2015 NSW Australian of the Year Recipients Announced

Posted 10 November 2014 7:17pm

The Premier of New South Wales, The Hon Mike Baird MP, has announced the 2015 NSW Australian of the Year Award recipients at a ceremony at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney this evening.

Deborra-lee Furness has been named 2015 NSW Australian of the Year for her work as a child advocate and adoption campaigner.

An actor, director and producer, Deborra-lee is fighting for the rights of children in Australia and around the world.  Recognising the great need to help abandoned and vulnerable children and the mother of two adopted children herself, Deborra-lee established National Adoption Awareness Week in 2008, building the campaign from a volunteer-led, grassroots organisation to the active advocacy group it is today. 

In 2014, Deborra-lee launched Adopt Change and is leading the campaign to overhaul Australia’s

anti-adoption culture and lobby for national adoption law reform.  As a World Vision ambassador, Deborra-lee has worked with world leaders, travelling through Asia and Africa to raise awareness of the global orphan crisis. Determined to use her profile to support causes close to her heart, Deborra-lee is focused on helping the thousands of Australian children needing loving homes.

A passionate patron of the arts, Deborra-lee also established the Jackman Furness Foundation for the Performing Arts in 2014 with a broad mission to nurture Australia’s rising stars.

Author Jackie French has been awarded 2015 NSW Senior Australian of the Year.

Living in a shed and needing to register her car, Jackie wrote her first children’s book, Rainstones, in 1991.  While her editor said it was the messiest, worst spelt manuscript ever received, the book was shortlisted for Children’s Book of the Year and Jackie’s career as a best-selling author began.  One of the few writers to win both literary and children’s choice awards, Jackie has published 140 books in 32 languages and received more than 60 literary prizes for beloved children’s classics such as Diary of a Wombat

Overcoming dyslexia herself, Jackie is a tireless advocate for children with learning difficulties.  As the current national Children’s Laureate, Jackie is travelling the country to promote literacy and share the transformational power of reading, creativity and story-telling in the lives of young Australians. 

Passionate about the conservation of wildlife and our planet, 60 year old Jackie is also a director of

The Wombat Foundation that raises funds for research into the preservation of the endangered northern hairy nosed wombat.

The 2015 NSW Young Australian of the Year is 26 year old Monterey resident Genevieve Clay-Smith.

While other young filmmakers chase fame and fortune, Genevieve uses her skills to help people facing barriers to inclusion. Through her not-for-profit organisation, Bus Stop Films, which she runs voluntarily, Genevieve works with diverse and marginalised communities to create short films that voice their experiences. Genevieve hosts weekly filmmaking workshops and voluntarily provides mentorship and learning opportunities. 

In 2009, Genevieve’s inspiring film Be My Brother won first prize at Tropfest, the world’s largest short film festival. The film, which explores the life of a man with Down Syndrome, was acclaimed for how it broke down social stigmas surrounding disability, whilst also engaging people with a disability to fulfil roles as crew members. I am Emmanuel, a short film examining the challenges faced by African Australian refugees, screened internationally in 2014. 

Genevieve donates all her spare time and talent to forge new pathways for inclusive employment in the film industry and to help sidelined Australians step into the spotlight.

Glenbrook’s Kevin Robinson has been awarded 2015 NSW Local Hero for his work as a social entrepreneur.

With a career in the corporate world and a successful business under his belt, Kevin wanted to give back. In 2011, Kevin established Little Wings, a free, safe flight service that transports seriously ill children living in rural and regional New South Wales to specialist oncology facilities in Sydney.

Armed with a pilot’s licence and a hired aircraft, Kevin completed his first flight in September 2012. Since then, he has built a charity that is delivering 250 flights with 600 passengers a year. Using his business savvy and his own funds, Kevin has attracted grants, corporate partners and a team of qualified pilots to volunteer their time to fly donated aircraft. By returning children home safely and quickly after treatment, Little Wings enhances quality of life, recovery and family cohesiveness for sick children. 

Kevin’s goal is to build a scalable model for a truly national service and to make a real difference to Australian families at the time of their greatest need.

The NSW Award recipients will join recipients from the other States and Territories as finalists for the National Awards to be announced on 25 January 2015 in Canberra. 

National Australia Day Council CEO, Jeremy Lasek, said the NSW Award recipients are four inspirational Australians.

“The NSW finalists are Australians who we are truly proud of, and thankful to, for the tireless work they do to make the lives of others better,” said Mr Lasek.

The Commonwealth Bank is a major sponsor of the Australian of the Year Awards.

“For more than 35 years, we have been pleased to support the Australian of the Year Awards - a national program that recognises outstanding individuals. Each year we are inspired by the calibre of recipients from each State and Territory. We congratulate this year’s recipients from NSW and wish them all the best for the national Awards,” said Commonwealth Bank CEO, Ian Narev.

For more information on the Australian of the Year Awards finalists and recipients visit the Honour Roll.

National Finalist Australian of the Year 2015

Deborra-lee Furness

Child advocate and adoption campaigner

An actor, director and producer, Deborra-lee Furness is fighting for the rights of children in Australia and around the world.  Recognising the great need to help abandoned and vulnerable children an...

National Finalist Young Australian of the Year 2015

Genevieve Clay-Smith

Film maker and social entrepreneur

While other young filmmakers chase fame and fortune, Genevieve Clay-Smith uses her skills to help people facing barriers to inclusion.  Through her not-for-profit organisation, Bus Stop Films, which ...

Where are they now? →

Senior Australian of the Year 2015

Jackie French

Author

Living in a shed and needing to register her car, Jackie French wrote her first children’s book, Rainstones, in 1991.  While her editor said it was the messiest, worst spelt manuscript ever receive...

Where are they now? →

National Finalist Australia's Local Hero 2015

Kevin Robinson

Charity founder

With a career in the corporate world and a successful business under his belt, Kevin Robinson wanted to give back.  In 2011, Kevin established Little Wings, a free, safe flight service that transport...