Farr, Boreham, Wood, Skellern
win Australia Day honours


news Former IBM Australia leader Glen Boreham, Defence chief information officer Greg Farr, Wotif.com founder Graeme Wood and former NICTA chief David Skellern have all picked up Australia Day honours this week for outstanding service to the nation.

Farr won a Public Service Medal for outstanding public service in leading major reforms ot the strategy and delivery of ICT systems, particularly in the Department of Defence. Farr is one of the most high-profile and highly respected IT executives in the Federal Government, having previously had a long career at the Australian Taxation Office, where for some years he led the agency’s colossal Change Program.

Farr’s complete entry reads:

Mr Farr is the Chief Information Officer in the Department of Defence and he has completely reformed both the strategy and delivery of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) systems across the Department while fundamentally changing the client provider relationship. The reforms he has implemented are key enablers to the Defence Strategic Reform program and underpin many of the initiatives required to deliver revised business processes and savings.

He has provided strategic guidance for the largest transformation of ICT activities ever undertaken in the Department. Mr Farr has managed the development of the ICT remediation strategic plan, improved the management, governance and coordination of internal business processes, and rationalised and consolidated major ICT and support service contracts. He has also implemented a more customer focused strategy at the service and project level, as well as a major cultural change program and a formal professional skilling framework for ICT staff across Defence. In addition, Mr Farr made a major contribution to whole-of-government ICT reform and ensured that Defence is a central player in this area.

Boreham was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for his service to business and the IT sector, as well as professional associations and the arts. From 2006 through 2011, he was the managing director of IBM Australia and New Zealand, an organisation which he recently left after a lengthy career with Big Blue starting from 1986. He has also held a number of positions with other organisations, ranging from the IT sector to the general business sector and Screen Australia and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Boreham also recently took charge of the Federal Government’s Convergence Review.

Graeme Wood, who shot to national fame and incredible wealth with the 2006 listing of his Web 2.0 hotel booking site Wotif.com in 2006, was also appointed a Member of the Order of Australia, for his service to business, particularly the tourism industry, and the through philanthropic support for young people and tertiary education institutions in Queensland. Wood is still an executive director with Wotif.com, but also leads his own foundation and is involved with other philanthropic organisations. He is currently funding new journalistic enterprise, The Global Mail.

The Global Mail will be headed by well-known journalist Monica Attard and has recently unveiled a team of senior journalists who will be reporting on a range of local and global issues through the organisation’s website.

Lastly, David Skellern was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia. Skellern is best known for leading IT research agency National ICT Australia from 2005 through 2011, but he has also been involved in a wealth of other organisations, from academic positions to leading research organisations. He has been particularly active in the engineering space, beginning his career in 1974 at the University of Sydney working on radiotelescopes, and then moving on to academic appointments at the university’s electrical Electrical Engineering department.

Skellern co-founded the Radiata group of companies in the late 1990’s to commercial the results of a wireless networking research project he led at Macquarie University with the Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organisation. In 2001 Radiata was acquired by Cisco for AU$565 million. Skellern won the award for distinguished service to science and engineering as a leading researcher, and to the design and development of world-leading information technology communications applications.

It took me about half an hour of trawling through the Australia Day honours lists to find these awards, and during that process I learnt a bit about what kinds of people usually win them. Usually to win an Australia Day award, you will have contributed strongly to the fields of sporting (there were a lot of these), scientific research, medicine or government (especially, it seems, local government) in Australia. In addition, you will often have contributed to multiple fields, demonstrating strong community spirit.

There were relatively few people who won awards who were from Australia’s technology sector and those that were awarded were almost too obvious not to win an award. For all of NICTA’s failings (and, many people would argue, irrelevance), Skellern has become the face of ICT research in Australia and has contributed an incredible amount to Australia’s technology sector over the years. The man is an institution.

Greg Farr has done so much good for public sector ICT in Australia that he deserves something more than a Public Service Medal … perhaps a sainthood? A glowing halo would sit well on top of Farr’s normally beatific face ;) Graeme Wood has certainly contributed to the economy tremendously through his business endeavours, but has also recently turned his hand to philanthropy.

And, although I personally don’t think people should win awards for being CEOs, Boreham has certainly gone beyond the call of duty in many ways during his career, demonstrating a commitment not only to the furtherance of IBM’s interests in Australia but also the interests of the technology sector in general and its links with Australia’s business and political sectors. You also have to give the guy a deal of cred for his work with arts organisations like Screen Australia — and now he’s applying his skills to other areas of use, such as the Convergence Review.

But what about other members of Australia’s technology community?

I’m thinking here of telco sector luminaries like Simon Hackett and Michael Malone, who have worked tirelessly for better Australian broadband, Pollenizer’s Phil Morle and Mick Liubinskas, who have almost singlehandedly created an Australian IT startup sector, technology journalists Grahame Lynch (Communications Day) and Stuart Corner (iTWire), who have doggedly chronicled the sector for several decades now, and many more.

And if we’re going to give Boreham an award, what about locals who have founded their own IT companies and grown them into significant endeavours? Peter Kazacos comes to mind, or Adrian Di Marco from Technology One, who has proven an endless source of strength for local investment.

I would even argue that private sector IT executives like Suncorp’s Jeff Smith (who was also the CIO of Telstra and involved in startups) and Westpac’s Bob McKinnon (formerly of CommBank, where he got the CommSee program off the ground) should be in contention. All of these IT sector luminaries have done a stack for Australia over the past few decades and probably deserve an Australia Day name check at some point (who knows, some of them might already have one). Recently departed Department of Human Services CIO John Wadeson would be another one, as well as, perhaps, Bob Correll, who recently left the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Canberra-based digital privacy consultant Roger Clarke is another one.

I think the significance of the Australia Day honours can’t be understated. These aren’t industry awards — they’re awards which show Australians’ contributions to wider society. And that’s just the kind of exposure that the nation’s low-profile IT sector needs. Anyway, let’s see what Australia’s IT sector can do to get a few more names in next year ;) And if I missed anyone this year, drop me a line in the comments.

Image credits: Department of Defence, AIIA, Australian Computer Society, IBM


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