Australian Of The Year
Ita Buttrose is the 2013 Australian of the Year.
The former editor of The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and founder of CLEO Magazine has found herself a unique and respected place in Australian culture in recent years. Particularly after the success of bio-drama series Paper Giants.
Buttrose is the National President of Alzheimers Australia and has used her national profile to advocate for positive causes, like HIV/AIDS awareness.
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Psychiatry professor Patrick McGorry is an Australian of the Year who has made a difference.
After being awarded the honour in 2010, McGorry became one of the chief ambassadors of a campaign to get the federal government to reform the mental health sector. It paid off big time: In the 2011 federal budget $2.2 billion was invested in mental health reform.
Onya, Pat. Now McGorry’s saying the title he won shouldn’t just be awarded to someone who has done valuable work, but someone who wants to leverage the title’s power into continuing to change the world. He’s got a point.
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AND, action! A senior cabinet minister generally regarded as among the more effective, uses a major speech on Australia Day-eve to channel an American president without acknowledging it. Worse, it wasn’t even an actual president but a fictional one.
On the same day, a few hundred metres up the hill, the 2012 Australian of the year is unveiled as an A-list Hollywood actor, Geoffrey Rush. Rush, a gifted pretender with an expressive face, promptly weighs in to some of the more divisive political debates in this country hinting at the moral failure of both sides of politics to recognise the human courage of asylum seekers, the failure to progress gay marriage equality, and to deliver enough on climate change.
Later he defends his A-list compatriot Cate Blanchett who had been lambasted for taking part in an advertising campaign on carbon driven global warming. OK as movie plots go this is bit lame but it certainly seems fanciful enough. Besides, it has the advantage of being “based on a true story” and all that. It even has some real actors in it.
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The world is ruled by extroverts. The loudest voices, unsurprisingly, are often the only ones we hear.
The Australia Day honours are meant to pay tribute to the unsung heroes, thereby making them sung.
While the most attention is too often given to the already well-sung - celebrities, the actors and the sportspeople who make the list - there are also the local heroes, the young and the senior Australians.
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Entrepreneur and philanthropist Simon McKeon succeeded Professor Patrick McGorry as Australian of the Year yesterday. Yet in the year of Professor McGorry’s reign, the Federal Labor Government has largely remained silent on the very issue McGorry was recognised for; mental health.
According to the most recent figures, 2,191 Australians took their own lives in 2008.
Statistics tell us at least ten times that - another 20,000 - were hospitalised for self harm or an attempt. And this is a conservative figure, with ongoing debate about discrepancies between ABS figures, and coroner and police reports.
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When the judges sit down to decide who should be Australian of the Year, they should turn their attention to a quietly-spoken rigger from Adelaide who last week showed how one person’s courage can make a difference.
Scientists, doctors, actors, singers, economists, entrepreneurs, sporting heroes and even the odd shonky businessman have won Australian of the Year. And - every year - you can mount a serious case that the honour should have been handed to someone else. But then again that’s sort of the point.
Australian of the Year isn’t about a unanimous choice for most deserving human in the country. It’s about starting a national discussion about who we are and what we value in others. So this is why I would like to see the next award handed to a type of Australian who has never taken the honour. An ordinary Aussie worker. Ark Tribe.
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What makes a person a role model? Generally – and unfortunately – in this country it’s nothing more than the widely-held belief that they are one.
It’s got nothing to do with their tangible contribution to society and the greater good, rather the emergence of an unusual consensus that they hold a position of leadership purely because they’re in the public eye.
In the past 36 hours Australia has seen the departure of two public figures – one of whom destroyed his career through his own farcical irresponsibility, the other of whom lost his life to tragic illness.
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