State and Territory award announcements are now complete and recipients are listed below. These recipients are now finalists in the national awards. Recipients of Australian of the Year 2009, Senior Australian of the Year 2009, Young Australian of the Year 2009 and Australia’s Local Hero 2009 will be announced on Sunday 25 January 2009 in Canberra.
AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR
NSW – Glenn McGrath AM
Glenn McGrath (pictured with his late wife Jane) is one of Australia’s most loved cricketing legends. Since first wearing the baggy green cap in Perth in 1993, he has gone on to become the most prolific fast bowler in test cricket history, spearheading Australia’s bowling attack for over a decade. Professionally he has always demonstrated an unerring will to succeed, but off the field it is the way he has handled personal struggles that has gained him admiration. Glenn’s wife, Jane, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997, cancer of the hip six years later and had a brain tumour removed in early 2006. Together they established the McGrath Foundation, with an aim to provide funding for breast care nurses on a national basis and provide greater public awareness of breast cancer, particularly amongst younger women. The McGrath Foundation is now a major fundraiser for and supporter of people with breast cancer. In June this year Jane lost her 11-year battle with cancer, leaving Glenn to care for their two children. Throughout it all Glenn has shown enormous strength and dignity, setting an inspirational example.
ACT – Professor Michael Dodson AM
Professor Michael Dodson is widely recognised as a proud, courageous and humble Aboriginal leader who has spent his adult life trying to explain to people why and how they can help his people. A Yawuru man from the Broome area, the contribution he has made to improving the lives of indigenous Australians is inestimable. He has pursued justice and reconciliation through a process of education, awareness and inclusive dialogue with all Australians. Mick’s official roles tell only a small part of the story of what he does. He has served in a variety of challenging and highly sensitive roles at community level, with governments, the United Nations and in academia. In addition he has always actively mentored, nurtured and promoted young Aboriginal leaders, and encouraged respect between people of all cultures. He has described himself as a ‘persistent bugger’ and is uncompromising in arguing for justice and good sense. He champions the successes of the Indigenous community but also expects accountability for failures. He doesn’t shy away from difficult questions or issues. As Co-Chair of Reconciliation Australia, Mick’s dream is to achieve reconciliation in this country, and a better future for his people. An outstanding Australian, Mick represents integrity, wisdom and compassion.
NT – Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu is from the Gumatj nation in North-East Arnhem Land. Blind since birth, he is a gifted musician who has the unique talent of playing right-handed strung guitars left-handed. A former member of Yothu Yindi and a long-time member of the Saltwater Band, his debut solo album, Gurrumul, was released to critical acclaim. Hailed as one of the greatest musicians Australia has ever produced, Geoffrey sings in a mixture of local language and English. He performs in an almost classical setting with just an acoustic guitar, grand piano and double bass accompanying him. As a deeply traditional man, his songs focus on his spiritual connection with the land, his love of country, and the importance of his ancestors. Named male artist of the year at the 2007 Northern Territory Indigenous Music awards and awarded two arias at the ARIA Awards 2008, he has been acclaimed for his performance on the world stage in New York, Los Angeles and London. Geoffrey has also performed for the Queen and the Pope and supported Elton John on his recent Australian tour. He is an example of triumph over adversity, and of extraordinary talent.
SA – Ivan Copley
Ivan is a committed man of Aboriginal descent from the Peramangk people, the Kaurna people of the Adelaide plains and the Minang people of Western Australia. He has devoted his life to trying to achieve reconciliation and better outcomes for Indigenous Australians. As founder and Chair of the Campbelltown Council Reconciliation Committee he has achieved excellent results, including the signing of a Statement of Reconciliation by the Mayor, CEO of the Council and himself. Through his work with Rotary he established the first clean drinking water purifier in the Aboriginal community of Leigh Creek, having raised the funds for it himself. Whilst at the Australian Bureau of Statistics he arranged for second-hand computers to be installed in Aboriginal communities without computer access. Recently he established an Aboriginal Funeral Fund to assist family members to travel to funerals. He raises money for the Fund through sales of merchandise in his spare time. These are just a few of the many ways in which Ivan is putting his heart and soul into bettering his community. He has been described as a ‘bridge for all peoples.’
TAS – Peter Cundall AM
Peter Cundall has been gardening since he was a small child and has a love of the environment. Born in Manchester, he taught himself paving techniques mainly using second-hand materials wheeled from derelict buildings in an old pram. He also learned pruning techniques, propagation and heated greenhouse management, and helped feed his family with the development of a highly productive vegetable garden. After leaving the Australian Army in 1956, he began his own business designing and constructing gardens in Tasmania. In 1967, he began one of the world’s first gardening talkback programs on a Launceston radio station and two years later he began a career in television with a program which after several name and format changes became Gardening Australia, one of the longest running, most iconic shows in Australia. Peter has also played a major role in creating the Organic Gardening and Farming Society and has written extensively on gardening, including producing the first gardening book printed on washable plastic paper for outdoor use, Year Round Gardening. He remains actively involved with environmental, peace and child protection movements. Peter is a well-known and much-loved figure in Australian gardening who is respected for his sincere and open-hearted manner.
