Winners will be announced at the National Arboretum in Canberra on the evening of January 25, 2020.
National Australia Day Council CEO Karlie Brand said the national finalists represented the diversity of Australia and the many ways in which people were achieving and contributing.
“Their stories reflect our communities and the world in which we live, inspiring us and reminding us we can make a difference,” she said.
The national finalists for the 2020 Australian of the Year Awards are:
AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR 2020 FINALISTS
Katrina Fanning (ACT)
For over 25 years, Wiradjuri woman Katrina Fanning has lived and breathed rugby league. Following a successful career as a player, she was appointed manager of the Indigenous Women’s All Stars team, Chairman of the Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council, and President of the Canberra and Australian Women’s Rugby League Associations.
In 2014, she was named Canberra Woman of the Year, and ACT NAIDOC Person of the Year, and in 2019, became the third woman to be appointed to the Canberra Raiders Board of Directors.
Professor Munjed Al Muderis (NSW)
After fleeing the tyranny of Saddam Hussein’s regime in a leaking boat, Professor Munjed Al Muderis was detained on Christmas Island, then in Curtin Detention Centre in WA.
He overcame extraordinary obstacles to become an orthopaedic surgeon, specialising in hip, knee and reconstructive surgery and now advocates for the human rights of others.
His surgical innovations and breakthroughs are helping Australians and people throughout the world.
Dr Geoffrey Thompson (NT)
With a distinguished career as a flying doctor and history of service to sports medicine and the community, Dr Geoffrey Thompson was responsible for overseeing the RAAF effort to evacuate Darin following the devastation of Cyclone Tracy in 1974.
He was the first president and founding member of Sports Medicine Australia (NT) and has been the chief medical officer for the Australian Paralympic Committee since 2008.
Rachel Downie (QLD)
Rachel Downie became a teacher 25 years ago, but after losing a Year 9 student to suicide, she decided she needed to find a way to encourage young people to say something when things aren’t right.
Downie developed and self-funded Stymie – a system that allows students to anonymously report harm without fear. Since 2014, she has presented it to more than 300,000 students nationally and internationally.
Dr James Muecke AM (SA)
Since starting his medical career in Kenya, Dr James Muecke AM has been passionate about fighting blindness.
In 2000, he co-founded Vision Myanmar at the South Australian Institute of Ophthalmology, a $1 million program that has developed and operated eye health and blindness initiatives in Myanmar.
Inspired by the program’s success, Dr Muecke also co-founded Sight For All, a social impact organisation aimed at creating a world where everyone can see.
Dr Jess Melbourne-Thomas (TAS)
International research scientist and former Rhodes scholar Dr Jess Melbourne-Thomas grew up exploring Tasmania’s coastline and wilderness and has gone on to work in the marine environment, from the tropics to the poles.
A passionate advocate for diversity and gender equality in science, Dr Melbourne-Thomas co-founded the Homeward Bound project, which took the largest ever all female expedition on a leadership journey to Antarctica in 2016.
Archie Roach AM (VIC)
Archie Roach AM is a singer, songwriter, musician and campaigner for the rights of First Nations Australians.
He overcame teenage alcoholism and homelessness to become a two-time ARIA Award winner, Member of the Order of Australia for his lifetime contribution to Indigenous arts and culture, and founder of the Archie Roach Foundation, which looks to improve opportunities for young First Nations people through art and culture.
Annie Fogarty AM (WA)
With her husband Brett, Annie Fogarty AM founded the Fogarty Foundation in 2000 to help advance education, support young people to reach their full potential and to build stronger communities.
Under Annie’s leadership, the foundation identifies areas of need, supports partner organisations with philanthropic funds, connections and knowledge, and develops initiatives that deliver educational opportunities, inspire community leadership and enrich lives.
SENIOR AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR 2020 FINALISTS
Peter Dornan AM (QLD)
Following a prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment, sports medicine physiotherapist Peter Dornan AM has committed to helping men share their cancer experiences.
His encouragement of them to seek support has helped create a culture change in the treatment management for men with prostate cancer. He is a director of the Board of the QLD Cancer Council.
