Past winners - John Gallagher Memorial Bursary


The winner of the John Gallagher Memorial Bursary was Nicki Blake, Director of Studies, Kaplan International Perth.

Nicki has made a huge impact on the ELICOS sector and shown a strong commitment to the professional development of ELICOS staff. She is one of the main organisers and founders of the highly successful WA PD Fest; she is a member of the small admin group which moderates the influential and popular ELT Facebook group and blog #AusELT; and she is an avid conference presenter and key player in the WA English Australia Branch. 

John Gallagher Memorial Bursary Award winner Nicki Blake & English Australia Chair Marc Weedon-Newstead

John Gallagher Memorial Bursary Award winner Nicki Blake & English Australia Chair Marc Weedon-Newstead

In 2017 there were so many nominations of a high standard, the judges wanted to award a ‘highly commended.’

The winner of the highly commended award for the John Gallagher Professional Bursary was Sarah Bissell, Senior Manager – Learning and Teaching, Griffith English Language Institute (GELI)

Sarah has shared her academic expertise with the ELICOS sector over a number of years. She has been involved in various sector projects, including the English Australia Guide to Best Practice in Direct Entry Programs, lesson development and review for the collaborative online English learning platform ‘MOOEC’ and, more recently, the creation of the English Australia CPD Framework. She is also presents regularly at industry conferences. 


Highly Commended Award winner Sarah Bissell & English Australia Chair Marc Weedon-Newstead 

Highly Commended Award winner Sarah Bissell & English Australia Chair Marc Weedon-Newstead


The winner of the 2016 John Gallagher Award was John Smith from Griffith English Language Institute (GELI), QLD.

John’s award nomination painted a clear picture of his work and influence across the ELICOS sector. John is clearly a key ELICOS player who has made an impact not only at his own centre, where he is the Assistant Director of Studies (University Programs), but also in his state of QLD, where he is one of the main organisers of the highly successful and established annual QLD PD Fest.

John is well known to English Australia through his involvement in the 2014 Action Research Program, his position on the 2015 English Australia Conference Program Committee and his current role as a member of the English Australia Professional Development Advisory Group. All of these commitments show John’s keen interest in all matters ELICOS and his generous and collaborative spirit towards the industry.


Award winner John Smith (centre) with Bill Schultz from Australian Government Department of Education and Training (L) and English Australia Chair Marc Weedon-Newstead (R)



The winner of the 2015 John Gallagher Award was Joanne Kwai from TAFE Queensland, Southbank Campus, QLD.

Jo’s initiative, contribution and involvement in PD initiatives within the Queensland English Australia Branch that led to establishing the PD Fest for English Australia in Queensland was a significant one for the ELICOS sector.

The Queensland PD Fest, now in its 15th year, had the largest number of attendees in 2015 which is a testament to the ongoing and sustained reach and success of the program. By foregrounding teacher development, Queensland members now feel connected and engaged with developments in the ELICOS sector. The successful Queensland PD Fest model is now being replicated in other states to develop their own PD focused events. The judges were in agreement that Jo’s efforts and influence in the industry and her own contribution towards building a sustainable PD culture in Queensland has had a significant and systemic impact both in Queensland and on the ELICOS sector as a whole.


             Joanne Kwai with Lyndal Groom from DET and Marc Weedon-Newstead, Chair of English Australia.



The winner of the 2014 John Gallagher Award was Molly Bonnefin from Monash University English Language College.

As Manager Student Experience and Homestay at MUELC Molly has made a significant contribution to the welfare of students at her own institution through her leadership in student accommodation and is highly valued by her peers at the college. Molly has also had a considerable impact on ELICOS, particularly in Victoria, through her leadership of a number of ISANA projects, her contribution to the English Australia Guide to Best Practice in Student Support Services and her overall commitment to core values of integrity and continuous improvement.

2014 John Gallagher Award winner

Molly receives her award from Marc Weedon-Newstead, incoming Chair of English Australia.


