We hear from Old Sydneians making their mark at home and abroad.


Marcus Dahl (OS 2013)

Rhodes Scholar, University of Oxford Oxford, UK

Sometimes in life you get called up to do something a bit bigger, and in those moments, it can be good to say yes.

I came to Oxford for a Bachelor of Civil Law degree in October 2020 as a Rhodes Scholar. As it happened, my course went online, I contracted COVID-19, and the city went into half a year of second-wave lockdowns. When things opened up in 2021, I discovered that, as a healthy young person, I was eligible to participate in the world’s first human challenge trial for COVID-19 reinfection. I signed up immediately.

After several screening procedures, I entered three weeks’ isolation in a Hospital Quarantine Unit at Oxford Churchill Hospital. I was deliberately given a dose of live SARSCoV-2, and my immune system response was studied in detail. The researchers hoped to better understand the virus and help prepare improved treatments and vaccines.

I committed the compensation money (almost £5,000 across 12 months of follow-ups) to UNICEF for its delivery of the COVAX-scheme global vaccine facility. While in hospital, I ran a fundraiser for global vaccine equity and raised over £21,000 ($40,000 AUD). As a young human rights lawyer, I was grateful to be able to help highlight the pandemic’s deep global health inequities.

If you have had access to free COVID-19 vaccination, I encourage you to consider donating to UNICEF too, and help fund the delivery of COVAX for others who are equally deserving.

I am now beginning my PhD in Socio-Legal Studies at Oxford, and hope to be back in Australia getting stuck into law reform.

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Alexander YAO (OS 2018)

Clifford Chance law firm, Paris, France

After finishing the second year of my undergraduate degree at the University of Cambridge, I spent the summer interning at a pan-European organisation, the European Forum for Urban Security, based in Paris. It was riveting to work so closely with the EU and national governments to develop strategies to safeguard European metropolises.

However, it was the second half of 2021 which would mark me profoundly, as I studied Economics and International Relations at the Saint Petersburg State University. Whilst in Russia, I had the incredible opportunity to travel around, including across Siberia by train. I am still in touch with the friends I met at university, and while the sights did not ever fail to bedazzle, it is these deep, personal bonds for which I am most grateful.

I have since returned to Paris, where I am working at the London-based international law firm, Clifford Chance. French has become my predominant language in everyday life, and I am fortunate to use it as the primary language of work within a legal context.

The friends and professors whom I have met and the encounters which I have made at the University of Cambridge have also opened up an entirely new world of exciting adventures which have been so fulfilling and invigorating. Going on runs along the River Cam with friends, rowing, debating for the Cambridge Union, and being elected by peers as Freshers’ Representative have all been an integral part of my time at the University.

I count myself extremely fortunate to have had a wide range of transformative experiences since leaving Australia, and to have seen so much which I could never have expected.

Ben Lusthaus (OS 2004)

Film Executive, Netflix, Los Angeles, USA

Grammar was a fantastic outlet for me as a young kid interested in making movies. I got my start filming the School’s weekend sports games and editing them into fiveminute movies that were regularly screened in assemblies. I would often hear reviews from friends in the playground afterwards, which gave me the confidence to make more.

After graduating from Grammar, I took a quick detour from movies to study commerce at UNSW and work at Westpac. But it wasn’t long before I returned to my passion and I decided to move to New York to start working in film. I feel lucky that one of my first jobs was as a production assistant on the Oscarnominated film Black Swan.

A couple of years later, I moved to Los Angeles to complete a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Southern California. This opened up a fantastic network in LA and led to opportunities at 20th Century Fox and Pascal Pictures. While working at Pascal Pictures, I found the screenplay for The Post, which drew the interest of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. I’ve since moved over to Netflix, where I’m an executive in the team that oversees the development and production of big budget films released on the platform globally.

As I look back at my time at Grammar, I feel lucky that I received not only a well-rounded education, but also incredible support from the masters, the boys, and the AV department, who all encouraged me to pursue a passion that has now become a career.

