Australian of the Year finalists named


November 01, 2007

ELEVEN medical researchers are among 32 state and territory finalists announced today for next year's Australian of the Year award, reflecting Australia's position as a world leader in the field.
Golfer Stuart Appleby, from Victoria, and Tasmanian sailor/businessman Ken Gourlay are the only sporting types nominated for the top award.

Three Australian cricket captains, athlete Cathy Freeman and tennis player Patrick Rafter have all been named Australian of the Year in recent years, leading to criticism the award was too sports focused.

However, 2007 MotoGP world champion Casey Stoner, the 22-year-old motorcycle racer from the NSW Hunter Valley, is among the contenders for the title of Young Australian of the Year.

Among the 11 medical researchers, head and neck medical pioneer Professor Christopher O'Brien AM, from NSW, has taken an early lead as favourite, listed by online betting agency Sportsbet at $4.00.

Seven of the nominees are champions of indigenous causes, including Queensland's influential Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson and Bangarra Dance Theatre's Stephen Page (NSW).

Country singer and Queenslander Lee Kernaghan, and Tasmanian violinist Peter Tantfield are the only musicians. There are no actors but there is a filmmaker, South Australian Scott Hicks.

The rest of the finalists include people from the fields of social justice and welfare, an ecological architect, a philanthropic businessman, an oceanographer, and a Special Olympics volunteer.

The National Australia Day Council also today announced state and territory finalists for Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Australia's Local Hero.

Finalists were selected from more than 3,000 nominations submitted by the public.

Ms Tam Johnston, National Manager of the Australian of the Year Awards, said this year's finalists reflected the diversity of Australian society.

"The state and territory finalists in this year's awards are from all walks of life - high achievers, community workers, pioneers and people who simply care about others," Ms Johnston said in a statement.

"It's also great to see the number of indigenous Australians and people of non-English speaking backgrounds among the finalists this year."

The nominee finalists for all categories will be announced at capital city events throughout November and will then proceed to national judging for the Australian of the Year Awards to be announced on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra on January 25, 2008.

Sportsbet's Phil Hannah has framed an early betting market for the award, making Professor O'Brien favourite, with Victoria's Kon Karapanagiotidis, a human rights advocate, and cardiac surgeon Professor Don Esmore AO, paying $5 and $6 respectively.

Stuart Appleby is down to $17.

LIST OF NOMINEES
ACT
Professor Hilary Charlesworth AM - Human rights champion
Lin Hatfield Dodds - Social justice advocate
Professor David Ellwood - researcher and healer/teacher
Dr Clive Hamilton - Wellbeing activist

QUEENSLAND
Professor Paula Barrett - Child psychologist
Anna-Louise Kassulke - Special Olympics volunteer
Lee Kernaghan OAM - Country music singer/songwriter
Noel Pearson - Indigenous leader

NSW
Professor Larissa Behrendt - Indigenous academic and writer
Professor Neville Hacker - Gynaecological cancer researcher
Professor Christopher O'Brien AM - head and neck medical pioneer
Stephen Page - Indigenous arts

VICTORIA

Stuart Appleby - Sportsman and benefactor
Kon Karapanagiotidis - Human rights advocate
Professor Don Esmore AO - Cardiac surgeon
Wendy Lawson - Autism support advocate

TASMANIA
Dr John Church - Oceanographer
Ken Gourlay - World record sailor and businessman
Annette Peardon - Reconciliation activist
Peter Tanfield - Violinist and mentor

SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Michael Angelakis AM - Businessman and cancer supporter
Dr Paul Downton - Ecological architect
Scott Hicks - Filmmaker
Brenton Whittaker OAM - Humanitarian supporter

WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Mark Bin Bakar - Indigenous arts leader
Professor George Jelinek - Multiple Sclerosis pioneer
Dr David Joske - Contemporary therapies leader
Patricia Lavater - Young women's supporter

NORTHERN TERRITORY
Professor Jonathan Carapetis - Researcher and paediatrician
Dr Bart Currie - Health researcher
Blair McFarland - Anti petrol-sniffing campaigner
Miriam-Rose Ungunmeer-Baumann AM - Indigenous artist and educator

YOUNG AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR

ACT
Melissa Aveyard - Recovery supporter
Julia Collin - Young leader
Mei Shi (Diana) Ni - Community contributor
Xian Zhi Soon - High achiever

QUEENSLAND
Melina Georgousakis - Science communicator
Anna Ockert - Youth leader
Lars Olsen - Orphans' champion
Rebecca Scales - Legacy builder

VICTORIA
Alessandro Demaio - Health promoter
Daniel Adams - Poverty fighter
Alan Wu - Youth representative
Elise Klein - Youth program facilitator

NSW
Rachel Coxon - Biomedical engineer
Bianca Moon - Equality campaigner
Casey Stoner - World MotoGP champion
Phoebe Williams - International aid leader

SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Erin Riddell - Social activist
Anna McInerney - Fundraiser
Victoria Saint - Health advocate
Niki Vasilakis - Musician

TASMANIA
Johanna Allston - Athlete and student
Isuru Amarasena - Award winning achiever
Robyn McKinnon - Youth mentor
Jeremy Smith - Community contributor

NORTHERN TERRITORY
Caleb Campion - Top student
David Johnston - Science and sports achiever
Simone Liddy - Indigenous student mentor and sports achiever.
Emma McLaren-Alexander - Voice for youth

WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Madhusudhan Bhamidipaty - High achiever
Simone McMahon - Organ donor advocate
Aimee Silla - Environmentalist
Allana Slater - Olympic gymnast

- AAP

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Gotta love the WA finalist Madhusudhan Bhamidipaty - "High achiever"

"And what is your claim to fame, Mr Stoner?"
"I'm the World MotoGP champion mate, how about yourself?"
"Ah, I'm what's known as a 'high achiever'."