The 2013 award went to Jenelle Klintworth from RMIT English Worldwide. 

Jenelle was selected because while she has a strong focus on supporting students within her college she has also shared her skills and expertise both at state and national levels within the sector. Through presentations and projects relating to student support services, Jenelle's work reflects her passion for what she does and her willingness to contribute above and beyond her normal duties. 

John Gallagher Award winner, Jenelle Klintworth (centre) from RMIT English Wordwide with English Australia Chair Chris Wallis (left) and Steve Nerlich from AEI.

Jenelle Klintworth (centre) with English Australia Chair Chris Wallis (left) and Steve Nerlich from AEI.



This year's award went to Usha Rao, Director of Student Services & Admissions at LaTrobe Melbourne.

Usha’s career in the ELICOS sector has spanned several decades and she has been involved in a wide range of roles – ask anyone in the Victoria branch of English Australia members and everyone knows Usha, ask anyone nationally and they will probably know Usha as well!

In presenting this award to Usha, the judges recognise that she is exactly the kind of individual that this award was intended to celebrate. She contributes widely both within her own organisation and across the industry without expecting recognition and appreciation. Usha’s award shows the value that English Australia places on contributing outside of your own college. Usha has mentored and provided advice to those less experienced, presented large numbers of papers, workshops and panel presentations at various conferences and events, contributed to sharing good practice, and has made tireless efforts to have the ELICOS sector recognised as important by state and federal Governments and by the wider community.



John Gallagher Bursary winner 2012

Usha Rao (R) with English Australia Chair Chris Wallis


Usha knew John Gallagher personally and was greatly honoured to be the recipient of the John Gallagher award this year. She said 'I would like to thank Denise Bush, the Director and Principal of La Trobe Melbourne Navitas Bundoora Ltd for nominating me for the award. I have had a long-standing association with English Australia in my career, and I greatly appreciate their professionalism. The Language Centre at La Trobe University, where I came to work in 1997, is a founding member of English Australia, and of this we are very proud. In my roles as Director of Studies and Director of the Language Centre as well as in my current role I found English Australia (and NEAS) greatly supportive.  The message here to all is to continue doing your duty to the best of your ability and one day you too will be rewarded.'

'The bursary funds will definitely come in handy with some of the expenses involved in travelling to Auckland for the IASANA National Conference in December, where I'll be delivering a paper on mentoring. Thank you, English Australia, and thank you, John.'



Stephanie Schembri, a teacher at CELUSA in Adelaide, has been teaching for over ten years in a variety of contexts both in Australia and overseas. She was editor of the Classroom Talk section of the EA Journal from its inception in 2009 until 2011, has presented well-received workshops at English Australia conferences and is an IELTS examiner. She has an interest in curriculum development and has assisted in this area in at her current place of employment.

Stephanie was delighted with the award. 'Professional development has always been important to me so I felt honoured when my academic directors nominated me for the John Gallagher Memorial Professional Bursary, and more so for the opportunity to talk with so many accomplished colleagues during the English Australia Conference and gala dinner. Winning was unexpected and the news took a while to sink in.

'I hope to put the generous prize towards either further study or attendance at a conference. Thank you to English Australia for not just this but all the awards that recognize outstanding contributions to the industry and instill a sense of pride in our profession.'



Ann Simons, Admissions Manager - has worked at Hawthorn-Melbourne since its inception in 1986. She has worked largely in administrative roles but has also undertaken marketing activities. She is well-known to Hawthorn-Melbourne agents as someone who is fair and genuine, quick to respond and get things done. She is a very supportive, positive and encouraging manager who trains people with care and is open to their ideas and views. As someone with very strong ethics and values, Ann embodies the high professional and ethical standards encouraged by English Australia. Ann is clearly making an outstanding contribution to ELICOS through her positive approach and relationships with students as well as agents.

