The John Studdy Award

MS Australia’s annual John Studdy Award recognises outstanding, consistent, and selfless meritorious service of 10 or more years, by someone making or who has made a tangible difference to the benefit of people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) and/or their families or carers. 

First awarded in 1999, the award is named for the late John Studdy (former Chairman of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society of Australia, the forerunner of MS Australia), a tireless advocate for the MS community in Australia, who was dedicated to advancing the wellbeing of people living with MS and the search for a cure.

This award is for individuals who, like John Studdy, have made a significant contribution to the MS movement in Australia.

Ms Rachel Kerr


The 2023 award recipient is Ms Rachel Kerr for her commitment, dedication and service to people living with MS in the Queensland community.

The 2023 award recipient is Ms Rachel Kerr for her commitment, dedication and service to people living with MS in the Queensland community.

Rachel was diagnosed with MS in 2006 at just 17 years of age, at a time when there was little support for people living with MS in regional Queensland.  

Since her diagnosis, Rachel has contributed tirelessly to the Queensland community, advocating for the rights and wellbeing of regional people living with MS. She has led numerous fundraising initiatives, ensuring vital services reach the MS community in remote areas of Central Queensland. Beyond fundraising, Rachel has been a relentless advocate for raising awareness of MS in young people, igniting conversations and dismantling stigmas surrounding the condition. 

Rachel has been an active ambassador for MS Queensland, fundraiser and advocate for people living with MS for over 13 years, featuring in countless local radio and TV interviews, speaking at numerous fundraising events and acting as a keynote speaker at education and awareness information sessions where she shares her story to support various MS awareness campaigns. Ms Kerr has a passion for volunteering, particularly throughout the Queensland community. 

MS Australia President, Associate Professor Des Graham, says Ms Kerr has improved the lives of countless people living with MS. 

“Rachel’s passion and tireless dedication serves as an inspiration to us all and it’s my very great honour, on behalf of the Board of MS Australia, to name Rachel as the recipient of the 2023 John Studdy Award. Rachel is hard working, humble and dedicated in her work which has resulted in making a remarkable difference for many people living with MS and giving a voice to regional communities across Queensland,” Associate Professor Graham said. 

Mr Shaun Treacy, Chair of MS Queensland and MS Australia Board Member, congratulated Ms Kerr, noting that there are many worthy Australians working to find a cure for MS.

“Rachel is a fine example of a hardworking, humble and dedicated person whose work has resulted in making a remarkable difference for many people living with MS and she has given a voice to regional communities across Queensland,” Mr Treacy said. 

Award recipient Ms Kerr said, “Living with MS has taught me resilience and has given me strength to help others in communities across Queensland. Volunteering has enabled me to turn my MS into an asset, and I am very humbled to accept this award and to be recognised by one’s peers.” 

The John Studdy Award was presented to Ms Kerr in a private event at MS Queensland’s Brisbane office on 23 April 2024.

Related link: Award for providing a voice to people living with MS in the Queensland community

Previous Winners

Diagnosed with MS in 1993, Mr Nigel Caswell has contributed tirelessly to the Victorian community and nationally in various volunteer roles. With passion and dedication, Nigel has improved the lives of many people living with MS via his personal and group support, community education, advocacy and awareness raising. As one of MS Australia’s founding National MS Advocates, Nigel has played a vital role in ensuring that on the national stage, the voices of those living with MS, and their concerns and issues are heard by decision makers. Upon receipt of his Award, Nigel said, “volunteering is incredibly rewarding and helping others helps me to cope with having MS. Volunteering has enabled me to turn my MS, which some might see merely as a burden, into an asset, and to be recognised by one’s peers is the best reward possible.”

Charlie Bennett has dedicated his life to supporting people with MS, fundraising to find a cure, and caring for his wife Jenny, a fellow MS Queensland Ambassador, who lives with the disease. Charlie cycles and captains ‘Team Jenny’ to raise awareness and vital funds for MS (since 2013, over $250,000), for research, care and support services. Charlie educates politicians and others about MS and says, “I choose to get involved because since becoming Jenny’s carer and making new friends with others in the MS community, I have seen how devastating this disease can be for people of all ages. It is a disease for life until a cure is found, a daily fight. They deserve better.” 

