dubbed Teleport that visits kids with cancer as well as elderly people in hospitals, scored a gong for “significant service to science and technology, particularly to robotics” 

Marita Cheng

Aubot also does R&D in robotic arms, virtual reality and autonomous mapping and navigation. If that’s not enough Cheng has also launched Robogals Global, which strives to interest schoolgirls round the world in robotics and/or engineering- with quite some success.

Arun Kumar Sharma, vice chancellor of the Queensland Uni of Technology, was gonged for his “significant service to computer science and information technology”. Among other things, he was the inaugural director of NICTA, now a part of CSIRO’s Data61. 

Sharma has also been involved in children’s medical research, Gallipoli research and sugar research.

A Public-Service Medal went to Olivia Samardzic, co-founder of the SA Space School, and currently group leader of something called, rather sinisterly, electro-optic countermeasures at a Defence Department offshoot. Olivia is hopefully protecting us all.

Public Service Medals also went to Nerida O’Loughlin of Melbourne for contributions to a more digital Australia and government; Palitha Ranjith Kuruppuarachchi for outstanding service with the NSW police force – particularly on network comms; and Ray Baird of Lara, Victoria, for technology-enabled policy and service delivery reform.

Olivia Samardzic and Michael Gillyon demonstrating EAGLE.

Olivia Samardzic also scored a PSM, in her case for using science and technology to provide the Australian Defence Force with “superior operational capability”.

Warrant Officer Mathew Miller won a Conspicuous Service Medal for “for developing networked joint digital systems for the Australian Army.

Army corporal Ashley Karl Fischer scored a gong for “meritorious achievement in information technology development and sustainment for the ADF.”

And we have saved maybe the best for last. Ninety-year-old Alison Harcourt, of Colac Victoria, is said to have been an inspiring pioneer in mathematics, statistics and computer science over many years. She scores a gong for distinguished service to mathematics and computer science through pioneering research and development of integer linear programming.

Her citation notes: “As a woman in an almost exclusively male field, her ground-breaking work from the 1950s on was often overshadowed. In recent years, however, the importance of her contributions has begun to be acknowledged more widely.”

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