This information is readily available, but not in a way you can read it through without clicking this way and that.
Something that amazes me is that in all four lists, there’s not a single ‘A lister’ or ‘elite’ sports person.
Let me repeat that: not one single celebrity.
What on earth has happened to the National Australia Day Council? Have they for some reason become the last bastion of those who will not heed the instructions of their political ‘betters’?
If so, good on them, and may their shadows never grow less.
Note: In compiling this list, I seem to have hit WordPress’s word limit – so you will have to search Australia’s Local Heroes all by yourselves. Meanwhile, stand by to be impressed:
Australian of the Year
Australian Capital Territory – David Morrison AO
Few would expect a tough-as-nails Chief of Army to be recognised internationally for his commitment to gender equality, diversity and inclusion. But when former Lieutenant-General David Morrison ordered misbehaving troops to ‘get out’ if they couldn’t accept women as equals, his video went viral and he started a cultural shift that has changed Australia’s armed forces forever. Since then, the number of women joining the army has grown by two per cent and the culture is more accepting of racial, ethnic and sexual diversity. In 2014, David was invited to speak at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, sharing the stage with US Secretary of State John Kerry and actor and activist Angelina Jolie, and arguing that militaries that exclude women ‘do nothing to distinguish the soldier from the brute’. David retired in 2015 after 36 years in the Australian Army, and four years as its Chief, but he continues his commitment as a champion of human rights in his new role as the Chair of the Diversity Council Australia.
New South Wales – Elizabeth Broderick
Social change innovator
It takes a special person to bring together captains of industry, governments and Defence Force chiefs to address gender inequality. But that’s exactly what Elizabeth Broderick has done. As Sex Discrimination Commissioner from 2007 to 2015, Elizabeth was tireless in her determination to break down the structural and social barriers preventing women from reaching their potential. A key advocate for Australia’s national paid parental leave scheme, Elizabeth fought for changes to regulations to increase the number of women at decision-making level and also to elevate the voices of women in marginalised communities. She established the globally recognised Male Champions of Change strategy, enlisting a ‘who’s who’ of powerful businessmen to tackle gender inequality in the workplace and her Review into the Treatment of Women in the Australian Defence Force led to sweeping cultural reforms. Elizabeth is an adviser to the United Nations, the World Bank and NATO and is a powerful and influential voice in the struggle for gender equality enlisting both women and men as agents of change.
Northern Territory – Will MacGregor
Having experienced severe drug and alcohol problems in his youth, Will MacGregor understands the challenges facing many young people in the Northern Territory. After getting help for his addictions – and remaining sober for more than three decades – Will wanted to help others. Following consultation with Aboriginal elders and community leaders from across the Territory, Will started taking young people into the bush for days at a time to help them dry out and detox. After several years of operating from the back of a 4WD, Will gained funding in 2009 and BushMob was born. Now a 20-bed facility with 28 staff, BushMob takes marginalised young people ‘out bush’ to build their self-esteem and respect for each other. The participants tackle problems like alcohol and drug abuse, violence and suicide and can remain in the program for up to two months. Will is focused on natural healing, cultural respect and empowerment to help young people make positive choices and rebuild their lives.
Queensland – Catherine McGregor AM
A Group Captain in the RAAF and former Lieutenant Colonel in the Army seeing operational service in East Timor three times, Catherine McGregor announced that she was changing her gender in 2012, moving from Malcolm to Catherine. Since then, Catherine has told the stories of thousands of hidden transgender Australians through her own lived experience, speaking at forums such as the National Press Club in Canberra and at capital city writers’ festivals. Her story as a leader for the transgender community has been documented in the Australian Women’s Weekly and national newspapers and she’s featured in the ABC’s Australian Story. A well-known cricket commentator, author and political columnist, Catherine’s remarkably brave journey has not been without its challenges but it has brought her great personal contentment and inspired others to be true to themselves. With large stocks of courage, eloquence and confronting candour, Catherine has become a leading figure in the transgender community and as a result Australians have gained a greater understanding and acceptance of the transgender community.