In his teen years, George Pampacosmother was diagnosed with MS. Seeing her live with MS for the past 30 years and her daily battles has made George want to help to improve the lives of people with MS and use his skills to find a cure. As Chair of MSWA, the organisation enjoyed accelerated growth and success in revenue, client service hours, premises, and funds for MS research. George was also instrumental in preparing MSWA for the NDIS, generating new income streams and constitutional changes to expand services. He has represented people with MS in Western Australia through media and public speaking while MSWA President and as the son of a mother and with friends living with MS. As Vice President of MS Australia, George provides expert strategic advice as a skills-based Director.  

Ian Pennell AM has dedicated his working life to ensuring support and services to people living with MS continues to grow across Australia. He volunteered with many MS organisations for 20+ years with subsequent positions in the MS space. Ian was MS Australia Board Director, the organisation’s Vice President and President from 2015 until 2017. Ian ensured that MS Australia MS Member Organisation MS Limited took the appropriate strategic direction when the NDIS began. He understood that some might not qualify and ensured MS Limited continued to offer services of most benefit for those living with MS. Ian has made a notable contribution to the MS cause. 

Professor Michael Pender has dedicated his working life to finding the cause of MS and seeking an effective treatment and research, particularly into progressive forms. He is consultant neurologist at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (where he established an MS Clinic) and Professor of Medicine at The University of Queensland. In 2003 he proposed his theory that MS is caused by an accumulation of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-infected cells in the brain, leading (in 2015) to a world first clinical trial of EBV-specific T cell therapy in MS, showing the treatment is safe and may be beneficial in stopping progression.

Ros Harman

Diagnosed with MS at 26, Ros Harman is a former schoolteacher and HR and Training Manager. Ros pioneered a parents’ support group and is a role model for people with MS and women. As an MSWA Board member since 2004, Ros represents MSWA in all forms of electronic media and is an active ambassador within political circles. Ros is Vice President and Chair of Member (Client) Services Committee and the Chair of the Research Committee. Her past roles within MSWA have also included Editor of the MS Bulletin magazine and Director roles that included Fundraising. A regular public speaker, Ros promotes the involvement and participation of people with disabilities.

Dr Mary Webb

Mary Webb was diagnosed with MS over 20 years ago. She has been involved with her local MS society and the wider MS community for 16 years in many volunteer capacities. Mary has been a National Advocate for MS Australia since 2004 and has always shared her knowledge and experience with others affected by MS. A member of the Steering Committee of the Australian Multiple Sclerosis Longitudinal Study, Mary has a background in biological research and science education and works as a freelance editor. She feels strongly about educating people about MS, and closely follows the progress of MS research.

In the late 1990s whilst collecting blood samples for genetics studies, Dr Rex Simmons noticed that many people with MS had quality of life issues that could potentially benefit from further research. In 2000 he developed the landmark Australian MS Longitudinal Study (AMSLS), to improve the lives of Australians living with MS. A testament to Dr Simmons’ foresight and passion for the cause, it remains a legacy of his work. Dr Simmons maintains a relationship with the MS organisation in the ACT, who, for many years, filled envelopes with questionnaires for the AMSLS in working bees supported by cake and community.

Dr Therese Burke was recognised for her passion and commitment to MS nursing and research work. Her MS research interests include scientific (biomarkers, genetics, pharmaceutical), clinical (fatigue, depression, quality of life, compliance, medication efficacy, pregnancy), nursing (fatigue, patient comprehension, diagnosis, nurse education) and neurologist-initiated research, also clinical drug trials. Dr Burke is President of the International Board for certifying MS Nurses, was President of Multiple Sclerosis Nurses Australasia and a member of the Australian MS Longitudinal Study Steering Committee. In 2016, Dr Burke received the June Halper Award for Excellence in MS Nursing awarded in Washington by the International Organisation of MS Nurses.

