Congratulations to Dr Matthew Nesbitt, Tarah Fantis and Jessica Harkness who have each been awarded the 2020 Val Asche Memorial Prize for Academic Excellence.

The Val Asche Memorial Prize for Academic Excellence is awarded annually to recognise outstanding achievement by students undertaking public health courses. All three students consistently achieved very high grades and are highly regarded by their lecturers.

Dr Matthew Nesbitt - Graduate Diploma in Health Research 

Matthew is a junior doctor who’s passionate about all things global health. Matthew become captivated by the anthropological and cultural aspects of global health through his study with Menzies.

“The GDHR has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me, and I’ve really fallen in love with the challenge of improving people’s wellbeing through context-specific policy and politics. I’ve got a particular passion for improving access to safe surgical and obstetric care in the developing world, and especially in disaster zones and war-afflicted parts of the world. That’s what I want to spend my life doing. Studying with Menzies has been the perfect starting point.”


Tarah Fantis - Graduate Diploma in Public Health

Tarah has worked in nursing since 2010, after graduating from TAFE SA with a Diploma of Nursing. She worked as an endorsed enrolled nurse across both SA and QLD before completing her Bachelor of Nursing with CDU in 2017. She chose to continue her studies after completing her bachelor degree by enrolling in the Graduate Diploma in Public Health with Menzies at CDU.

“Before becoming a nurse, I worked in the fitness industry with a key focus on health promotion in the community. The area of public health intrigued me and the more I studied, the more I realised that this is where I want to spend my nursing career. I am currently on a secondment as a clinical nurse consultant helping to develop a health program in the Public Health Unit combatting COVID-19. My career goal is to coordinate a health promotion program from the establishment to review. I hope that more nurses find their passion for public health because I believe that this is the cornerstone of what we do as nursing professionals.”

Jessica Harkness - Master of Public Health

Jessica has worked in health promotion and public health for the past decade. Originally from Western Australia, she has worked in Canberra, Perth, Gippsland (Victoria) and Adelaide a variety of roles across local, state and federal governments and the not-for-profit sector. Jessica is currently employed as a senior project officer at Wellbeing SA where she works to address risk factors for chronic disease, particularly healthy eating and physical activity.

“Postgraduate study has provided me with a solid understanding of the social determinants of health and the importance of taking action on these to improve the health of our communities,” Jessica says.

“I use the skills and knowledge gained from the Masters of Public Health course to implement, monitor and evaluate evidence-based programs at a state level.”

Jessica is honoured to receive the Val Asche prize and thanks all of her lecturers at Menzies and CDU.