South Australia – Dr John Greenwood AM
Looking after 450 acute burns patients each year might seem like a full time job, but Dr John Greenwood has set his sights on excellent and affordable burn care for every patient around the world. A plastic surgeon and Medical Director of the Adult Burn Centre at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, John cares for all adults sustaining burn injury in South Australia, Northern Territory, western New South Wales and western Victoria – an area covering some 2.4 million square kilometres. John runs state-wide education services, heads the nation’s only mobile burn response unit for burn injuries in disaster scenarios and he was dispatched to Darwin in the aftermath of the 2002 Bali bombings. Since 2003, John has been developing a suite of innovative burn care and skin substitute products based on a biodegradable polyurethane platform that replace the skin graft. John’s selfless service to burn patients is improving survival rates and making life better for people around the world.
Tasmania – Jane Hutchinson
A committed conservationist, Jane Hutchinson was one of a handful of volunteers who started the Tasmanian Land Conservancy (TLC) in 2001. Since then, TLC has grown from a $50 bank account to a $30 million organisation which protects 65,000 hectares of habitat for threatened flora and fauna. Jane has steered TLC from a humble not-for-profit to a highly-regarded organisation acknowledged for its important and innovative conservation work. Jane has devoted countless hours to her cause. While practicing law, Jane helped establish TLC’s constitutional and financial frameworks in her spare time. She sat on the TLC Board for five years, including three years as President, before stepping into the role of Chief Executive Officer in 2011. Jane’s persistence has paid off and she now leads science-driven conservation projects which safeguard the habitat of threatened species, including the Tasmanian devil, wedge-tailed eagle and Clarence Galaxias native fish. Under Jane’s watchful eye, TLC now protects more than two per cent of Tasmania’s private land.
Victoria – Julian McMahon
Barrister and human rights advocate
A human rights advocate and fierce opponent of the death penalty, barrister Julian McMahon has a personal and passionate commitment to represent Australians in capital punishment cases abroad. Admitted to the Victorian Bar in 1998, for more than 13 years Julian has worked without payment for Australians facing the death penalty. Julian’s clients include Van Tuong Nguyen in Singapore, George Forbes in Sudan and members of the Bali Nine, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. In the months leading up to the executions of Chan and Sukumaran in April 2015, the overwhelming demands of their case required Julian and other lawyers on the case to make many personal sacrifices and, in Julian’s case, to exclude all other work. Instead, he remained wholly focused on his clients. Julian is on the board of Jesuit Social Services and is now President of Reprieve Australia. Articulate and measured, with longstanding community involvement, Julian speaks publicly about the death penalty and justice issues.
Western Australia – Anne Carey
A nurse, midwife and medical warrior, Anne Carey has spent her life helping others – even when it has been at great personal risk. Anne has provided health care for remote communities in hospitals and clinics across Papua New Guinea, Northern Territory and Western Australian. As an Australian Red Cross aid worker in some of the world’s hotspots including Sudan, Kenya and most recently Sierra Leone, Anne leaves an impact on everyone she meets. During her time in Sudan, Anne and her colleagues came under attack, but while others left, they courageously stayed put to help the local residents. In Sierra Leone, she spent three assignments battling on the frontline against the deadly Ebola virus and was amongst the first volunteers to assist. Every day, she was taped into a personal protection suit, and while she may have looked inhuman in her all-white sterilised suit, thick rubber gloves and perspex goggles, Anne extended humanity with a simple touch and professional care that helped people understand they were not alone. Despite the death, fear and despair felt during the Ebola outbreak, Anne was a beacon of hope and continues the desperate fight to save the lives of people most in need.
Senior Australian of the Year
Australian Capital Territory – Professor Greg Tegart AM FTSE
Scientist and technology advocate
At 86 years of age, Professor Greg Tegart is a leading advocate for smart assistive technologies that give aged and disabled people independence and a better quality of life. Greg’s distinguished career spans research in metallurgy and materials, and high level executive and policy positions in industry, the CSIRO and the federal government. The extent of Greg’s contribution to Australian science and technology policy over four decades is substantial. He led Australia’s initial participation in climate change assessment through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and was recognised for his contribution to the awarding of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to the IPCC. He has been a leader in studies linking technology to the future of society. In recent years, Greg’s world-leading work to promote smart assistive technologies for aged and disability care has enabled many Australians to lead more empowered and independent lives. Greg provides a real-world example of the contribution that older people can make to the Australian community.
