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Three Bondies honoured in Pride of Australia medal tally

Three of Bond University’s former Communications students have been honoured in the Queensland Pride of Australia Medals for 2014, with two now eligible for the national award, being announced next month.

Former Paralympic swimmer and ’01 alumna Karni Liddell received the Courage Medal and Nicole Gibson was awarded the Inspiration Medal, while Communications and International Relations graduate Ashleigh Peplow Ball was a finalist in the Young Leader category.

As Queensland Pride of Australia medallists, Karni and Nicole are now both in the running for the national awards, being announced at the Pride of Australia National Medal Ceremony in Sydney on Thursday, 11 December.

Now in their tenth year, the Pride of Australia Medal recognises community leaders, campaigners, caregivers, volunteers, teachers and everyday Australians whose extraordinary actions set them apart. Finalists in each State are chosen from nominations received from the general public, with the winners in each of the ten categories going on to compete in the national awards.

Class of 2001 graduate Karni Liddell was born with a degenerative muscle wasting disease known as Spinal Muscular Atrophy and wasn’t expected to walk, sit up or live past her teenage years. She managed to defy the odds, breaking her first world record in the pool at the age of 14 and going on to captain the Australian swim team at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games as the fastest woman in the world for all her events.

Since graduating from Bond University, Karni has continued her mission to put ‘ability’ back in ‘disability’. In her diverse professional career, she is a regular presenter on 612 ABC radio and an accomplished motivational speaker who received a standing ovation for her thought-provoking talk at TEDx South Brisbane earlier this year which challenged the concept of wanting a ‘healthy baby’.

As a disability campaigner, she serves as Ambassador for Sophie Delezio’s Day of Difference Foundation, the Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association,, is the Queensland National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) champion and has worked for numerous similar organisations, raising over $1 million for the various charities she supports.

Fellow Communications Bondy Nicole Gibson also overcame personal challenges after battling anorexia as a teenager. At 18 years of age, she established the Rogue and Rouge Foundation to raise awareness of mental health issues and the negative body images affecting young men and women around Australia.

She now presents workshops and talks to school groups nationwide, visiting more than 250 schools as part of her national youth motivation tour, ‘Champions for Change’.

In 2012, she received the Gold Coast City Council’s Youth Achievement Award, was named Gold Coast Youth Citizen of the Year and was selected as one of Australia’s Young Social Pioneers. The following year, she was named Gold Coast Youth Volunteer of the Year and was a finalist for the Queensland Young Australian of the Year – all while she was studying at Bond University.

More recently, Nicole was appointed as a National Mental Health Commissioner.

’10 alumna Ashleigh Peplow Ball founded Aid for AIDS Week at Bond University, raising more than $15,000 for local and international HIV/AIDS foundations.

After graduating from Bond in December last year, she became the first Australian to be awarded a Global Advocate Fellowship by American-based NGO Mama Hope which provides leadership programs for international aid workers.

Having raised $20,000 for her chosen project in Uganda, Ashleigh is currently setting up a community centre in the small rural village of Bundondo which will provide an on-going source of income to support a health centre for the village.

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