Advance Awards 2020 : Introducing the Education Award Finalists

WATCH > Introducing Professor Justin Wolfers


Described as one of Australia’s most unorthodox and influential academic exports, Professor Justin Wolfers shifts the lens on economic discourse and the stereotype of economics in equal measure. As a contributor to the New York Times and with over 200,000 twitter followers, Justin’s determination to simplify complicated economic ideas crucially counteracts the trend towards echo chambers and fake news. His easy-going nature belies a cutting-edge knowledge of economics and a will to effect institutional reform. His research explores economics and happiness, family life, macroeconomics, and the labour market. 

Justin is a prolific author whose contributions include the recent textbook “Principles of Economics,” and his new podcast “Think Like an Economist”. He has been an editor of The Brookings Papers on Economic Activity and an adviser to the Congressional Budget Office. Having graduated with a Bachelor of Economics with Honours from the University of Sydney, and receiving a PhD in economics at Harvard University, Justin is now a Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Michigan, and a visiting Professor at the University of Sydney. He is currently a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and for the Centre of Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, ANU, and a Research Affiliate for the Centre of Economic Policy Research in London. Among his many accolades, Justin was named in David Leonhardt’s New York Times column as one of 13 young economists representing the future of economics (2007) and by the International Monetary Fund as one of the 25 brightest young economists who are expected to shape the world’s thinking about the global economy in the future (2014).

WATCH > Introducing Professor Karen Thorpe


In her formative years as a young teacher, Karen Thorpe was struck by the stark inequities in children’s early learning opportunities. Connecting early childhood education and care as a mechanism for social equity, Karen’s vast research career has sought to tackle the problem of delivering equitable access to educational experiences in the first five years of life. These years are the most significant in human brain development and the most effective for family and educational interventions to redress disadvantage. Karen was a Foundation Psychologist on the WHO-initiated ALSPAC study that has tracked 14,000 British children from early pregnancy through to the current time. Such contributions have been recognised globally and have founded her large scale, policy-focused studies focused on Australian Early Education and Care. Most recently, through the Covid19 global pandemic, Karen has guided agencies and organisations to assist with early childcare and Indigenous education during the closure of facilities, and advocated for the childcare workforce.

Karen has authored 26 reports for Government and NGOs, served as a panellist on key government reviews of ECE and chairs the Australian ECE reference group. Her work has directly informed policy including: introduction of the Prep year, Queensland (2007) the National early years strategy (2009); Productivity Commission (2014), Workforce Action Plan (2016); Lifting our Game Report (2018);and  State of Early Learning in Australia (2019) In 2013, and again in 2019 Karen was named as among Australia’s 100 Women of Influence for translation of her work into public policy. Following her Masters (UCL) and PhD (Bristol), Karen worked at the Institutes for Child Health (Bristol) & Psychiatry (London) with Professors Jean Golding (OBE) and Professor Sir Michael Rutter (KBE) acquiring outstanding training in Epidemiology and Developmental Science and was awarded a European Science Foundation Fellowship.

WATCH > Introducing Olivia Humphrey


A visionary who democratised access to educational content, Olivia Humphrey founded a new channel for streaming films to members of academic and public libraries, in turn forging a new model to monetise and distribute independent films. Combining years of experience in media rights management and global entertainment with a love for independent film, Olivia founded Kanopy in Australia in 2008. In 2018, Olivia sold the company in a 9-figure USD transaction, securing the platform as one of the great Australian tech success stories. However the success runs deeper than commercialisation. Not only did Olivia build a category-defining technology company on a global scale, she did so from the limited startup infrastructure offered by Perth, while boot-strapping the company herself until 2017, while uprooting her young family to open Kanopy’s head office in San Francisco. By the time Olivia sold the company and stepped down as CEO in November 2019, the team at Kanopy was 60% female and 70% under-represented groups – amongst the highest rates of any companies in San Francisco. Olivia has been acting as a Non-Executive Director until recently and continues to be a proud shareholder.

Kanopy focuses on “thoughtful entertainment”, profiling the best of independent foreign cinema, documentaries, classical cinema, and other genres that expand the mind and the soul. Kanopy enables broad audiences to access stimulating content and pursue lifelong learning through its beautiful, app-rich solution which is distributed through public libraries, universities, and schools around the world. Kanopy grew rapidly and now counts over 5,000 institutions as customers and millions of monthly active users. So much so that the company has built a position from which it now aims to further support the future of a sustainable independent film industry.  Since returning to Perth, Olivia is now the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Curtin University.

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