New South Wales – Professor Gordian Fulde
From midnight to dawn, while most people are in bed, Professor Gordian Fulde is presiding over one of Australia’s busiest emergency departments. The Director of Emergency at St Vincent’s Hospital and Sydney Hospital for more than three decades, Gordian is the longest serving emergency department director in Australia. The doctor on call when disaster strikes, Gordian has seen it all and is passionately outspoken about the scourge of ‘ice’ and alcohol-fuelled violence which delivers a flood of people into Australian hospitals each weekend. While you will occasionally see him appear on Kings Cross ER, Gordian is also actively involved in teaching and training students and staff in many facets of emergency medicine. A member of the Board of the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation, Gordian also supports many schools and community organisations, sharing his stories of working in an urban warzone, and warning of the dangers of a binge drinking culture, which is overwhelmingly the main cause of injury in Australia’s emergency departments.
Northern Territory – Bob Shewring
Twenty five Australian soldiers killed in the Vietnam War never returned home to Australia. Vietnam veteran, Bob Shewring has spent years lobbying governments to bring home the bodies of these soldiers buried overseas after they were killed in the line of duty. Bob established Operation “Bring Them Home” in 2014 and spent countless hours researching war history and legislation. He garnered more than 40,000 signatures through an online petition before the Australian Government announced in May 2015 it would repatriate the bodies from cemeteries in Malaysia and Singapore back home to Australia, providing the next of kin’s agree. Until February 1966, the government required soldiers’ families to pay for their bodies to be repatriated back to Australia. For Bob, this campaign is personal. Twenty five of the 521 Australians killed in the Vietnam War didn’t make it home and Bob’s mate Reg Hillier is one of them. Bob is determined to see these soldiers finally welcomed home, receive full military honours at “one of the biggest ramp ceremonies in Australia’s history” and to right a terrible wrong from the Vietnam War.
Queensland – Tim Fairfax AC
One of the country’s most successful businessmen, Tim Fairfax is also one of the most generous. With pastoral interests in Queensland and New South Wales, Tim is passionate about supporting rural, remote and regional communities. The founder of the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, Tim has gifted more than $16 million since 2008 to community-based arts, music and sporting projects in regional Australia. Tim also chairs the board of the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation, named after his father, which has donated more than $100 million. A keen supporter of The Ekka, Tim is also Chancellor of the Queensland University of Technology and promotes higher educational opportunities, particularly to students in struggling rural communities. A founding benefactor of the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, Tim is one of its largest donors. Sitting on numerous boards and trusts for the arts, Tim is a keen collector and donor of art and is making an extraordinary philanthropic contribution to Australia’s arts community.
South Australia – Monica Oliphant AO
An inspiring advocate for science and sustainability, Monica Oliphant has influenced the future of energy consumption around the world. Starting out as a laser physicist, she is now recognised internationally as a pioneer in the use of solar photovoltaics and renewable energy. Monica has devoted her long career – much in her own time and without financial reward – to the promotion of renewable energy both in Australia and overseas. As a senior research scientist with the Electricity Trust of South Australia for two decades, Monica undertook research into renewable energy, with her work enabling grid-connected solar and wind power. Globally-recognised as a leader in her field, Monica has shared her knowledge at conferences in many countries and her work has facilitated development of clean energy policies around the world. Volunteering her time on boards and energy associations culminated in the presidency of the International Solar Energy Society. Monica has maintained a lifelong commitment to improving all people’s access, particularly those of lower socio-economic status, to environmentally and economically sustainable energy.
Tasmania – Professor Ian Allison AO AAM
A pioneer of Australia’s glaciological research program since the 1960s, Professor Ian Allison is acclaimed internationally as a glaciologist, making a significant contribution to climate science. An outstanding contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports on Climate Change, Ian has worked tirelessly to synthesise global research results. He spent many years with the Australian Antarctic Division, ultimately leading the Ice, Oceans, Atmosphere and Climate program. As co-chair of the International Polar Year in 2007-08, Ian drove a coordinated, intense period of observational research activity in the Polar Regions. Ian’s enduring contribution to Antarctic affairs and the Antarctic community has been recognised with awards and accolades, such as the naming of Allison Glacier on Heard Island. Ian’s legacy also includes the work of the many PhD students he has supervised who have, themselves, made significant contributions to science. Ian’s community-mindedness and willingness to push ahead with fresh ideas has helped Australia build an internationally-respected scientific community.
