Every year the National Australia Day Council awards the Australian of the Year Awards to a few select people that have brought change and contribution to our country.
The prestigious awards, which have been running since 1960, have four main categories that are honoured:
The finalists are highly respected members of society who have ignited discussion and change on issues of national importance.
Tomorrow at Parliament House in Canberra, one of these eight finalists will be awarded the Senior Australian of the Year;
Dick Telford is a former marathon running coach who helped Australia earn eight Commonwealth Games medals, including four gold. Telford was also running coach to Australia’s only Olympic marathon medallist, Lisa Ondieki. His contribution to athletics earned him a spot in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
One of Dick’s biggest achievements was his pioneer research into the ‘physical literacy’ of Australian children – showing that quality physical education not only lead to healthier children, but also to better academic results. He’s currently working to implementing physical literacy programs into the state education system.
At 22, Sister Anne Gardiner was asked to move to Bathurst Island to live among the Tiwi people. Since then, as a member of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, she has devoted 50 years to supporting the Tiwi culture by helping preserve their local Indigenous language and history.
During her time with the Tiwi people, was the principal of the local primary school and has helped establish community groups such as mothers’ clubs and Little Athletics, as well as running regular prayer meetings. She even founded an op shop and coffee shop to support the community.
Dr John Knight was once more famously known as Dr James Wright, Australia’s first celebrity doctor who answered the nation’s medical queries in print, radio and as a regular guest on Midday with Ray Martin for 30 years.
Dr Knight also contributed to charity, having established the Medi-Aid Centre Foundation with his late wife Noreen. Medi-Aid Centre Foundation provides accommodation for the elderly, particularly those who are frail, have no family support and no home. Medi-Aid now has almost 1,000 investments.
Patricia Buckskin is a teacher and educator who is passionate about Aboriginal education. He passion for education began in 1972, when Patricia was appointed to Mansfield Park Primary School as their first Aboriginal teacher aide. Then in 1987, she was appointed as the first Aboriginal state manager of aboriginal education workers – a job she maintained for 22 years.
Patricia played a big role in establishing the first public Aboriginal school in an urban setting – the Kaurna Plains Aboriginal School. Even today, Patricia participates on committees and councils to help ensure that all children have access to education.
Peter Kenyon has worked with more than 2000 communities in Australia and in 59 countries to help create economic renewal and build sustainable futures. Peter created the Bank of I.D.E.A.S (Initiatives for the Development of Enterprising Action and Strategies) as a way to help communities to create and nurture their future in a sustainable way.
A portion of his organisation’s income is put forward into the community initiatives that the organisation had helped to nurture. Peter has also combined his passion for change and development with hi passion for writing, having written 16 books about community and economic development, youth policy and enterprise.
Margaret Steadman is a climate and sustainable living advocate who was once the executive officer of Sustainable Living Tasmania. Her passion is to educate people to see that small changes that they make can have a big impact on the environment.
Margaret has taken on many roles, she was one of the founding members of Climate Action Hobart and the West Hobart Environment Network, and is a Council member of the Australian Conservation Foundation. With the community in mind, Steadman has even len bushfire-ready forums to a local suburban walking map.
Lois Peeler is most famously known as a member of 60’s music group, The Sapphires – but since then she is also a political activist, passionate educator and principal at Australia’s only Aboriginal girls’ boarding school.
Lois is heavily involved with Indigenous affairs as she currently chairs the Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee. She is also an Elder of the Yorta Yorta people. As an educator, her approach to education looks to balance Aboriginal knowledge, values and pedagogy and Western academic leadership.
Professor Perry Bartlett is a neuroscientist who made ground breaking progress in the study of human brains. His research helped find how the brain can be regenerated with the production of new nerve cells – which completely changed the way medicine and science look at the human brain.
Professor Bartlett founded the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland where he and his team are currently studying how activating stem cells to produce new nerves can help slow down dementia. His institute is one of the world’s leading neuroscience institutes.