We haven’t talked about the Australian of the Year nominations here yet. What struck me immediately with the 2009 field is that this time around, only two of them are (as far as I know) white men.
Note, however, that none (again, as far as I know; I’m open to correction on this) are women of colour. For this year’s Australian of the Year, you can be an indigenous or immigrant person of colour, or a woman; but not both.
There’s a whole lot to deconstruct in the way the finalists are described, but there’s also plenty about the finalists themselves that warrants honour and respect. Most of them could be described as “community organisers”.
Here’s a run-down on the finalists. Fuller descriptions of the finalists are available at Webdiary.
ACT – Professor Michael Dodson AM – Indigenous leader who has pursued justice and reconciliation in widely ranging arenas.
As Co-Chair of Reconciliation Australia, Mick’s dream is to achieve reconciliation in this country, and a better future for his people. An outstanding Australian, Mick represents integrity, wisdom and compassion.
NSW – Glenn McGrath AM – Cricket player who has raised money for breast cancer after his wife fell ill from it.
In June this year Jane lost her 11-year battle with cancer, leaving Glenn to care for their two children. Throughout it all Glenn has shown enormous strength and dignity, setting an inspirational example.
NT – Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu – Gumatj man, blind, who plays amazing music.
As a deeply traditional man, his songs focus on his spiritual connection with the land, his love of country, and the importance of his ancestors. […] He is an example of triumph over adversity, and of extraordinary talent.
SA – Ivan Copley – Indigenous community worker and chair of the Campbelltown Council Reconciliation Committee.
These are just a few of the many ways in which Ivan is putting his heart and soul into bettering his community. He has been described as a ‘bridge for all peoples.’
TAS – Peter Cundall AM – Expert on organic and sustainable gardening.
He remains actively involved with environmental, peace and child protection movements. Peter is a well-known and much-loved figure in Australian gardening who is respected for his sincere and open-hearted manner.
VIC – Dr Berhan Ahmed – African-Australian community leader, originally from Eritrea.
He initiated and implemented a number of projects for Melbourne’s African community to raise the standard of living, educational engagement and achievement, level of employment, and integration. He has personally supported many newly-arrived refugees, and is always there to offer guidance and a helping hand through the difficult process of arriving in a new country after traumatic experience.
WA – Dr Penny Flett – Geriatrics apecialist and chair of the WA Aged Care Advisory Council. Flett was also the first woman doctor to serve in the RAAF.
She has worked tirelessly to dispel stereotypes of old age, and shift deep-seated cultural attitudes. Dr Flett’s goal is for the community to revalue older people, and respect their wisdom and experience.
QLD – Bronwyn Sheehan – Literacy advocate who leads a one-on-one mentoring programme for foster children.
When Bronwyn Sheehan realised that foster children were not being given the same opportunities in life as other children she decided to do something about it. […] Bronwyn has inspired more than 500 volunteers to give their time every week to a foster child and her program is backed by literacy experts such as author Mem Fox. Bronwyn is making a real difference in the lives of our most vulnerable children.
Here’s a sample of NT nominee Yunupingu’s work.