Award Winners

See the winners of the IEAA Excellence Awards, presented annually at the Australian International Education Conference.

2023 Award Winners

Life Membership

The IEAA Board awards Life Membership to members who have made an outstanding contribution to the international education sector and in particular to IEAA.

Stephen Connelly

Stephen was a member of the IEAA Interim Board when the Association was established in 2004. He remained an ordinary member of the board until April 2007 when he took on the role of Treasurer in an acting capacity following the retirement of then Treasurer David Back. During that period, as Deputy Vice‐Chancellor (Development and Engagement) at Swinburne University of Technology, Stephen was able to provide a ‘home’ to IEAA by hosting the small IEAA team within his office. In October of 2007 Stephen was elected Vice President and served one year in that position before becoming President in 2008. He remained President for four years (at the time, terms were not limited to two years), moving from Swinburne to RMIT as Deputy Vice‐Chancellor (International and Development) and facilitating the Association’s move to its new home at RMIT, where it remains to this day.

Distinguished Contribution

This award recognises the outstanding contribution of a professional colleague who has led ground-breaking initiatives to improve international education in Australia.

Ailsa Lamont

Ailsa Lamont is an international education professional with 30 years of experience across economic development, the university sector and social innovation spanning more than 70 countries. She has made a substantial contribution to international education, most recently in addressing the exceptionally important issue of climate change, by highlighting and creating a clear direction for education providers to take the next step in their journey to address climate change in international education.

Eliza Chui

Eliza Chui has contributed significantly to international education throughout her career. Leaving her role at The University of Hong Kong, Eliza entered the Australian international education space in 1988, working with Charles Sturt University, CQU & University of Adelaide. Eliza’s wide-ranging leadership roles in higher education saw her work in governance, research management and global marketing. Her work in Austrade included the inaugural Education Commissioner for North Asia. This was followed by Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner for Taiwan driving the Australian Government’s trade and investment promotion, notably in developing new business opportunities in renewables, clinical trials, new technologies and the circular economy.

Proudly sponsored by IDP Education


This award recognises a professional colleague who has at least 10 years’ experience, an appreciable portion of which has been in leadership positions, in organisations or institutions with a significant role in international education.

Debra Langton

Debra has dedicated her career to the international education sector. With more than 30 years experience in senior roles, primarily in higher education, Deb has embodied leadership through her formal and voluntary positions. While many leaders in international education have come through an academic or recruitment path, Deb’s contribution has primarily been through the student experience, making her a unique and outstanding professional. Her leadership and advocacy for the international student experience in Australia makes her a worthy winner.

Proudly sponsored by ETS TOEFL.

Tony Adams Rising Star

The Tony Adams Rising Star Award recognises the outstanding work of an early career international education professional and has been established in honour of Professor Tony Adams.

Varsha Devi Balakrishnan

Varsha is a product of Australia’s international education sector. Studying at Monash College and Monash University she has multiple degrees, including two Masters qualifications. She’s a true leader: as a student she was deeply engaged with CISA, has served as CISA President, tirelessly advocating for the experience of international students. As Head of Student Insights and Strategy at TLG, Varsha has catalysed completely new ways of understanding international student sentiment. Tenacious, kind, driven, strategically brilliant, she is a voice our sector listens to.

High Commendation

Devarshi Desai

Devarshi Desai is co-founder and CEO of media startup Internash, which runs one of the largest online communities of international students in Australia. As an international student, Devarshi saw a gap in the way the community interacted, and created a network which has grown to over 100,000 followers and earned millions of views on social media. He is also co-founder of ed-tech start-up Studynash, connecting prospective and current students and educational institutions. Devarshi has worked with Austrade, Study Melbourne, The Lygon Group and the University of Melbourne, while creating a vibrant space for the student voice.

Proudly sponsored by Study Adelaide


Best Practice

This award recognises the work of an individual or team that has contributed to international education through a ground-breaking development in international development, internationalisation of the curriculum, marketing or communication, international support programs, pathway, mobility or social inclusion initiatives.

