Incredible Griffith alumni recognised at 2020 Outstanding Alumni Awards

Cameron Costello, Dr Elise Stephenson and Nick Marshall
Cameron Costello, Dr Elise Stephenson and Nick Marshall

Sports and musculoskeletal physiotherapist, Adjunct Assistant Professor Nick Marshall, has been named Griffith’s Outstanding Alumnus for 2020, the University’s highest alumni honour.

Nick Marshall

Marshall created the Albatross Nippers, an all-inclusive junior lifesaving program for Gold Coast children with special needs.

“It’s an incredible honour and a humbling experience to be recognised when there are so many Griffith alumni doing absolutely amazing and inspiring work in so many different areas within society,” he said.

“On it’s surface the Albatross program looks like it’s simply a nipper program for children with special needs but it’s so much more than that and so what I enjoy most is that it’s a community connection and engagement program.

Nick with his two children

“It is where we all come together as a community, and where we pool our talents, knowledge and resources to create a better, stronger more connected community.

“Over the last seven years I loved watching our special needs nippers gain confidence and experience in the ocean and on the beach but even more so I’ve loved watching their “Buddies” or similar aged neurotypical peers, grow, mature and learn more about difference and inclusion and then in turn teach their parents and peers about inclusion as well.”

The Griffith graduate is still connected to his alma mater, working two days a week in the Griffith University Health Clinic.

“My role as the Elite High-Performance Sports Physiotherapist is split between some teaching and clinical education as well as working with the Swimming Australia athletes that train on campus as they prepare for the Olympics,” Marshall said.

2020 Outstanding Young alumnus

Armed with three bachelor degrees and a PhD (in recent weeks), Griffith’s 2020 Outstanding Young alumnus award winner Dr Elise Stephenson is a committed advocate for marginalised voices, particularly those of women and young people, in Australian international affairs.

Dr Elise Stephenson

She travels Australia in a self-built, tiny home, working with rural and regional communities around inclusion, access and international engagement.

A recent trip resulted in a collaborative project breaking in brumbies with Bushmob Aboriginal Corporation on the outskirts of the Western Desert, Northern Territory.

She is also the co-founder of acclaimed digital social enterprise, Social Good Outpost which creates curriculum for business accelerator programs for migrant and refugee women, rural and low SES women, and those from domestic violence situations.

“The thing about recognition is that it always recognises more than just an individual – it acknowledges social injustices fought and values stood up for in our wider work,” Elise said about her award.

“This is why recognition from Griffith University is so important, as it also recognises the importance of all the things I have worked for – from gender and social equality, to international affairs and creating adaptive, dynamic and strong foreign policy.

“Recognition is not just the result of a job well done, but it gives the encouragement to continue what for many of us will be a lifelong journey to create better communities, stronger and more ethical business, and dynamic and inclusive policy. Recognition gives the courage to go on.”

Outstanding International Alumnus

The Malaysian winner of this year’s Outstanding International Alumnus award, Zhariff Afandi said the recognition meant a lot.

Zhariff Afandi

“It’s been a long hard journey filled with all sorts of challenges and failures, sprinkled with an abundance of love and joy,” he shared.

“From the days of school and university, I dreamt of being the best person I could.

“I’ve been truly blessed that the lack of arms hasn’t stopped me from contributing as much as I can towards a better world, and I’ve had amazing opportunities for growth, development, and ultimately living a meaningful life.”

Zhariff studied Psychology at Griffith’s Gold Coast campus and is recognised as a motivator, life coach, public speaker, extreme sportsman, author, father, entrepreneur and humanitarian.

He has achieved much more than most able-bodied people, for despite the physical challenges of being born without arms, his focus on corporate social responsibility and improving the lives of others has led to a world of opportunities, both within the Malaysian government, various foundations and councils and also led to the establishment of thriving social enterprise The Zhariff Afandi Initiative.

Outstanding First Peoples Alumnus

Cameron Costello, Griffith’s 2020 Outstanding First Peoples Alumnus, said he was extremely honoured to receive the award, paying his respects to elders who have forged a pathway before him.

Cameron Costello

“I will continue my commitment to working with people to make a better tomorrow for our children and our children’s children,” the Griffith Business School graduate said.

As a Quandamooka man from Moreton Bay, he is the CEO of the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC), which manages the recognised Native Title rights and interests of the Quandamooka People following the determination, 4th of July 2011.

His leadership has taken QYAC from being passive observers of tourism on Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island), to being the key tourism operator in whale interpretation, eco-tourism, holiday accommodation, Traditional Owner Ranger development, hospitality education, native bee honey products, world heritage listing and inclusion in Great Walks.

Cameron has spent more than 15 years in local and state government, delivering First Nation policies and programs, including the Backing Indigenous Arts Program and the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair.

Vice Chancellor and President Professor Carolyn Evans said the celebration of the University’s Outstanding Alumni was one of the highlights of the university calendar, despite the pandemic.

“Given the disruptions and challenges of 2020, it is more important than ever that we celebrate our Outstanding Alumni and acknowledge their achievements,” Professor Evans said.

“The quality of this year’s field of alumni was wonderful and those of us on the judging panel had a hard time making decisions between such talented individuals.

“Congratulations to all award recipients and finalists for their exceptional achievements in their chosen careers and their significant contributions to the community.”