Sue Salthouse (ACT)
After a horseriding accident at age 45 left Sue Salthouse in a wheelchair, she experienced first-hand the systemic inequality facing people with disabilities.
Having been committed to social justice all her life, she began advocating for the right of people with disabilities to accessible housing, economic security and the chance to contribute to society. She has also worked extensively with a number of organisations to develop leadership training projects for women, and actions to combat domestic violence.
Sue Lennox (NSW)
With her late husband Colin, Sue Lennox founded the award-winning social enterprise OzGREEN, which teaches young people how to take positive environmental action through education, participatory leadership and community development.
Under Sue’s leadership, OzGREEN has developed sustainability programs in 1600 locations across Australia, India, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Pakistan.
Banduk Marika AO (NT)
Banduk Marika AO is known for her exquisite prints of ancestral creation stories on lino, her original media of choice.
As well as an artist, she is a passionate cultural activist and environmental adviser, and is a traditional landowner in charge of looking after country at Yirrkala.
Sylvia McMillan (SA)
Sylvia McMillan has dedicated her life to being of service to her community.
The 90-year-old woman has been a force of good to those around her. She is chair for her local Legacy – the organisation that provides services to families of deceased defence force members – and runs a Seniors club.
Dr Graeme Stevenson (TAS)
Dr Graeme Stevenson has been promoting healthy soils in Tasmania for over 30 years, in particular the role of dung beetles and earthworms in soil management.
Since 1993, he has been a passionate advocate and volunteer for Landcare Tasmania, a movement that brings individuals and groups together to improve the health of natural and working landscapes.
Dr Raymond Shuey APM (VIC)
Dr Raymond Shuey is a former Victorian police officer and Assistant Commissioner for Traffic and Operations, whose signature achievement Project Beacon trains police in operational safety when responding to mental health and critical incidents.
With road safety partners, Dr Shuey has developed initiatives to increase enforcement and education programs – resulting in a massive reduction in the Victorian Road Toll, and is President of the International Safety Foundation.
Professor John Newnham AM (WA)
Professor John Newnham is recognised as one of the world’s leading authorities in the prevention of preterm birth – the single greatest cause of death and disability in children up to five years of age.
After developing a program for preventing preterm birth, he founded the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance – the world’s first ever national program of its kind.
YOUNG AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR 2020 FINALISTS
Corey Tutt (NSW)
Through his organisation Deadly Science, Kamilaroi man Corey Tutt gathers donations of science resources and sends them to remote schools around Australia.
He has raised more than $33,000 and is engaged with more than 90 schools across the nation. In a recent survey, these schools showed a 25 per cent increase in engagement in STEM-related subjects as a result of his efforts.
Madeline Diamond (ACT)
Madeline Diamond is the founder of Trash Mob, a youth-led community group that meets every month to pick up rubbish in public areas in Canberra, as well as advocating for waste free solutions.
Her achievements include initiating the Young Changemakers Workshop and overseeing the annual Parliament of Youth on Sustainability event.
Mitchell Ford (NT)
Mitchell Ford is the founder of PRVT Apparel, a clothing brand aiming to spread awareness and provide support for youth with mental health issues.
After losing his best friend to suicide at a young age, Mitchell decided to create a community and platform that lets young people know they don’t need to suffer alone. In 2019, he was named Young Citizen of the Year, and is active as a social media influencer around kindness, mental health and self-love.
Ashleigh Barty (QLD)
Ipswich-born professional tennis player Ash Barty is currently ranked the world’s number one singles tennis player by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).
She has won six singles titles on the WTA tour, including one Grand Slam singles title at the 2019 French Open. As a First Nations woman, Barty also serves as the National Indigenous Tennis Ambassador for Tennis Australia.
Zibeon Fielding (SA)
Zibeon Fielding is dedicated to raising vital funds to help close the gap in indigenous health.
In 2016, he was selected for the Indigenous Marathon Project, training and competing in the New York, Boston and Tokyo Marathons. He successfully raised $50,000 for Purple House, an organisation that provides dialysis to some of Australia’s most remote communities.
