Australian of the Year: Finalists


Australian of the Year Nominees

Dr Zsuzsoka Kecsekes (ACT)Neonatal specialist

Dr Zsuzsoka Kecsekes has 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.

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She 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.

Adam Goodes (NSW)AFL player and community leader

Champion Australian Rules football player Adam Goodes is proud of his Indigenous heritage, and is actively involved with several Indigenous sport and community programs. 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.  

 

Shellie Morris (NT)Singer-songwriter

One of Australia’s finest Indigenous singer-songwriters, Shellie Morris has performed everywhere from the world’s concert stages to campfires in Australia’s remotest communities. Shellie has worked in more than 80 remote and urban Indigenous communities, delivering music workshops and is an ambassador for the Fred Hollows Foundation. 

 

 

Li Cunxin (QLD)Ballet director

After being awarded one of the first cultural scholarships ever endowed in China to study in America, Li Cunxin, one of China’s foremost ballet dancers, defected to the West where he went on to become one of the best dancers in the world. As the artistic director of the Queensland Ballet, Li is now a motivational speaker and mentor encouraging many ballet dancers with his passion for dance and devotion to artistic excellence. 

 

 

Dr Felicity-ann Lewis (SA)Community leader 

A dedicated, dynamic leader, Dr Felicity-ann Lewis is passionate about creating a better, healthier, more inclusive Australia. She has worked tirelessly to further reconciliation with Aboriginal people, and to support the settlement process for refugees and migrants. 

 

Professor Thomas McMeekin AO (TAS)Food microbiologist

Acknowledged as one of the world’s leading food microbiologists, Professor Thomas McMeekin’s expertise has established new systems of improving food safety around the world.  Tom pioneered the development of predictive microbiology and established the University of Tasmania as the world leader in predictive modelling of microbial behaviour in foods.

 

 

John Caldwell (VIC)Anti-bullying advocate

John commits a huge portion of his life to his work as a youth and anti-bullying ambassador representing many organisations focused on keeping young people safe. He has donated the entire profits from his autobiography Full Throttle, which details his personal hardships as a child, towards one of his organisation’s projects, Angels Goal, and has funded the charity’s public relations campaigns. 

 

Professor Bruce Robinson AM (WA)Cancer researcher

A world leader in the study of asbestos-related cancers, Professor Bruce Robinson’s work will affect millions of people for decades to come. Bruce leads a large research team at the University of Western Australia’s School of Medicine and Pharmacology, which is studying cancer immunology and asbestos diseases. Bruce and his team have been responsible for many world-first breakthroughs, including the first blood test for mesothelioma.

 

Senior Australian of the Year nominees

 

Graham Walker (ACT)Veterans’ campaigner

In his work with the Vietnam Veterans Federation of Australia, Graham has assisted thousands of veterans to receive their entitlements, advised governments, authored research and campaigned for the official history of Agent Orange to be rewritten. Graham’s outstanding contributions have carved out a well respected place in Australian history, and will ensure that the Vietnam veterans’ story is faithfully captured in arts and culture for future generations.

 

 

Peter Ford (NSW)Inventor and enabler

In 1982, Peter was part of the first US Veterans Administration team to develop microcomputers for rehabilitation and communications for people with disabilities. Peter’s passion to help people with profound disabilities led him to found Control Bionics, and serve as a software consultant to rehabilitation researchers and therapists around the world. 

 

 

Klaus Helms (NT)Indigenous community advocate

Klaus has established a strong connection with the Yolngu people and is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Gumatj Corporation, which is focused on developing sustainable industry through harnessing natural resources of North East Arnhem Land. Klaus has a long-term vision to secure the community’s economic independence, and has been instrumental in establishing projects such as cattle farming, meat production, timber mills and fishing operations to reduce the cost of living in the communities. 

 

 

Dr Robert McGregor (QLD)Paediatrician and fundraiser

A medical practitioner specialising in child health, Dr Robert McGregor has made an outstanding contribution to Queensland’s community. Bob was the long-time chair of a hospital fund which raised more than $110,000 for medical equipment, child-friendly nurses’ uniforms and toys for the special care nursery. He has been involved in community outreach programs to prevent child abuse and has presented many papers at medical conferences.

 

Dr Barbara Hardy AO (SA)Scientist and environmental leader

A leader in science education, environmental advocacy and charity activities, Dr Barbara Hardy has led an exemplary public life – almost all of it undertaken on a voluntary basis. Barbara has initiated many changes to public policy and even the way people think about science and the environment. Today she is patron of the University of South Australia’s Barbara Hardy Institute, which champions a more sustainable Australia.

 

 

Dr Christina Henri (TAS)Artist

Christina’s Roses from the Heart project is the first memorial to the 25,566 women who were sentenced as convicts and transported to Australia from 1788 to 1853. Christina invites people from around the world to make and contribute a servant’s bonnet to symbolise the life of each convict woman.

 

 

Dr Christine Durham (VIC)Teacher and Disability advocate

After suffering from a brain injury, Christine used her experience to inspire her students to think outside the box. Her pioneering approach and book, Chasing Ideas, led her to gain an international reputation as a professional learning presenter. At the age of 67, she completed a Doctor of Philosophy, examining ways to empower people with brain injury.