Lina Marrocco was recognised for her work as Chair of Charityworks for MS and dedication to research funding. Founded in 2002 after Lina’s MS diagnosis, Charityworks for MS has raised over $1 million to support people living with MS, through funding vital research projects at Australian MS laboratories and long-term care and respite support services. Lina said, “I am humbled to receive the John Studdy Award and am honoured to be in the company of previous winners including Carol Cooke, Simon McKeon and Carol and Roy Langford – some of my MS heroes.”

Founding members of fundraising group Foundation 5 Million, Mike and Katrina Hemingway were recognized for their contribution to MS research. With Mike diagnosed with MS 10 years prior, the couple was determined to help find a cure. Foundation 5 Million has already raised more than $5 million. This remarkable effort is helping to strengthen the research sector and raising awareness through fundraising events and initiatives. In 2014, the couple joined 20 fellow fundraisers and walked more than 300km across England, raising over $200,000 for MS research in their ‘Coast2Coast Walk’ event.

Fundraisers Carol Langsford (OAM) and Roy Langsford (OAM), founders of the Trish MS Research Foundation, were awarded in recognition of their years of service and ongoing contribution to MS research. Carol and Roy have helped to strengthen the MS research sector in Australia through their grassroots charity the Trish Foundation, formed in memory of their daughter Trish who died from MS in 2002. Since that time, they have raised nearly $3 million for MS research through a variety of events and initiatives.

Diagnosed with MS in 1993, Andrew White has actively contributed to the MS community ever since. Through his work and personal experience with MS, he has become the ‘go to’ person for the newly diagnosed, for support, assistance, and encouragement. Andrew has been a Patron of Multiple Sclerosis Limited since 2003 and has always shown leadership and commitment to people affected by MS, despite his own disease progression. As Chair of the Multiple Sclerosis Advisory Council, Andrew is committed to ensuring people affected by MS, including those in remote or rural settings, have an opportunity to engage with the Council.

Prof Bill Carroll has served on the Western Australian Board of the MS Society (MSWA) as Chair of the Medical and Research advisory Committee since 1996. He is one of Australia’s most eminent neurologists and is a global expert and advocate for people with MS. Prof Carroll was instrumental in setting up the Pan-Asian Committee on Treatment and Research of Multiple Sclerosis (PACTRIMS). He joined the Board of MS Australia in 2000 and amongst other duties, was Chairman of the Medical Research Advisory Board. Prof Carroll was significant in promoting the idea and helping to subsequently establish MS Research Australia, the research arm of MS Australia.

Simon McKeon established and developed MS Research Australia, the research arm of MS Australia. Simon was elected to the Board of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Victoria in 2001 and soon after, accepted a position on the Board of MS Australia and oversaw the National MS Research Foundation (the predecessor to MS Research Australia). From 2004 as the foundation Chairman, Simon firstly developed the MS Research Australia Board, and then (following the appointment of the Executive Director in 2004) guided the organisation, with the appropriate resources and focus, to ensure MS research was a priority for the MS community.

Carol Cooke AM

In 2001 and to help others living with MS, Carol Cooke created the 24-Hour Mega Swim. Her concept was to use volunteers to reduce costs and have pool fees waived, donated prizes and food stations manned around the clock. Over $1.4 million has been raised for people with MS through “Go for Gold” Scholarships (annual) and financial assistance programs. The former is for those with a “dream” to follow in education, travel, employment, the arts, sport or exercise courses with over 200 scholarships awarded. An active MS Ambassador, Carol promotes MS Australia‘s work and speaks publicly about her MS journey.

David Barnes

David Barnes was appointed to the Board of The MS Society of Western Australia in 1994. Under David’s stewardship, the WA Society expanded its revenue base significantly and increased its member (client) services. In 1996 David was appointed Vice President and in 2000, accepted the President’s role. David also sat on the (WA Government) Disability Services Commission’s Strategic Planning Committee. For this and other work for people with MS, David received an award from the WA Minister for Disabilities in 2007. Under David’s term as President, The MS Society of Western Australia has grown from strength to strength.

