GradBytes Autumn Issue 2016


Greetings and welcome to the first edition of GradBytes for 2016.

The year is already well underway and promises to be an exciting one for Western Sydney University.
We will shortly announce the winners of our first ever Alumni Awards, with 23 outstanding finalists confirmed, and 31 other nominees commended for their contributions. Watch out for more on the Awards our Facebook page and following our presentation event on 5 April.

You would have also seen our invitation to complete the Alumni Survey. We hope you have all been able to contribute – thank you to those who have shared their views. We look forward to sharing the results with you later in the year and using the results to guide our alumni programs into the future.

We will also be launching a number of new initiatives throughout 2016, with a renewed series of GradLife events, based in Western Sydney and the Sydney CBD, along with interstate and international events, and a new mentoring program to connect alumni with each other and with current students. Stay tuned for more!

In this edition of GradBytes we share and celebrate the success of graduates Heath Davis, filmmaker and writer/director of Broke, Martin Hollander, Chicago- based Natural Gas industry expert , Jill Carter-Hansen, artist and photographer, and Luke Martin, now Creative Director at Facebook.

Western Sydney filmmaker going for Broke


Glenmore Park local and filmmaker, Heath Davis (B Arts – Communication, 2000 and B Teaching Secondary, 2004), is making a name for himself around the globe with his latest film release, Broke.

The film tells the story of a footy legend turned gambling addict as he struggles against addiction to get his life back on track. Admired for on-field achievements and idolised by many, Broke demonstrates the human failings that can exist in those we look up to.

Broke stars fellow Western Sydney University graduate and seasoned actor Steve Le Marquand (B Arts – Theatre, 1993), who has also starred in Underbelly, Two-Hands and Kokoda, amongst others.
Broke has been accepted into a long list of top international film festivals and recently won Best Film in New Zealand. The film has received backing from the NRL, with profits going to the Men of League Foundation.

This is not the first film by Heath Davis, and it is not his first to win national and international acclaim. Since graduating from Western Sydney University, Heath has co-written and directed a number of short films which have screened and won awards at festivals including Telluride, Tribeca and the Seattle Film Festival.

Heath's passion is for creating films that inspire through the sharing of human stories and experiences. Heath is also an innovator in funding his filmmaking efforts, using the online social network donation site, Indegogo, to secure funding for his latest project. He has brought together government and industry support through the NRL to promote Broke and share this inspiring and relevant story with the broader community.

Opening across Australia from April, Broke will premiere in the UK in March and will tour across the UK and France with the Super League.

You can take a sneak peak at the trailer for Broke at (opens in a new window) Find out more by visiting Broke the Film Facebook Page (opens in a new window).

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The future of commerce and value of volunteering


It's a brave new world we live in, with new technologies and changes in consumer behaviour having a profound impact across all industries. WSU Commerce alumnus and Chicago-based captain of industry Martin Hollander says that in this context, and now more than ever, it's a case of adapt or perish. His central message is that if companies are to remain competitive, they must engage customers in ways that constantly adapt to changes in market dynamics. He believes that any skills and knowledge that contribute to understanding these changes are business gold. His clarion call is simple – get with the program and contemporary terrain, and acquire the skills, knowledge and collaborative ethos that will optimally support innovation and adaptation. Or get left behind.

Martin is the General Manager of AMP Compressed Natural Gas in Chicago and was in town in August for an industry experts round table luncheon, as part of WSU's Securing Success strategy. Securing Success is about fostering innovation and cross-disciplinarity across our research programs, and collaborating more closely with industry experts, in order to support research innovation with real world transferability. The knowledge economy is here, and WSU is positioned at its epicentre. It's our job now to capitalise on the opportunities it presents.

Martin also talked about how staying connected with your alumni community can open doors to innovation and success, and about the infinite rewards of 'giving back' via volunteering. He shared his experiences at the Volunteers Thank You Dinner held in late last year, waxing lyrical about the enormous benefits of staying connected to your University and getting involved with WSU's volunteer network. Martin credits WSU as giving him the skills to think in a structured and logical manner, and his experience as a volunteer as among the richest and most satisfying of his life.

To find out out more how you can become a volunteer by visiting the Alumni Volunteers website.

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A life's work continues

Momentos Last profiled in GradLife magazine in June 2012, Jill Carter-Hansen (M Arts Honours in Fine Arts, 1998) continues to produce, exhibit and share her art. An accomplished painter, photographer, illustrator, filmmaker, poet and writer, Jill uses her art to tell and share stories and address issues of importance to her.

Recognised as uniquely valuable works, one of Jill's handmade books was recently purchased for a rare book collection in New Zealand. Released in 2012, the limited edition artist's book, The Leap, provides a metaphor for the refugee story and the challenges that refugees face in attempting to make this new country their home. As Jill sees it, 'for every human we discount, we are missing out on the potential contribution they could make'.

Much of Jill's art reflects her past and her own life circumstances. Now an Australian, Jill is originally from New Zealand. She was adopted as a child and did not know of her parents until much later in her life. She believes her own experiences made her much more aware of the challenges many others face and also instilled in her a great appreciation for her creative outlets.

