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Byron Shire
May 24, 2024

Trailblazers honoured with prestigious prizes for tech and engineering

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The Traditional Knowledge Innovation Award went to John Watson from the Nyikina Mangala Community & Professor Ron Quinn AM FTSE, Griffith University.

Weaving traditional knowledge with western science for a new approach to pain relief, tapping into green energy using recycled materials, and a revolutionary new approach to sustainability for the beef and lamb industry were all celebrated at the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering’s annual national awards last night.

The winning engineers and technologists were recognised for their groundbreaking work on Australia’s toughest issues, including climate change, mining, plastic waste, battery tech and food security, during a ceremony at the National Arboretum in Canberra.

Nyikina Mangala West Kimberley Elder John Watson and Professor Ronald Quinn AM FTSE from Griffith University were named as the inaugural recipients of the Traditional Knowledge Innovation Award.

Mr Watson’s personal experience – losing a finger in a crocodile attack – led him to the Mudjala mangrove tree’s bark for pain relief. Collaborating with Professor Quinn, they identified active compounds in the bark with anti-inflammatory and pain relief properties. This treatment holds promise as a gel for athletes at the 2032 Brisbane Olympics, and heralds widespread application for Traditional Knowledge, while maintaining Aboriginal ownership.

Recipient of the prestigious Batterham Medal for Engineering Excellence, Dr Conrad Wasko from the University of Melbourne, has revealed through his research that while small floods, crucial for water supplies, are decreasing, large catastrophic flooding events are becoming the norm. His work demonstrates the uneven impacts of climate change and the threat it poses for safe and sustainable water supplies Australia-wide.

Dr James Tickner. Photo supplied.

Clunies Ross Technology Innovation Award recipient Dr James Tickner revolutionised mineral exploration using x-ray technology.

Dr Tickner, Chief Technology Officer of Chrysos Corporation Ltd, developed the PhotonAssayTM which can rapidly and safely identify gold, silver, and other elements in rock samples.

This groundbreaking technology has redefined the landscape of mineral exploration, offering unprecedented efficiency and safety.

Exemplary work

ATSE President, Dr Katherine Woodthorpe AO FTSE, said the winners’ innovation, drive, and impact were exemplars for the game-changing application of Australian research.

‘The winners of the 2023 ATSE Awards are outstanding engineers, applied scientists, and leaders in technology; their shining example is an inspiration as we reflect on and celebrate the novel science and engineering endeavours that are bettering our world,’ said Dr Woodthorpe.

‘Australian innovators are changing the world for the better. I am thrilled to see our national award winners’ critical work forging new territory in medical technology, climate solutions, critical minerals, food technology, and waste reduction.’

You can find out more about the winning projects here.

Below is a video about the winners of the Traditional Knowledge Innovation Award:


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