Zona Tripp established the Dr Jeffrey Tripp Committee in 1977 to raise funds for the MS Society, following the amazing support provided to Zona and her husband, the late Dr Jeffrey Tripp after his MS diagnosis. In 1988, Zona helped provide funding for a hydrotherapy pool at the MS Studdy Centre Lidcombe, NSW, named after her late husband. Zona’s current fundraising focus is to provide appropriate accommodation for young people with MS, who would otherwise reside in aged care nursing homes. In this her 80th year, Zona celebrates 30 years of outstanding and tireless fundraising efforts for people with MS.

Dr Sedal is a consultant neurologist, specialist in MS, who has devoted his professional life first to the care of his patients, also to educating medical students, health professional and colleges, and undertaking clinical MS research. Dr Sedal graduated in Medicine from Melbourne University in 1967 and trained in Neurology at the National Hospital London. He presents at key MS meetings and writes papers and book chapters on MS. Dr Sedal promotes the MS organisation at every opportunity and provides advice and assistance to staff. He is highly regarded globally for his work in advancing the knowledge of MS.

David Conry, is the Director and Chairman of Youngcare. Youngcare started because of sadness and anger towards the lack of services for young people needing high level care. Youngcare’s drive and that of many other lobby groups has been challenging, yet with tremendous results. David brings to Youngcare and MS, a deep understanding of the cause through his personal experience. David has a strong business and marketing background and has engaged support from national media and the entertainment industry.

For 30 years from 1974, Mr Michael Stewart OAM was actively involved in an honorary capacity with the Multiple Sclerosis Society of South Australia and Northern Territory. Mr Stewart’s leadership and innovation were at the forefront of the Society’s development. From humble beginnings in 1964, the Society today has an annual budget of $5million, employs 85 staff and is highly regarded within the health care environment in SA and the NT.

Graham Tribe was recognised for his 36 years of distinguished service to Australians with MS and to MS research. He was President of MS Australia, Board President of the New South Wales MS Society and an MSL Board Member. Graham was on the Board of Directors of MS Research Australia, formed in 2004 by MS Australia under his leadership. Graham’s dedication and energy as a volunteer, his leadership, professionalism, experience, and availability to advance the MS cause, places him in the highest category of those who have supported people affected by MS and fostered MS research.

Jim was elected to the Board of Multiple Sclerosis of NSW in 1991, serving with enormous distinction and has a formidable record as a fundraiser. He was diagnosed with MS at 31. He has always been a champion of the ordinary person with MS, thus ensuring that Board decisions were always linked to the reality of coping with MS. Jim is acknowledged as a highly accomplished harmonica player which has taken him around the world.

When awarded, Ann was serving on the Boards of the QLD MS Society and MS Australia. Former President of PwMS and formerly Chairman of PwMS QLD, for many years Ann produced the PwMS monthly magazine, Forum. She was the founding editor of MS Life. Ann volunteers for many organisations focused on disability and housing issues and works tirelessly to improve living conditions for those with MS and other disabilities.

Elizabeth has been president of the NSW Council of people with MS and has served on the Board of the New South Wales MS Society. She was also the founding editor of the first quarterly newsletter published for people with MS, MagScene. She has served the community with great enthusiasm and professionalism and always in a voluntary capacity.

In 1962, Renee Thonard AM (then Scantelbury) with her first husband Richard, who had MS, formed a group which became the Multiple Sclerosis Society of South Australia. She was later instrumental in starting a Medical Advisory Board to the Society, then a Welfare Committee – to aid MS clients. A ‘Ladies Auxiliary’ was formed to raise funds. Her home was the Society’s first office. She continued as Honorary Secretary of the Society for the next 29 years. In 1999 she received a Member of the Order of Australia in recognition of her community work, in particular for persons with MS.

In 1956, Yvonne Smith, a person with MS, and her husband Allan started an MS auxiliary. Since then, she has raised more than $250,000. The Smiths established the MS Society of Victoria, where Yvonne has been a member of the Board.

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John Studdy Award