VIC – Dr Berhan Ahmed
At the age of 15, Berhan Ahmed became a refugee from Eritrea. He was fortunate to be awarded a scholarship to study in Egypt and, in 1987, came to Australia as a refugee with little English. He began working as a tram conductor to learn about Australian society and practice English. From these humble beginnings he has gone on to complete his PhD in Agricultural Science and is now a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne. He has been instrumental in building bridges between the African and wider Australian communities, forging relationships with politicians, community, business leaders and philanthrophic organisations. He encourages people to focus on the things that unite us as human beings, not the superficial differences. He initiated and implemented a number of projects for Melbourne’s African community to raise the standard of living, educational engagement and achievement, level of employment, and integration. He has personally supported many newly-arrived refugees, and is always there to offer guidance and a helping hand through the difficult process of arriving in a new country after traumatic experience. His core philosophy is that every individual deserves a fair go and a chance to make a better life. He actively encourages young people in shaping their own futures with a confidence that comes from a sense of pride in their identity.
WA – Dr Penny Flett
Dr Penny Flett has had a long involvement in geriatric medicine, and has become a champion for people of all ages who require a high level of ongoing support. She is the Chief Executive Officer of Brightwater Care Group, which provides a wide range of services for elderly and young disabled people. In 1974, she became the first woman doctor, and the first woman in peacetime to serve in the RAAF. Over the years she has contributed to and lead many aged, disability and business related boards and associations, and currently chairs the WA Aged Care Advisory Council, which provides advice to the West Australian Government on health and related aged care services. In this role she oversaw the development of the State Aged Care Plan, the first ever blueprint to guide the evolution of health and care services for the elderly. Dr Flett was awarded the Centenary Medal in 2003 for services to the aged and people with disabilities. She has worked tirelessly to dispel stereotypes of old age, and shift deep-seated cultural attitudes. Dr Flett’s goal is for the community to revalue older people, and respect their wisdom and experience. She is leading the way in enhancing the lives of older Australians.
QLD – Bronwyn Sheehan
When Bronwyn Sheehan realised that foster children were not being given the same opportunities in life as other children she decided to do something about it. Statistics show that only eight per cent of foster children achieve average literacy levels by age seven and 75 per cent do not finish school. Bronwyn developed a simple idea that has had huge benefits. Launched as the Pyjama Foundation in 2004, the organisation focuses on building literacy skills. Volunteers spend an hour a week simply reading with a foster child. They visit the child in their home and follow the child if they move house. They read with them, play games and act as the child’s own angel. The organisation’s motto, ‘every child needs an angel’ underlines Bronwyn’s basic tenet that children’s lives can be improved by helping them to read. The one-on-one focus also makes the child feel special, developing their confidence and self-belief, and providing them with a positive role model. Bronwyn has inspired more than 500 volunteers to give their time every week to a foster child and her program is backed by literacy experts such as author Mem Fox. Bronwyn is making a real difference in the lives of our most vulnerable children.
SENIOR AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR
ACT – Reverend Associate Professor Elizabeth MacKinlay AM – Anglican Priest
NSW – Lorraine Peeters – Stolen Generation Advocate
NT – Bryan & Kathy Massey – Community Supporters
SA – John Halbert MBE – Australian Rules Legend
TAS – Ronnie Burns – Respite Centre Founder
VIC – Pat LaManna OAM – Entrepreneur & Philanthropist
WA – Patrick Dodson – Indigenous Leader
QLD – Jean Illingworth – Revolutionary Principal
YOUNG AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR
ACT – Jack Heath – Young Adult Writer
NSW – Kurt Fearnley OAM – Paralympian
NT – Rachel Meldrum – Talented Scientist
SA – Matthew Cowdrey OAM – Paralympic Swimmer
TAS – Sam Cawthorn – Motivator
VIC – Leigh Mathews – Charity Founder
WA – David Wirrpanda – Indigenous Footballer
QLD – Jonty Bush – Victims Support Worker
AUSTRALIA’S LOCAL HERO
ACT – Tim Gavel – Charitable Sports Commentator
NSW – Dr Jamal Rifi – Cultural Leader
NT – Chowdhury Sadaruddin – Muslim Community Leader
SA – Beverley Langley – Wildlife Rescuer
TAS – John Layton Hodgetts OAM – Band Leader
VIC – Beverley Wall – Town Hero
WA – Graeme Drew – Sea Rescuer & Educator
QLD – Cyril Golding – Philanthropic Businessman
SOURCE: National Australia Day Council