Southbank figures honoured with Queen’s Birthday awards

By Brendan Rees

A Southbank-based forensic anthropologist who helped identify the remains of notorious bushranger Ned Kelly is among four outstanding community members to be named in the Queen’s Birthday 2021 Honours list. 

Dr Soren Blau, who heads the identification services at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her decades of service to forensic medicine and to scientific organisations.

Her work has included leading a large team of forensic medical experts involved in the recovery and identification of victims who lost their lives during the devastating 2009 Victorian bushfires.

She also helped families identify missing loved ones in Timor-Leste following the Santa Cruze shooting massacre in 1991 where at least 250 East Timorese pro-independence demonstrators were killed.

But one of Dr Blau’s most intriguing cases was in 2014 when her team along with colleagues from the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team identified the skeletal remains of Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, who was hanged and buried at Old Melbourne Gaol in 1880, before his remains were moved to Pentridge Prison in 1929.

“Each individual [prisoner] had a forensic anthropological analysis and where appropriate, a sample of bone was obtained for DNA analysis,” she said. “The injuries Kelly sustained at the shoot-out [with police at Stringybark Creek in 1878] were part of what contributed to his identification.”

Dr Blau, also an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Forensic Medicine at Monash University, said the news of her award came “right out of the blue” but was humbled to be recognised. 

“The ability to provide an identification to a deceased person, regardless of who they are or how long they have been deceased for, is an important part of my work,” Dr Blau told Southbank News.

“It is a privilege to have the skills to give families, many of whom sadly have to wait for a very long time, some answers about their missing loved ones.”

The honours list also recognised one of Australia’s leading architects, Nonda Katsalidis, who has helped shape two of Southbank’s iconic skyscrapers.

“I feel incredibly honoured to be recognised along with many others who have made significant contributions in our nation,” Mr Katsalidis said after being awarded an AM for his contribution to architecture.

His work has included designing Melbourne’s two tallest buildings, the Eureka Tower and Australia 108, as well as MONA in Hobart. He also designed the Melbourne Terrace, one of the first new apartment buildings in Melbourne’s CBD.

Born in Greece before migrating to Australia when he was a child with his family, Mr Katsalidis studied at The University of Melbourne and co-founded Fender Katsalidis (formerly Nation Fender Katsalidis) in 1996.

In partnership with Karl Fender, he said his firm’s buildings “seek to bring good design outcomes to our cities, communities, and lives, and I am grateful that our progressive architecture is highly valued among design enthusiasts and broader society.”

Academic and Monash University Associate Professor Lynette Clearihan was also awarded an AM for her lifetime service to medicine and medical education. 

Her achievements, roles, and contributions to medicine are comprehensive including being appointed as a fellowship examiner and life member of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

“It was a surprise, I wasn’t expecting it,” Associate Professor Clearihan said of her award.

She is now the associate dean of professionalism (practice standards) at Monash University’s Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, with a focus on supporting students, particularly during the pandemic which saw “the nature of how we delivered our courses change drastically.”

Associate Professor Clearihan was also grateful to have worked as a general practitioner in Mount Evelyn, in Melbourne’s north-east, where she and her husband ran a surgery clinic for 35 years. 

“It was a real privilege because the community trusted you, and it was like a rural environment where you became very much part of that community,” she said.

A further Queen’s Birthday honouree included former AFL sports physician and head doctor of the Australian Olympic team Dr Peter Baquie who received the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his decades of service to sports medicine, which he said has been a “humbling” experience. 

“It’s pretty special. All of us try and do our best and don’t think too much about it,” he told Southbank News. 

You can read more about Peter’s illustrious career in this month’s Southbanker profile. •

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