A quantum leap of change in Australia

Rachel Gray
(Australian Associated Press)

Cancer, indigenous issues, quantum physics and health are high on the national conscience if those up for the Australian of the Year award are anything to go by.

Actor and cancer awareness campaigner Samuel Johnson received the Victorian state award only weeks after his sister Connie passed away from the disease that claims thousands of Australian lives every year.

“I’ve got some plans that I’m working on and I’m trying to uphold my sister’s legacy,” Johnson told reporters.

Johnson founded the charity Love Your Sister and has pedalled at least 15,000km on a unicycle around the country to raise awareness and millions of dollars towards cancer research.

Four of the eight state and territory finalists have been recognised for their work addressing the high rates of mental health and disadvantage among indigenous Australians.

Queensland NRL player Johnathan Thurston, Western Australian psychologist Tracy Westerman, Tasmanian theatre director Scott Rankin and clothing designer Mark Devow from Canberra have each received state awards for their work helping to improve indigenous lives.

“I’m very passionate about my culture and trying to inspire the next generation of my culture and young Australians,” Thurston said at the ceremony for the Queensland awards.

Thurston has proved a worthy role model both on and off the field and has helped launch the $9.5 million Cowboys House for 50 away-from-home Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Western Australian psychologist Tracy Westerman says she hopes to cultivate mindsets of achievement rather than expectations of failure among indigenous Australians.

Paediatric cardiologist Bo Remenyi received the NT’s state award for her dedication and work in the early intervention, prevention and treatment of rheumatic heart disease in the Territory, which has one of the highest rates of mortality in the world from the disease.

More than 17,000 people across the world with facial deformities and disfigurements have had their bodies and consequently their lives repaired by craniofacial surgeon David David, who received the Tasmanian of the Year award.

Their achievements are all leading towards a quantum leap in Australian society, buoyed by university professor Michelle Simmons in New South Wales who is working on a computer that could solve problems in minutes rather than thousands of years.

“Her pioneering discoveries have the potential to revolutionise everything from medical drug design to weather forecasting,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in a statement.

The national Australian of the Year award will be announced in Canberra on January 25, 2018.


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