Jill's work is now held in public and private collections in Australia, New Zealand and overseas. She recently exhibited images from her ongoing series, Momentos in 2 group photography exhibitions. Last year examples from her printmaking formed a solo show, entitled Visionary Images. Jill continues to write and share her poetry in the arts community.

One of Jill's passions is her involvement in Arterie through the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse where, with other artist's, she supports cancer patients, their family and friends to aid in recovery and clinical care through artistic and creative programs.

Jill also has a strong commitment to education and has spent many years working part-time as a teacher and lecturer, including at Western Sydney University.

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Western Sydney Uni to Facebook - Landed the dream job

Facebook Luke

Ten years after graduating with a degree in Bachelor of Design (Visual Communication) at Western Sydney University, Luke Martin is now working in what many people would consider the dream job. As Creative Director at Facebook's new in-house creative agency (The Factory) Luke mingles with the cream of Silicon Valley to produce advertising content for the social media company. It all began at Western Sydney University, where he learned the ground rules of design while running his own BMX clothing brand in his spare time.

"Western Sydney University was the perfect environment to study and learn about all things design. Throughout my degree I utilised the skills and theories I learnt in class by applying them to my clothing brand - Tyme. And now I utilise them here at Facebook." says Luke from Facebook's Headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

"I never considered applying to any other university. I grew up in Emu Plains and went to Emu Plains Public School and Nepean High School, so Western Sydney University was the obvious next step for my education. Looking back I made the right decision. The course, the facilities and the faculty were all amazing, and what I learned helped me get where I am today."

For all his success, life could have turned out very differently for Luke. Competing at the Canberra BMX championships at the age of 16, a miscalculation saw Luke go over the handlebars and crash into the next jump, splitting his liver and severing the main artery to his kidney. Luke awoke from an induced coma to discover a week had passed since the accident. He remained in hospital for another 7 weeks, and was in and out of surgery and intensive care. At one stage Luke's condition was so critical the doctor asked his parents to prepare to say their last goodbyes. The accident helped him recalibrate his priorities, and saw him take his love for design and BMX in a new direction by starting his clothing brand.

"I never really thought about going to University before my accident, though the scare of nearly losing my life made me re-evaluate my goals," he reflects. "After the accident I focused my attention on design: I recall meeting a graphic designer who was working on the BMX club's jerseys. This project introduced me to what graphic design could entail, and I quickly developed a love of the conceptual stages of design. I started my own brand and found out about the course at Western Sydney University, and the rest is history. The entire process was very linear."

Luke began his professional career working at News Limited as a graphic designer in the advertising department. After moving through a series of advertising agencies in Sydney, he was asked to handle the Apple account while working at TBWA/Sydney, to oversee the content for the Australian and New Zealand markets. His work impressed his bosses in America, so he was relocated to TBWA/Los Angeles to work on the American advertising for the brand. After spending 2 years in Los Angeles, Luke then left the agency world and took a gig working directly for Apple, out of their headquarters in Cupertino. His work then caught the eye of the new in-house agency under development at Facebook.

"The past year at Facebook has been the best of my career" he says. "The company is open and collaborative. The office layout is entirely open so we can see what each other is working on. Out of the two thousand staff members, no one has an office, not even Mark Zuckerberg. Everyone is young and enthusiastic and it's reflected in the culture. So it's very different to other places I've worked, though easily the most enjoyable, and I think you see it in the work we create. Even the work-life balance is great."

Luke says he still draws on the skills and knowledge he gained from his time at uni. "The ads I produce at Facebook and previously at Apple are good examples of some of the knowledge I acquired while studying at Western Sydney University. Minimalist design aesthetics and hierarchy of message is key when working on global brands with mass audiences. I learnt a lot about these theories while studying at Western Sydney University, and apply them in my everyday."

"I used to see simple advertising and always thought it was under-designed and not very creative, though now I understand that reduced, clean and simple advertising and design is sometimes the hardest to create, and the most effective".

For most students, working at a global company like Facebook is the dream job. Reflecting on his career, still in its infancy, Luke nominates passion and dedication as key traits for young professionals looking to make their mark. "Working for a range of agencies and companies in Australia and America has taught me how to embrace every brief you're given, no matter how small or ordinary it may first appear," he says.

"I try to complete every job I receive with complete passion, to make the most of every situation and opportunity, as you never know where it will lead. A lot of people don't give their all if they disagree with the direction or the size of the project, but that kind of attitude only means you miss out on opportunities to impress".
"Being positive and working hard is the best way to thrive in the industry, and in life," says Luke.

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GradLife Mentors

Introducing GradLife Mentors, a new online and social e-mentoring platform for Alumni. From studying in Sydney's West to building your networks all over the world, mentoring is a great way to increase your connections globally and enhance your career-driven experiences.


  • Share your expertise and experience
  • Help shape the next generation of leaders within your industry
  • Recruit new talent or interns


  • Learn from professional leaders
  • Gain valuable insight and experience within your industry
  • Build your professional network globally

To register your interest in becoming a mentor or mentee, please email

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