Mary O'Kane

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Mary O'Kane

Born1954 (age 66–67)
Alma mater
OccupationCompany director, engineer, scientist and former academic
Known forAutomatic speech recognition

Mary Josephine O'Kane, AC (born 1954) an Australian scientist and engineer, is the Chair of the Independent Planning Commission of New South Wales (formerly the NSW Planning Assessment Commission). She is also a company director and Executive Chairman of O’Kane Associates, a Sydney-based consulting practice specialising in government reviews and research and innovation advice to governments in Europe, Asia and Australasia.

Background and career[edit]

O'Kane was born in 1954 in Mount Morgan, Queensland, Australia. She was educated in Toowoomba, Queensland. She then studied at the University of Queensland where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science, majoring in mathematics and physics.

She commenced her PhD at the Australian National University and was the recipient of a scholarship that allowed her to complete post-doctoral research at the University of Turin. She received her PhD in 1982.[1]

O'Kane returned to Australia, where she worked at the NSW Institute of Technology. She received a Lectureship appointment in Artificial Intelligence and Theory of Computation at the Canberra College of Advanced Education, and was Dean of the Faculty of Information Sciences and Engineering at the University of Canberra from 1989 to 1993. She moved to the University of Adelaide in 1994, serving as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) and Professor of Electrical and later as Vice-Chancellor and President from 1996 to 2001.[2]

She is a Fellow of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering and of the Royal Society of New South Wales and an Honorary Fellow of Engineers Australia.[3][4]

O’Kane established her own consulting practice that has completed work for government and private sector clients.[5] The company completed reviews of the Co-operative Research Centres and the Bureau of Meteorology.

In 2008, O'Kane was appointed by then NSW Premier Nathan Rees as the state’s first Chief Scientist & Engineer. Her work included conducting an independent review of coal seam gas related activities, focussing on human health and environmental impacts. Reports of the review's findings were published in 2013 and 2014.[6]

She examined at the request of government, the state’s energy security,[7] the decline of koala populations,[8] rail coal dust emissions,[9] and road tunnel air quality.[10] In 2018, after almost 10 years in the role, O’Kane resigned to become Chair of the Independent Planning Commission of NSW (formerly the NSW Planning Assessment Commission).[11]


O’Kane won the 2017 Erna Hamburger Prize. The Prize is awarded by the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland to leading women scientists.[12]

Also in 2017, O’Kane received the Peter Nicol Russell Memorial Medal – the most distinguished engineering prize in Australia.[13]

O'Kane was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia, Australia’s highest civilian honour, in the 2016 Australia Day Honours for "eminent service to science and engineering, as a contributor to national policy development and governance, to the promotion of technology research and future energy supply, to higher education, and as a role model for young scientists".[14]

That same year O’Kane received UNSW Sydney’s inaugural Ada Lovelace Medal for her contribution to Australia … through numerous and diverse roles over the past 30 years.[15]

In 2014, O'Kane was awarded the Pearcey Medal to honour her contribution to the development and growth of the ICT professions, research and industry.


  1. ^ Melbourne, The University of. "O'Kane, Mary Josephine - Woman - The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia". Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  2. ^ Melbourne, The University of. "O'Kane, Mary Josephine - Woman - The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia". Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  3. ^ "Independent Planning Commission - Commission Members". Archived from the original on 5 March 2018. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  4. ^ "Fellows of the Royal Society of New South Wales". Royal Society of New South Wales. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  5. ^ "Home - Okane Associates - problem analysis and issue identification, particularly in crisis situations, innovative, practical and sensible solutions". Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  6. ^ "Independent Review of Coal Seam Gas Activities in New South Wales - NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer". Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  7. ^ "NSW Energy Security Taskforce - NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer". Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  8. ^ "Independent Review into the Decline of Koala Populations in Key Areas of NSW - NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer". Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  9. ^ "Independent Review of Rail Coal Dust Emissions Management Practices in the NSW Coal Chain - NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer". Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  10. ^ "Advisory Committee on Tunnel Air Quality - NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer". Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  11. ^ "PROFESSOR MARY O'KANE APPOINTED CHAIR OF PLANNING ASSESSMENT COMMISSION | Anthony Roberts - Member for Lane Cove". Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  12. ^ "EPFL WISH Foundation-Women in Science and Humanities". EPFL WISH Foundation-Women in Science and Humanities. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  13. ^ "Peter Nicol Russell Memorial Medal | Engineers Australia Awards". Engineers Australia. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  14. ^ "Australia Day honours 2016: Mary O'Kane recognised for contribution to science and engineering". The Sydney Morning Herald. 24 January 2016. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  15. ^ z3509982 (19 August 2016). "Mary O'Kane receives inaugural Ada Lovelace Medal". UNSW Newsroom. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Gavin Brown
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide
Succeeded by
Cliff Blake