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Former Burnet Institute Chair, Mr Alastair Lucas has been appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours for his outstanding contribution to medical research and international health, animal welfare, philanthropy and the business community.
Mr Lucas is widely recognised both in Australia and internationally for his tireless commitment to health and medical research, as Chair of Burnet Institute, as founding Chairman of the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Action Group, as a board member of Research Australia, and as founder and Chair of Cell Care Australia.
His dedication and passion for improving the health of poor and vulnerable populations was underlined by his long-term commitment as Chair of Burnet Institute (2002-2014) and board member since 1998. Diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer in September 2014, Mr Lucas is currently undergoing treatment.
Burnet Director and CEO Professor Brendan Crabb AC said Mr Lucas’ contribution, not only to Burnet but Australian public life, had been exemplary and the AO honour richly deserved.
“Alastair helped steer Burnet through many challenges over the 12 years of his tenure as Chair and also set a great example as a major donor,” Professor Crabb said.
“Through his strategic advice and financial acumen, Burnet has established a global reputation for excellence across research and public health activities. Alastair’s exemplary leadership throughout the health and medical research sector has saved and improved the lives of many people.”
Acting Burnet Chair Mr Robert Milne said Mr Lucas combined rare business acumen with compassion and a keen understanding of what could be achieved.
“As Chair of Burnet, Alastair complemented his vision with passion and an ability to cut through, to make things happen. We can never thank Alastair enough for his amazing contribution,” Mr Milne said.
Mr Lucas has also been a generous supporter of Burnet’s international work, contributing AUD$600,000 from his own foundation to start the Institute’s Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies program. The philanthropically funded research program aims to improve maternal and newborn mortality outcomes in Papua New Guinea.
During his Chairmanship he encouraged Burnet’s expansion into Asia and the Pacific, in particular Myanmar and China, where he was instrumental in helping to attract investment to develop low-cost point-of-care tests enabling simple and effective diagnosis of HIV, hepatitis A and syphilis. His financial support for the development of major projects and events also enhanced Burnet’s community profile, and helped establish new revenue streams.
In recent years, Mr Lucas developed further his philanthropic involvement in animal welfare, providing critical funding for a campaign to save the white rhinoceros from extinction and for the establishment of the world’s only sanctuary for the bonobo, an endangered great ape, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He founded ‘Australia for Dolphins’ in 2012, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the protection of small cetaceans, and was an active supporter of the Lort Smith Animal Hospital and Animals Australia.
Previously, he spent more than two decades at Macquarie Bank, distinguishing himself as one of Australia’s most experienced corporate advisors, culminating in his appointment as Chairman, Investment Banking. In 2004 he was appointed Chairman of Investment Banking at Goldman Sachs Australia. He also served for a decade from 2004 as a member of the Federal Government’s Takeovers Panel.
In June 2011, Mr Lucas was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia (AM).