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Warwick Stacey (OS 1970)

Crisis management, Sydney, Australia

Joining Cadets to get a slouch hat and rifle was my primary objective at Grammar. At our first lesson I was more interested in the Bren gun than instructions about spit-and-polish. When I paraded with dull boots and brasses and unstarched, un-ironed Greens there was a lot of shouting (at me) and a lot of running and pushups (by me). I discovered I did not like Cadets.

At 21, my interest in languages took me to the French Riviera, and while in Corsica I considered joining the French Foreign Legion. A year later, I was a British Army recruit in Aldershot, at Depot the Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces. I discovered I did like soldiering and qualified as a paratrooper. After training at Sandhurst I was commissioned into the Parachute Regiment and later served a three-year tour with the 22nd Special Air Service Regiment.

On leaving the British Army I worked in the Middle East on military projects. SAS experience was essential, but my languages – fluent French and basic Arabic and Farsi – guaranteed interesting tasks. I also studied German and qualified as a simultaneous interpreter. After four years’ contract soldiering, my first commercial opportunity, despite having no business experience, was with an Australian company in Germany – because I spoke German.

For thirty years my work has been crisis management. This includes advising families and companies around the world about negotiating successful resolutions to kidnaps, extortion, maritime piracy and related life-threatening crises. My reasonably good Spanish improved when dealing with Latin American kidnaps. Languages afforded me unique career opportunities.

In 2020, COVID-19 travel restrictions and attacks on Western Civilisation led me to study Liberal Arts at Campion College: The British Army trained me to defend the West; Campion College is training me to defend Western Culture.

James Stevens (OS 1982)

Mr Roses, Sydney, Australia

After leaving school, I wanted to go into finance and real estate, or a hybrid of the two, but I fell into the running of my father’s business. It was a small chain of non-branded flower shops on railway stations around Sydney. Whilst doing this, I studied a Bachelor of Commerce at UNSW in Accounting and Finance.

I soon realised how tough it was managing my father’s business and retail in general, with inventory control, dealing with highly skilled labour, and State Rail as a landlord. I recognised that most of our sales were via phone on a credit card, so I jumped at the idea of having a store on the internet and rebranding. In 1995 Roses Only, one of the first online flower businesses, was born. I subsequently created Fruit Only, Hampers Only and Wine Only etc and we were the first in my industry to advertise on Google and Paypal. However, after two decades, the Australian part of the business was sold. Despite this, I am still trying to grow the Roses Only brand in the USA, UK, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Now I am back in business in Australia, delivering the world’s finest roses, under my new brand Mr Roses, to most parts of Australia. I am determined to keep innovating as much as possible, and I am very grateful for meeting amazing people like the late Michael Crouch, who founded the Centre for Innovation at UNSW.

Finally, I have continued my involvement at UNSW as an advisory council member for the School of Business. I am also closely involved in two online gifting brands, Bockers and Pony, and Snowgoose, as well as several charities.

However, nothing matters more than my family!

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George Photios (OS 2007)

Digital consulting Sydney, Australia

Lambros Photios (OS 2010)

Software development

I studied Engineering and Commerce at UNSW and my brother George studied Science and Business at UTS. After doing some software consulting work part-time, I then worked with financial institutions, insurance companies and governments before establishing Station Five, a software development company, in my final years of university. In 2017, Station Five became an ‘Australian Financial Review Fast Starter’, and now employs over eighty staff across five office locations.

In 2012, George established a digital consultancy firm G Squared, which specialised in interpreting the unique requirements of a business and tailoring data driven digital solutions. It now employs over sixty staff and works with universities, government, and institutional clients.

Our interest in humanitarian issues converged and we saw that we could work together. In October 2020, our companies won a tender with the World Food Programme (WFP) to monitor conflict sensitivity in Mindanao, Philippines. The WFP later asked us to execute the same program in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, the world’s largest refugee camp. Last year we were awarded a global tender for eight years’ work to provide conflict sensitivity analysis in Somalia.

In all of these efforts, my company Station Five is responsible for software engineering, data science, and machine learning efforts, while George’s G Squared handles the human-centred design process, including user interviews, stakeholder workshops, and user interface design. Despite George and me operating vastly different businesses, it’s been humbling to work alongside my older brother on a project with such a positive societal impact.