Veena the 2022 NSW Australian of the Year

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has presented UNSW SMaRT Centre Director, Professor Veena Sahajwalla with the award as the 2022 NSW Australian of the Year.

Premier of NSW Dominic Perrottet presented the award to her last night at a ceremony which was attended by her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of NSW.

Founding Director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) at UNSW Sydney, Veena was recognised for her outstanding work as an internationally recognised materials scientist, engineer and inventor who has revolutionised recycling science and advocated for STEM and sustainability locally, nationally and internationally.

She also heads the new ARC Microrecycling Research Hub and the Australian Government’s new National Environmental Science Program Sustainable Communities and Waste Hub. She is renowned for pioneering the high temperature transformation of waste in the production of a new generation of green materials. 

2022 NSW Australian of the Year © Salty Dingo 2021 BH-2313

“I couldn’t believe I was nominated, let alone win the title of the 2022 NSW Australian of the Year. It is such a privilege to receive this award, and to live, work and have a family in Australia,” Prof. Sahajwalla said.

“This means so much to me and is a reflection on the wonderful people I’ve had around me. I am so passionate about my work and team at the UNSW SMaRT Centre, where we have been pioneering the science of microrecycling and developing new ‘waste to product’ technologies.

“Promoting STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] and greater sustainability continue to be extremely important to me. And as I engage with many people every day, I see these issues are generating a community and industry groundswell that we should embrace to help our society collectively tackle the challenges we face, to improve our environmental, social and economic wellbeing.”

UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Jacobs said: "Veena’s work in using waste as a resource to help us achieve a sustainable future reflects UNSW’s service to society, our quest to find practical solutions and the academic rigour that underpins great advances – knowledge by heart, hand and mind.

"Veena’s work is a great example of our shared aspiration, and a part of what has led to our collective achievement today. I offer my heartfelt congratulations to all in the UNSW community – students, staff, alumni and supporters – who, by sharing a commitment to our vision, share in our global success."

Watch the awards ceremony below, with Veena appearing at 1.08:38 min sec:

UNSW Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Enterprise, Professor Nicholas Fisk congratulated Prof. Sahajwalla: "“Professionally, Veena is renowned internationally as a trailblazer in the field of recycling science, partnering with industry to drive her research through to real-world environmental and economic benefits. Personally, she is a charismatic, visionary tour de force, which underpins this well-deserved accolade."

“Her approach has enabled the transformation of many of the world’s most challenging waste streams ­– like e-waste, automotive waste and batteries – into value-added materials that can be circled back into manufacturing. Her unique microfactory model enables local communities to produce many of the products and materials they need locally, using resources largely derived from waste.”

UNSW Dean of Science Professor Emma Johnston also celebrated Prof. Sahajwalla’s achievement: “This award speaks to how Prof. Sahajwalla’s work is transforming the way we approach one of the greatest global challenges of our time,” Prof. Johnston said. “I’m immensely proud that her pioneering approach to reusing waste and developing green materials has been recognised with this prestigious honour.”

Download photos of Veena and other event photos.

UNSW Sydney announcement.

SMH story.

NSW Australia of the Year © Salty Dingo 2021 CG-9445
NSW Australia of the Year © Salty Dingo 2021 CG-9503