As most of you would be aware by now, the National Australia Day Council has named Ita Buttrose AO OBE Australian of the Year 2013, making her only the 12th woman to receive the nation’s top honour.
An Australian publishing icon and trail blazer for working women everywhere, in more recent years Ita Buttrose has used her considerable media experience and high public profile to champion social and health issues, in particular those affecting older Australians.
Ita Buttrose was born in Sydney’s Potts Point and attended Dover Heights Home Science High School and Sacred Heart Convent School in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. She began her career as a 15 year old copy girl at The Australian Women’s Weekly and quickly became a cadet journalist on the women’s section at the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph. At just 23 she was appointed women’s editor of these two newspapers and, in 1971, created Cleo magazine for Sir Frank and Kerry Packer. It was an instant hit, becoming the top selling monthly women’s magazine and propelling Ita to national celebrity status.
Three years later she was appointed editor of The Women’s Weekly. In 1980 she became the first woman editor of an Australian metropolitan newspaper – the Murdoch owned Daily Telegraph and later the Sunday Telegraph. She was also the first woman appointed to the News Limited Board in 1981.
Since 2011 she has been National President of Alzheimer’s Australia and is also Vice President Emeritus of Arthritis Australia. She has been Patron of Macular Degeneration Foundation since 2005. Now aged 71, Ita also uses her national profile to raise awareness of breast cancer, HIV/AIDS and prostate cancer.
In addition to her many professional achievements, Ita Buttrose raised two children, Kate Macdonald and Ben Macdonald, who were in the audience to see their mother honoured at the Australian of the Year Awards in Canberra on Friday, 25 January 2013.
Speaking with Alex Sloan from ABC Radio on Friday, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Ita Buttrose was a very deserving recipient.
“The work she’s doing now for awareness of diseases like Alzheimer’s is absolutely fantastic,” said Ms Gillard.
“We’ve been working with Ita – and absolutely in a good dialogue about the things that she wants to see done – and I can understand her analysis about the burden of disease as we age. So we’re going to keep working with her during the course of this year and I don’t think she’s going to be backwards about coming forwards on what she’s thinking is the right thing to do.”
Also honoured at the Australian of the Year 2013 ceremony were Senior Australian of the Year 2013 Emeritus Professor Ian Maddocks AM, Young Australian of the Year 2013 Akram Azimi, and Australia’s Local Hero 2013 Shane Phillips (the three gentlemen are pictured below with Ita Buttrose).