24 October 2006

An acclaimed author and Queensland’s youngest woman ever elected to State Parliament are The University of Queensland's 2006 Alumnus of the Year and Young Alumnus of the Year.

Best known for his chronicles of youthful angst, multi-award-winning Brisbane author Nick Earls is UQ’s 2006 Alumnus of the Year while Rachel Nolan, Member for Ipswich and a former UQ Senator, is the winner of the young alumnus title.

UQ Chancellor Sir Llew Edwards, AC, will present Dr Earls and Ms Nolan with their awards at the Courting the Greats Luncheon at Brisbane’s Customs House, noon–2.30pm, on Thursday, October 26.

Newsreader Marie-Louise Thiele will be Master of Ceremonies at the event for the awards supported by UQ Vice-Chancellor Professor John Hay, AC, and the Alumni Association of The University of Queensland Inc.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Michael Keniger congratulated both recipients on their careers and abiding commitment to community service.

“Dr Earls and Ms Nolan share a drive to improve conditions for people both locally and on a global scale and it is a pleasure to recognise them in this way. The University community is immensely proud to count them among our graduates,” Professor Keniger said.

Dr Earls said he was honoured to receive Alumnus of the Year: “Bearing in mind the accomplishments of previous Alumni of the Year – an Oscar, Nobel Prize and more – I can honestly say I'm very surprised to find myself in their company. This is a great honour, and made all the more meaningful by the close attachment I feel to UQ.”

Ms Nolan, who was elected to State Parliament at the age of 26 in 2001 and appointed Deputy Government Whip in March 2004, said she was similarly delighted with her award.

“UQ has been a part of my life since I went to Playhouse at the age of three. The quality education I've received through University has opened a whole world for me and I feel really privileged for my small efforts to be recognised in this way,” Ms Nolan said.

Dr Earls, a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery with honours graduate from UQ (1986), is the author of nine novels including 48 Shades of Brown, recently adapted into the film, 48 Shades, and two short story collections.

Some of his best-known books include Zigzag Street, Bachelor Kisses and Perfect Skin. In fact, it was the success of the first two which allowed him to hang up his stethoscope and concentrate on writing full-time in 1998.

He has also contributed to the four best-selling anthologies in the Girls' Night In series as well as Kids' Night In and Kids' Night In 2 as editor.

His contribution to writing in Queensland led to him being awarded the Queensland Writers’ Centre's inaugural Johnno Award in 2001 and a Centenary Medal for service to the arts in 2003.

Both recipients share a passion for community service.

Aside from his writing – his latest book is Monica Bloom – Dr Earls’ time is consumed by his roles as a member of the State Government’s Creative Industries Leadership Group, mentoring young writers, and as ambassador for the Australian arm of aid organisation War Child as well as work for other charities.

Collaborative fundraising anthologies for War Child (Girls' Night In series as well as Kids' Night In and Kids' Night In 2) raised around $3 million and in 2001. Dr Earls visited Kosovo to see how the money was being spent. He became founding chair of the organisation’s Australian arm in 2002 until this year when he became Australian ambassador.

In 2004 and 2006, War Child Australia linked with the Rotary Club of Brisbane Planetarium, Honiara Rotary Clubs and Australia’s children’s publishers to resupply the school libraries of the Solomon Islands with more than 10,000 new children’s books.

In August 2003, Dr Earls donated his literary manuscripts to the UQ Library through the Cultural Gifts Program. The collection includes drafts and research notes for all his published works and represents a complete record of his literary work to date.

The collection is housed in the Fryer Library, the branch responsible for the Library’s special collections. It contains rare books, theses, manuscripts and pictures.

Ms Nolan, who holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honours (1998) from UQ, studied community development in India with Community Aid Abroad and her policy interest areas include environment, energy, security and economic policy.

A former UQ Senator, she is a member of the Parliamentary Amnesty Group and also co-convened Emily’s List Partnerships in Equity Network, an organisation working to support Indigenous women to be elected into Queensland Parliament.

She recently co-founded the Ipswich Women’s Development Network which established the Heather Bonner Scholarship to assist a young woman to go to UQ Ipswich. She served on UQ’s Ipswich Community Advisory Committee and the committee which advises The Boilerhouse Community Engagement Centre.

The Centre, opened after a $2.1 million overhaul earlier this year, oversees projects including a Health and Wellbeing Strategy for West Moreton involving government agencies working together for better outcomes, young migrant and refugee mentoring, and community engagement standards and benchmarks for Australian higher education.

Hailing from a third-generation Ipswich family, Ms Nolan worked as Senior Media Advisor to the Northern Territory Leader of the Opposition and as a Policy and Media Advisor to the Queensland Treasurer before joining State Parliament.

Media inquiries: Shirley Glaister at UQ Communications (07 3365 2049, s.glaister@uq.edu.au).