NSW Jobs Connect for International Students
Study NSW and Seek

Study NSW partnered with employment platform SEEK, education providers, and NSW employers to deliver NSW Jobs Connect for International Students, recognising the value of international students to the Australian skills-mix and economy. Connecting international students directly with employers, is a win for international students, education institutions and the education sector, while contributing to business and employer skills shortages.

High Commendation

Advancing STEM Education in Papua New Guinea

  • Associate Professor Vinesh Chandra
  • Professor Dann Mallet
  • Mr David Kozar
  • Dr Chris Blundell
  • Dr Charisse Farr
  • Dr Andy Yeh
  • Ms Danielle Gordon
  • Dr Senka Henderson
  • Mr Matthew Readette
  • Associate Professor Terri Bourke
  • Associate Professor Denise Beutel

Following the launch of Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape’s ‘Schools of Excellence Policy’, QUT has developed award-winning, contextually-appropriate capacity-building projects in STEM Education. As part of the Australian Government’s foreign aid program, the Australia Awards Graduate Certificate in STEM Education course was successfully delivered to three cohorts of 73 high school teachers, with a success rate of 98%. QUT has continued to design professional development and capacity-building projects in PNG.

Proudly supported by the University of Sydney
University of Sydney


This award recognises the work of an individual or team that has contributed to international education through an innovative initiative in an area including (but not restricted to) international development, internationalisation of the curriculum, marketing and communication, support programs for international students, pathway initiatives, mobility programs or social inclusion activities.

The Lygon Group

  • Varsha Devi Balakrishnan
  • Ravi Aranha
  • Natasha Ravagli
  • James Owen
  • Dr Angela Lehmann

#TheSocialSource allows sector stakeholders to mitigate negative sentiment, and informs student support initiatives, policy, advocacy, and effective messaging and communication, helping to build a sustainable future for international students. #TheSocialSource has evolved in a few short years from a product that was developed to serve a pandemic need to a subscription-based solution, informing Federal and State governments, peak industry bodies, institutions, and key stakeholders.

Proudly supported by Pearson | PTE Academic.

Professional Commentary

This award recognises excellence in journalism, social media commentary and/or publications which focus on aspects of the international education sector.

Claire Field

Claire’s work has made a substantial contribution to public understandings about international education through outstanding writing, podcasts, media commentary, Parliament Committee’s public hearings and submissions into government/industry. Claire has been a strong advocate for the sector through her commentary in a variety of general and specialist publications. Claire has been recognised by The PIE as one of Australia and ASEAN ‘Top 50’ voices on international education.

Proudly sponsored by Acumen.

Outstanding Postgraduate Thesis

This award aims to assist with establishing the research career of a recent masters or doctoral graduate.

Dr Joanne Barker

Thesis: ‘A Trying Endeavour: A case study of value and evaluation in an international scholarship program’

Joanne’s research examined how an international scholarship program was valued and how its value was understood and articulated by the government which funded it. It explored how evaluation was used to support the program’s rationale and the drivers of change which impacted on its lifetime trajectory. The research focused on a case study, the Australian Government’s Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships program (known in its last year as the ‘Endeavour Leadership Program’) which was launched in 2003 and closed down in 2019.

High Commendation

Dr Minh Thi Ngoc Quach

Thesis: ‘Policy and Regulatory Framework for Transnational Higher Education in Vietnam: Objectives, Implementation Issues and Impacts’

Minh's doctoral thesis provides a comprehensive insight into the problems, implementation issues, and impacts of the Transnational Higher Education (TNHE) policy and regulatory framework in Vietnam. Minh's work serves as the first attempt to uncover and understand the assumptions and conceptual logic that shape these policies. It provides a deeper understanding of problem representations, implementation challenges, and the overall impact of the TNHE policy and regulatory framework in Vietnam.