 

 

Fred Chaney AO (WA)Reconciliation advocate

As founding co-chair of Reconciliation Australia and an early advocate for Aboriginal voting rights in 1961 and for the 1967 referendum, Fred’s contribution has included helping to establish the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia. He also served as Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

 

Young Australian of the Year nominees

Huy Nguyen (ACT)Disability advocate

A humanitarian engineer, advocate for people with disability, entrepreneur, traveller and portrait artist, Huy Nguyen was born in Vietnam and contracted polio when he was 18 months old. Huy understands that physical environments can exclude people, and he is determined to play his part in breaking down the barriers to a more inclusive society with his online resource EnableCanberra, which helps people with access needs to plan their visit to Canberra’s national institutions. 

 

Jacqueline Freney (NSW)Paralympic champion

Being born with cerebral palsy has not stopped Jacqueline Freney from achieving greatness in the sporting arena. She is actively involved in the wider community, working with Swimming Australia as a motivational speaker to help other people with disabilities reach their potential. 

 

 

Emily Osborne (NT)Youth Advocate

In 2012, Emily led a community-based project focused on youth suicide in the Northern Territory, which culminated in a community Suicide Prevention Day in her town. Emily is dedicated to championing a number of important youth issues in the Northern Territory. 

 

Jordyn Archer (QLD)Child protection activist

At just 16 years of age, Jordyn Archer established her own not-for-profit organisation, Chant4Change. In the last five years, Jordyn’s fundraising concerts have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the work of Destiny Rescue, a charity which frees girls from sex-trafficking and provides them with a home, skills training and a fresh start to life.

 

Julian O’Shea (SA)Engineer

To acheive his vision of a world free from poverty and disadvantage, Julian O’Shea is building a movement of engineers, researchers and designers who can deliver technological solutions that improve the lives of people in some of the world’s poorest countries. 

 

 

Clare Smith (TAS)Medical researcher 

Dr Clare Smith is playing a critical role in the eradication of malaria, which affects millions of people around the globe each year. A PhD graduate and medical researcher from the Menzies Research Institute, Clare has used genetic and pharmacological techniques to investigate the role of host enzymes in malarial infection. Her discovery is expected to have an immense global impact, with clinical trials on the patented research now underway. 

 

 

Daniel Flynn (VIC)Social entrepreneur

At the age of 19, Daniel Flynn discovered the alarming fact that while 900 million people around the world did not have access to safe drinking water, Australians spent $600 million on bottled water each year. As a result, Daniel founded Thankyou Water – a social enterprise that exists to empower Australians to fund safe water projects in developing nations through the sale of bottled water. 

 

 

Dr John van Bockxmeer (WA)Doctor

A doctor in the Kimberley, Dr John van Bockxmeer is dedicated to improving the health of all Australians. For over 10 years, John has led numerous voluntary local, national and international initiatives representing excellence in the fields of medicine and community development.

 

Australia’s Local Heroes 

 

Patricia Mowbray OAM (Macquarie, ACT)Disability champion

For Patricia Mowbray, her chosen career in the disability sector has become her life’s work. Trish has worked as a volunteer in various community organisations, and more recently as a disability projects officer. While she admits life has its challenging moments, Trish says her children have taught her patience, resilience and to focus on the unique gifts that reside within us all.

 

Reverend Graham Long (Bondi, NSW)Community leader

Graham’s inspired leadership, commitment and extraordinary ability to connect with all people has rejuvenated the Wayside Chapel and it is now a flourishing refuge of love and optimism. With a philosophy of ‘love over hate’, Graham has touched and transformed the lives of thousands of Australians.

 

 

Nicole Gallas (Alice Springs, NT)Mental health advocate

In 2013, Nicole embarked on an extraordinary journey, which she named ‘No More Excuses’, walking the whopping 1,600 kilometres from Alice Springs to Adelaide to raise money and awareness for rural mental health. Nicky chose to walk alone to demonstrate that depression is a solo disease and that, while family and friends can offer encouragement, ultimately it is up to the person suffering the illness to make a positive change in their life. 

 

Suzy Wilson (Bulimba, QLD)Indigenous literacy champion

Suzy is the founder of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, which provides books and other resources to more than 200 remote Indigenous communities across Australia. The foundation came into being after Wilson used her bookstore to promote a readers’ challenge in schools in Brisbane which last year raised almost half-a-million dollars and translated dozens of books into the first languages of Indigenous communities. 

 

Dean Walker (Coober Pedy, SA)Community constable

A lynchpin in the Coober Pedy and Oodnadatta communities, Senior Community Constable Dean Walker has shown excellence in bravery, sensitivity and cultural awareness. Dean uses his advocacy, communication and leadership skills to connect the local Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities, and to influence society for the better.  

 

Mark Linfoot (Eaglehawk, TAS)Volunteer fire brigade chief

Mark Linfoot lost his wife of 35 years after she suffered a heart attack in the early hours of Boxing Day 2012.  Nine days later, the volunteer fire brigade chief from Eaglehawk Neck was fighting to save his community from the catastrophic bushfires that decimated parts of south-eastern Tasmania. Mark is an exceptional example of a ‘quiet achiever’ who rolled up his sleeves and worked hard to help his community, despite his own grief.

 

Tim Conolan (Melbourne, VIC)Children’s charity founder

Since establishing TLC for kids in 1998, Tim Conolan has assisted more than four million sick children and their families. Tim’s mission is to ensure every child in every hospital in Australia has the emotional and practical support they need.

 

 

Denise Smith-Ali (South Bunbury, WA)Linguist

A Noongar woman from the southwest of Western Australia, Denise Smith-Ali is the custodian of two clans, Kaneang and Wilman of the Noongar Nation. Denise has overcome many challenges to become the only Noongar linguist in Australia, and has dedicated her life to reclaiming and reviving the language of the Noongar people.  

For more information on all nominees and finalists, visit the Australian of the Year website.