Postscript: At 7pm on 25th January 2014 the Australia Day Council announced Adam Goodes has been awarded Australian of the Year 2014.
Former winners include Ita Buttrose (2013), Geoffrey Rush (2012), Simon McKeon (2011) and Professor Patrick McGorry (2010). But can you pick who will be the 2014 Australian of the Year?
This year, there are three women and five men, one from each state and territory. While most of them are not household names, all are equally deserving of the honour of joining the nation’s most exclusively club.
Here are the eight nominees and their inspirational stories.
Dr Zsuzsoka Kecskes (ACT)
Dr Zsuzsoka Kecskes pioneered the development of the international award-winning ‘Neonatal Intensive Care Unit CAM (NICUCAM)’ project – a web-based service which enables parents and families to watch their babies when they are unable to be at hospital. Zsuzsoka was already an influential academic and practitioner when she embarked on a four year project to design and develop a world-class Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Canberra’s new Centenary Hospital for Women and Children. Zsuzsoka has been recognised for her work into perinatal asphyxia and her research continues to inform best-practice treatment of newborn babies in Australia and around the world.
Shellie Morris (NT)
One of Australia’s finest Indigenous singer-songwriters, Shellie Morris, uses music as a healing and sharing experience. A feature singer with the ‘Black Arm Band’, Shellie has worked in more than 80 remote and urban Indigenous communities, delivering music workshops and as an ambassador for the ‘Fred Hollows Foundation’. She has performed with singers from Brazilian legend Gilberto Gil to John Cale, Sinead O’Connor and Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu.
Dr Felicity-ann Lewis (SA)
Dr Felicity-ann Lewis has worked tirelessly to further reconciliation in Australia and to support the settlement process for refugees and migrants. An inspiration to many, Felicity-ann is the long-serving Mayor of Marion and National President of the Australian Local Government Association. Felicity-ann sits on many boards, including the Migrant Resource Centre and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander War Memorial Fundraising Committee. In 2013 she achieved a Doctorate of Education from the University of South Australia and is currently a senior lecturer at Flinders University.
Adam Goodes (NSW)
AFL player and community leader
So much more than a champion Australian Rules football player with the Sydney Swans, Adam Goodes is a role model and advocate for Indigenous youth. He has spent time working with troubled youth, including those in youth detention centres. Together with his cousin and former teammate Michael O’Loughlin, Adam established the ‘Go Foundation’ which empowers the next generation of Indigenous role models in all walks of life.
John Caldwell (VIC)
John Caldwell was raised in caravan parks by parents whose lives were an endless cycle of dysfunction and despair. John was bullied at school for being poor and being gay, he was abused by foster parents and was present when his father committed suicide. But John rose above it all to become the Chief Executive Officer of RWR Group, a group of recruitment agencies with 16 offices globally. Today, John commits a huge portion of his life to his work as a youth and anti-bullying ambassador.
Li Cunxin (QLD)
Born into extreme poverty in rural China, Li Cunxin defected to the West in 1981. While in London he met and fell in love with Australian-born ballerina, Mary McKendry and in 1995 moved to Australia to become Principal Artist with The Australian Ballet. Li’s award-winning autobiography, ‘Mao’s Last Dancer’, is an international bestseller which became a blockbuster film in 2009. Today, Li is Artistic Director of the Queensland Ballet, a motivational speaker and mentor.
Professor Bruce Robinson AM (WA)
A world leader in the study of asbestos related cancers, Professor Bruce Robinson’s work will continue to positively affect millions of people for decades to come. After establishing medical clinics focused on patients’ emotional and physical needs, Bruce initiated the highly successful ‘Breaking Bad News’ course to help doctors with difficult conversations. Bruce is also a vocal advocate for fathering and directs the ‘Fathering Project’ at the University of Western Australia which aims to connect children with father figures.
Professor Thomas McMeekin AO (TAS)
Acknowledged as one of the world’s leading food microbiologists, Professor Thomas McMeekin pioneered the development of predictive microbiology and established the University of Tasmania as the world leader in predictive modelling of microbial behaviour in foods. The founding father of the world-renowned Food Safety Centre at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture in Hobart, Tom was also involved in the development of a refrigeration index for the meat industry which is now mandated by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service.
For more information about any of the nominees visit the Australian of the Year website at www.australianoftheyear.org.au