Will Smith (TAS)
Police officer Will Smith’s desire to help disadvantaged young people has taken him from local football clubs in Launceston to the Lebanese and Syrian border.
As a police officer in training, he organised the now ongoing partnership between the Police Academy and the Eddy Rice program. He then set up the JCP Empowering Youth program, enabling leaders to help improve the lives of young people through school, leadership and community programs.
Taya Davies (VIC)
After a challenging childhood, Taya Davies decided to use her personal experience to help others.
Beginning her career in youth work, Davies now works for the Department of Education, Co-ordinating high school programs in the Geelong region to support disengaged youth.
Yarlalu Thomas (WA)
Yarlalu Thomas is a Nyangumarta Pitjikarli man and was the first in his community to complete a high-school certificate.
He works to transform genetic health care services for remote Indigenous people, and has also launched the UNESCO-endorsed Life Languages project to translate medical terminology into ATSI languages, and indigenous languages internationally.
AUSTRALIA’S LOCAL HERO 2020
Emmah Evans (SA)
Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) as a newborn, Emmah Evans was given up for adoption, after doctors believed she wouldn’t survive.
Now in her thirties and a mother-of-two, Evans is an ambassador for the Cure4CF Foundation, and won a three-year battle with the Australian Government to put the life-changing drug, Orkambi, on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Julia Rollings (ACT)
Julia Rollings has been a foster carer for over two decades – supporting 50 babies, children and young people through difficult periods of their lives.
In 2009, she was awarded Barnados ACT Mother of the Year Award for her as a champion for children’s rights, and has held various volunteer positions within adoption support groups, including President of the Adoptive Families Association (ACT).
Bernie Shakeshaft (NSW)
In 2006, Bernie Shakeshaft founded the BackTrack Youth Works Program, turning around the lives of some of Australia’s most vulnerable kids.
Using the skills he developed growing up and as a jackaroo in the Northern Territory learning from the Aboriginal trackers, Bernie developed an award-winning program that uses animal-assisted learning, agricultural skills and a residential facility.
Shirleen Campbell (NT)
Warlpiri and Arrernte woman Shirleen Campbell is the co-ordinator of The Tangentyere Women’s Family Safety Group, which gives women in the Alice Springs Town Camp a voice and action against family and domestic violence.
TWFSG takes a strengths-based approach to addressing domestic violence, training women to recognise its early signs and support each other.
Adjunct Assistant Professor Nick Marshall (QLD)
Sports and musculoskeletal physiotherapist, Adjunct Professor Nick Marshall has a passion for ensuring those with special needs and disability are included in the community.
In 2015 he created the Albatross Nippers, an all-inclusive Nipper program helping children with special needs experience nippers with other children of similar ages. He was instrumental in designing the online Surf Lifesaving Australia special needs module, teaching clubs across Australia to better interact, engage and develop programs at their beach.
Thomas Windsor (TAS)
Thomas Windsor is dedicated to raising awareness and funds for major health issues affecting men, including depression and prostate cancer.
He is the founder of Mobart Mo Bros, which has grown every year to become Australia’s top Movember fundraising team. The team has attracted more than 600 registered participants and raised over $750,000 for Movember over its 13 years of participation.
Josephine Jones (VIC)
Each morning, Josephine Jones collects rubbish on the beach. Since 2006, she has volunteered over 10,000 hours and countless dollars to improve the water quality in Mornington Peninsula’s bays, personally collecting over 5.3 tonnes of rubbish from its shorelines.
Through personal commitment, public speaking, social media and consulting with local government, schools and businesses, she has educated stakeholders and inspired others to take care of the environment.
Suzy Urbaniak (WA)
Suzy Urbaniak wants young people to understand how to apply science to the real world.
Leader of her own earth sciences program, the Centre of Resources Excellence (CoRE), she brings together education, industry, community and government to create meaningful careers in the resources industry.
She was inducted into the WA Women’s Hall of Fame in 2018, and her work as an educator was recognised with the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools in 2016.
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