Southern Cross University's Outstanding Alumnus of the Year winner, Poto Williams MP.
Southern Cross University's Outstanding Alumnus of the Year winner, Poto Williams MP.

DFV advocate awarded SCU alumnus of the year

NEW ZEALAND MP Poto Williams and global mural artist Guido van Helten have been named the 2018 Outstanding Alumnus and the Young Alumnus of the Year at Southern Cross University's annual awards recognising exceptional achievement and outstanding service.

The university welcomed home more than 50 global change makers to its Alumni of the Year Awards last week.

Ms Williams is the first New Zealander of Cook Islands heritage to be elected as a Member of Parliament, and the first of Pacific Islander heritage to become Speaker.

As a survivor of domestic violence, an advocate for child safety and a representative for many ethnic minorities in her country, the New Zealand Labour Party member took a weekend out of her busy schedule to travel to Lismore, where she was bestowed Southern Cross University's top alumni honour.

"It's a real honour to receive this award from my peers and the extraordinary alumni assembled here tonight. I am so grateful to Southern Cross University and the community it has given me - it's like being part of a global family,” Ms Williams said at the ceremony.

Ms Williams has worked in the community sector for most of her professional life, including in disability, community health and family violence.

She was working at a community mental health organisation when, at age 48, she studied an MBA online through Southern Cross University with, she said, an "amazing community of other students of all ages who have become dear friends” before being elected as the MP for Christchurch five years ago.

The 2018 Young Alumnus of the Year Guido van Helten has made his mark around the globe with more than 60 large-scale photo-realistic murals, including commissions in Europe, Scandinavia, the Middle East, the United States and Australia.

Most of the photos he takes himself, followed by the mural process taking anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks.

Mr van Helten was born in Melbourne, grew up in Brisbane and studied a Bachelor of Visual Arts at SCU in Lismore.

Awards recognise outstanding alumni as global change makers.


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