Source: Fairfax Media


PhD Candidate Sophie Murphy was awarded the St Michael's Medallion for her act of kindness and compassion when she used her teaching expertise to help land a plane.

It was 10pm on a Sunday and 180 tired, grumpy strangers were snapping at each other. The plane was not able to land in Melbourne because a 14-year-old boy with Down Syndrome was feeling unwell and lying in the aisle.

As the plane circled the city at night, running out of fuel, a cabin announcement called for help from a  teacher, specifically a special-needs teacher.

Responding to the pilot’s call out for a special needs teacher, Sophie demonstrated her expert skills and sensitivity to help the teenage boy. 

“I found the boy, Shamran, on the floor at the back of the plane. He was genuinely ill, scared and unable to move. I knew it was important to develop a relationship with him, by using the right tone and language.”

Sophie’s willingness to respond to a difficult, and potentially life-threatening situation and her ability to help put the boy at ease and back into his seat, highlights the power of teachers, and the important skills of trust, problem-solving and quick action. 

“On the plane, I got down on the floor in the aisle with Shamran. If he was going to move, I needed to introduce myself, find out his name, connect, let him speak, listen to him, see what the problem was, and not panic him or be punitive. I knew I needed to lock onto his eyes and show empathy. I learnt his favourite books, not as an ice breaker or an introduction, but to construct a real relationship, however brief.”


Sophie Murphy

Sophie Murphy

“Relationships and the power of voice have always been passions of mine. I have been a teacher for more than two decades, with experience co-ordinating special-needs programs. I moved to the University of Melbourne in 2015 to complete a PhD with a focus on the use of language, the power of our questioning as teachers, and what effective language looks like in the classroom.”

For the last 20 years the St Michael’s Medallion has been awarded annually to two people whose distinguished work reflects the causes of St Michael’s – practicing compassion through education and educating the importance of compassion.




Edited version of the University of Melbourne's media release

Dr Croucher will study at the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr Croucher will study at the University of California, Berkeley.

Last year Dr Gwilym Croucher began his post-doctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley (UC) as a new Fulbright scholar.

The scholarships support Australian recipients for professional development in the United States and promote cultural and educational exchange between nations.

Dr Croucher is a senior lecturer in the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education and Principal Policy Adviser at the University of Melbourne’s Chancellery.

He is based at the Center for Studies in Higher Education at UC and examines how universities and governments can best ensure ongoing support for research in the era of the growing politicisation of science.

“University-based research efforts are crucial to solving global challenges, from climate change to improving human health,” Dr Croucher says.

“The Fulbright is a chance to work with colleagues in California on pressing questions of how research universities in Australia and the US can continue to thrive when faced with emerging challenges of resourcing and legitimacy.”

Professor Susan Elliott, then Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International) and Deputy Provost, said the awarding of a Fulbright Scholarship to Dr Croucher underlines the University of Melbourne’s world-class reputation for research and teaching.

“Fulbright Scholarships support outstanding graduates and recognise the potential international impact of their research aspirations,” Professor Elliott said.