Victoria – Jack Charles
Indigenous elder and role model
One of the nation’s most respected and enduring actors, Jack Charles is a member of Australia’s stolen generation. Removed from his mother as a baby and raised in a Salvation Army boys’ home, Jack knew nothing of his Indigenous heritage as a child. At 19 he began a career as an actor, but his life was plagued by personal demons. His addiction to heroin and a life of crime saw him jailed. Despite his struggles, he co-founded Australia’s first Indigenous theatre group, Nindethana, meaning ‘place of corroboree’, at Melbourne’s Pram Factory in 1971. His first play, Jack Charles is Up and Fighting, was a runaway hit. Jack has appeared in several movies, including the landmark film, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, and more recently Pan alongside Hugh Jackman. He has also toured his own one-man stage show locally and internationally. Now calm and centred, Jack is a strong role model for a new generation of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
Western Australia – Graham Edwards AM
While serving in Vietnam in 1970, Graham Edwards was hit by an exploding mine. Both his legs had to be amputated, but he never let his disability get the better of him. Returning to civilian life, he battled the aftershocks of war and fought discrimination before moving into public affairs and politics. Spending 14 years of service in the WA Legislative Council, including as a senior minister and nine years in the federal parliament, Graham actively contributed to defence, disability services and veterans’ policy. While juggling his parliamentary responsibilities, Graham devoted many hours to his twin passions: the Paralympic movement and veterans’ rights. Today, as State President of the Returned & Services League of Australia, Graham oversees a membership base of 10,000 people, sits by bedsides, lobbies government for funding and organises large events to commemorate the sacrifice made by many, particularly for the 2015 Centenary of Gallipoli. A board member of the Australian War Memorial, Graham is ensuring that the nation’s war heroes gain the recognition they deserve.
Young Australian of the Year
Australian Capital Territory – Nipuni Wijewickrema
A young woman trying to change the world “one flower at a time”, Nipuni Wijewickrema runs a floristry business designed to create employment opportunities for people with special needs. Nip, as she is affectionately known, first established GG’s Florist with her family to ensure her 16 year old younger sister Gayana would have fulfilling work after graduating from high school. Gayana, who has was born with Down syndrome, is now famous around Canberra for her floral deliveries that always come with a big hug. From a backyard garden shed, Nip has shown other local organisations how to create safe working environments for people with disabilities. As well as working full-time and managing the family floristry business, Nip is a volunteer counsellor with Lifeline and contributes regularly to community initiatives, assisting many young people through her work with the ACT Youth Advisory Council. Passionate, dedicated, driven and incredibly sleep deprived, Nip has developed a socially sustainable business model which is changing the way Canberrans think about inclusion.
New South Wales – Melissa Abu-Gazaleh
Young men’s health advocate
Tired of seeing young men painted as constant liabilities to the community, Melissa Abu-Gazaleh established the youth-led Top Blokes Foundation when she was just 19. As Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Melissa is helping Australia combat anti-social and risk-taking behaviours among young men and busting many negative stereotypes along the way. Reaching thousands of 14 to 24 year old males each year, the Top Blokes Foundation fosters young men’s social inclusion, resilience and mental health, while empowering them to contribute to their community through volunteering. Melissa’s social education program the Junior Top Blokes Mentoring Program, for example, challenge boys to address issues like alcohol, drugs, mental health, anger, masculinity and pornography. What started off as a project within her local community has now provided Melissa with a national platform to improve and advocate for young men’s health in Australia. Melissa is a seasoned public speaker, sits on boards and committees and manages a team of 14 people who are passionate about young men’s health empowering them to be agents of change.
Northern Territory – Benjamin Masters
Musician and impresario
The drive of this young Darwin drummer is making opportunities for up-and-coming performers in the Top End. Benjamin Masters is passionately engaged in his local music scene, performing, mentoring and supporting local talent. Ben’s all-ages, drug and alcohol free music gigs have grown in size and create opportunities for Darwin bands to play to a big crowd. The driving force behind the Terrorfest music festival, Ben coordinates an event which attracts a line-up of more than 10 bands and receives a rapturous response from the crowd. Ben’s heavy metal band, I, The Burden, has won awards, produced EPs and music videos and toured nationally. A drumming tutor for high school musicians and mentor for MusicNT, Ben also established his own booking agency to give beginner bands a shot at jumping on stage with some of their national idols. A shining example of a young leader, Ben is using his passion for music to help others and strengthen his community.