Ann was absolutely thrilled to be nominated for the award. She said ‘To actually win it was unexpected and such an honour. Receiving the award at the Gala Dinner at the EA Conference was an exciting time and an experience I will never forget.

'I am very lucky to work with very supportive and team orientated colleagues at Hawthorn and cannot thank them enough for their continuous efforts. It is an exciting industry in which we work, one that is forever changing and offering new challenges. I cannot imagine working in any other industry.

'I enjoyed every minute of the EA Conference this year; there were many highlights and lots of opportunities for networking. Thank you English Australia for making this award possible, which I hope to put towards further study.’



Carol Aeschliman, Leader E-Learning at Swinburne University English Language Centre in Victoria, won the 2009 award for her contribution to the development of e-learning practices at Swinburne and her role in teacher development in the Victorian state branch of English Australia. Carol was instrumental in developing a best practice blended delivery ELICOS program at Swinburne together with online resources incorporating new technologies. Carol also set up an ILC special interest group for the Victorian state branch.

Carol said 'It's always gratifying to be recognised amongst one's peers, and I feel very honoured to have received the John Gallagher Memorial Professional Bursary. At the same time, it's a humbling experience because I'm sure there were many people equally deserving of this award. We are very fortunate in Australia to be in this industry at such an exciting time and to be part of the wonderful work being done across the ELICOS sector.'

Carol is intending to use the bursary to further her studies into best practice in e-learning.



Lisa Barrett, Director, Assessment of the Centre for Macquarie English (formerly NCELTR), received the award in 2008 for her contribution to ELICOS in a range of areas: development and implementation of a student assessment framework; online course development and design; IELTS preparation and testing; and developing institutional relationships within Latin America. She has led internal projects as well as participating in industry-wide projects and has presented at conferences.

"I was surprised but honoured to have received the John Gallagher Memorial Bursary. Our industry has a wealth of hardworking people both creating and implementing innovative teaching and assessment practices as well as representing their institutions and the Australian ELICOS sector and forging key relationships domestically and internationally. I would therefore encourage institutions to nominate their talented teachers and staff for this award to highlight the important work being done. Many thanks to English Australia for making the award possible." Lisa will use the award to pursue further study.



Marie Gorman, Student Services Manager at Phoenix English Language Academy in Perth (no longer an English Australia member college), was the first non-teacher recipient to win the English Australia / John Gallagher Memorial Bursary and who then took a study trip to the United States and Canada. Marie had this to say about her work:

"Most students arrive with a pretty set way of looking at the world and it is marvellous to watch them open their minds and hearts to all their new experiences and friends. Of course, their studies are their main priority,but we in the Service Sector believe they have more of a chance of succeeding if they have a safe and happy place to live and someone they can come to for help and guidance.

"Hopefully, in time they will have the confidence and knowledge to depend less on us and more on themselves. I have been very fortunate to find a career where I seem to learn something new every day and receive such satisfaction in watching the students 'bloom'.



Jacob Garman from ACL Darwin English Centre in Darwin, Northern Territory.

The bursary was used to give the program in Darwin an opportunity to do several things. Initially a portion of the bursary went toward funding valuable professional development time where staff could share lessons and ideas to improve the delivery of teaching and also the quality of the content used. Further use of the bursary was for purchasing and learning how to use software for pronunciation activities in the language lab.

"To have been awarded the John Gallagher Memorial Professional Bursary was a great honour - particularly to have received it while among my peers attending the 2006 English Australia Conference. Just to be a part of the conference was a wonderful experience for me professionally in my career as a teacher." Jacob Garman



Damian Connell from Milner International College of English in Perth, Western Australia.

Damian was able to purchase software to help him develop language training resources specific to English learners needs.

"Normally, I would not have been in a position to afford these resources and winning the inaugural John Gallagher Memorial Professional Bursary was not only a great honour but also provided a chance to learn at an accelerated pace and at greater depth than I would otherwise have been able to achieve." Damian Connell

For further information contact the English Australia Secretariat, or ph (02) 9264 4700