Queensland – Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett
Best mates, Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett built a free mobile laundry in their old van to help the homeless. Orange Sky Laundry began in September 2014 and since then, the world first idea has rapidly expanded to five vans in Brisbane, Melbourne, South East Victoria, Sydney and the Gold Coast. Run by over 270 volunteers, the custom fitted vans with two commercial washing machines and two dryers, service over 36 locations and wash over 350 loads each week. A catalyst for bringing people of all walks of life together, Orange Sky facilitates countless hours of conversations each week. In February 2015, they took their mobile laundry to North Queensland to wash clothes in cyclone effected communities. Nic and Lucas have found a way to treat others the way they want to be treated by restoring respect, raising health standards and reducing the strain on resources. They now plan to expand services Australia-wide with the aim of positively connecting the community and improving the lives of others.
South Australia – Arman Abrahimzadeh
Domestic violence campaigner
Domestic violence was a normal part of childhood for Arman Abrahimzadeh and his sisters. The Adelaide siblings lived in fear of their domineering father, who, in 2010, would eventually murder their mother Zahra in front of 300 people on a dance floor at the Adelaide Convention Centre. Arman and his sister were left to parent their 12 year old sister and continue their mother’s battles in court. A gentle young man, Arman vowed to never follow his father’s footsteps into a cycle of abuse. Now a White Ribbon Ambassador, Arman works with various organisations to support victims and raise awareness. A passionate advocate for better legislation to protect women and children, Arman speaks to schools, sporting clubs and police cadet training. In 2015, he established the Zahra Foundation Australia to assist women in crisis and empower them with education and financial independency. While his life has been scarred, Arman is reaching out to help the half a million Australian women experiencing domestic violence each year.
Tasmania – Zac Lockhart
Mental health advocate
At just 16, Zac Lockhart became one of the 26,000 young Australians who are homeless, after circumstances at home forced him into a youth shelter. Determined to promote a positive message and reduce the stigma attached to homelessness, Zac has become an ambassador for homeless youth in Tasmania. With homelessness and mental health often deeply connected, Zac has since stepped up efforts to help people experiencing mental illness. Zac’s film, The Flourish A-B-C of Mental Health, shares successful strategies that support good mental health, and encourages people to ‘act, belong and commit’. Studying full-time, working a casual job, establishing his own video production business while living in supported accommodation, Zac inspires everyone he meets with his passion, bravery and generosity in sharing his own lived experience of mental illness. Zac is shining a light on the mental health challenges faced by one in four Australians, while working hard to achieve his own personal goal of having a home and family of his own.
Victoria – Robert Gillies
Social enterprise founder
Undertaking three university degrees simultaneously, leading an orchestra and playing for a number of sporting clubs would leave most people exhausted. But not Robert Gillies. He’s also found the time to devote himself to social enterprises that make a difference to some of our most vulnerable citizens. When he’s not studying for his Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery, his Masters’ in Public Health or Diploma in Philosophy, Robert can be found helping those experiencing homelessness. A Co-Founder of Homeless of Melbourne, Robert is determined to change negative attitudes towards homelessness through his charity clothing store ‘HoMie’. As Executive-Director of Yarra Swim Co, Robert is reviving the historic ‘Race to Princes Bridge’ and leading the push for a swimmable Yarra River. He’s worked as an HIV researcher and served on the board of directors for charities preventing poverty overseas and in remote Indigenous communities. Enthusiastic and determined, Robert is a role model for all young Australians wanting to make the world a better place.
Western Australia – Catherine Hughes
After her youngest child Riley died from whooping cough, Catherine Hughes became an ardent campaigner for vaccination. One month old Riley was too young to be immunised against the deadly respiratory bacteria, also known as pertussis. Rather than allow her grief to overwhelm her, Catherine has channelled her energy into immunisation awareness. Within days of Riley’s death, she established the “Light for Riley” Facebook page which now reaches more than 70,000 people. As a direct result of Riley’s death, every State and Territory in Australia has implemented free booster shots for pregnant women to provide the best defence against whooping cough in newborn babies. With no thought of reward, Catherine has met with politicians, attended parenting expos, raised over $70,000 for whooping cough research, instigated a viral campaign for the donation of over 45,000 vaccines to UNICEF and shared her story to ensure no other family has to live without their child due to a preventable disease.