Alumni News Articles


11 November 2017


2018 NSW Australian of the Year – Professor Michelle Yvonne Simmons

2018 NSW Senior Australian of the Year – Dr Catherine Hamlin AC

2018 NSW Young Australian of the Year – Macinley Butson

2018 NSW Local Hero – Eddie Woo


The 2018 New South Wales Australian of the Year Award recipients have been announced and presented with trophies this evening at a ceremony at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.

The NSW Award recipients will join a cohort of 32 State and Territory recipients from around the country. These recipients will represent their state at the national Awards on 25 January 2018 in Canberra, where the four Australians of the Year will be announced.

The 2018 NSW Australian of the Year is quantum physics Professor Michelle Yvonne Simmons.

One of the world’s top scientists, Professor Michelle Simmons has pioneered research that could lead to a quantum leap in computing. Since arriving in Australia from Britain 18 years ago, Michelle has transformed the University of NSW Quantum Physics Department into a world leader in advanced computer systems. In 2012, Michelle and her team created the world’s first transistor made from a single atom, along with the world’s thinnest wire. At the forefront of what she calls the “space race of the computing era”, Michelle aims to build a quantum computer able to solve problems in minutes that would otherwise take thousands of years. Such a discovery has the potential to revolutionise drug design, weather forecasting, self-driving vehicles, artificial intelligence and more. An evangelist for Australian scientific research and a role model to young scientists everywhere, Michelle actively encourages all students – girls and boys – to dream big, challenge themselves and to achieve ambitious goals in science.

The 2018 NSW Senior Australian of the Year is 93 year old pioneering surgeon Dr Catherine Hamlin AC. For more than 50 years, obstetrician Dr Catherine Hamlin has devoted herself to giving women in Africa a second chance at life. A surgical pioneer, Catherine and her late husband Dr Reginald Hamlin founded a network of six hospitals and a midwifery college in Ethiopia. The hospitals provide free fistula repair surgery to poor women suffering from horrendous and preventable childbirth injuries. The midwifery college trains midwives to prevent the injuries.  When Catherine arrived in Ethiopia in 1959, there were almost no resources for expectant mothers. Since then she has treated more than 50,000 women, restoring their health and dignity. Catherine’s organisation is a global centre of expertise in fistula repair and she trains surgeons from around the world. Through her foundation, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, Catherine is tackling a new fistula frontier, Uganda. Now 93, Catherine remains active in her day-to-day work at the hospital, healing women through surgery, rehabilitation and counselling, so they can be whole again. 

The 2018 NSW Young Australian of the Year is 17 year old scientist and inventor Macinley Butson.

A rising star in the male-dominated world of science, Macinley Butson made history in 2017 when she became the first Australian to win the top prize in the category of medicine at the prestigious INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair. Each year, more than seven million high school students develop original research projects for the world’s largest international science competition. Macinley’s world-beating idea, ‘Smart Armour’, is a shield that can be used by breast cancer patients to protect their non-treated breast while undergoing radiotherapy treatment. A prolific inventor, 17-year-old Macinley has also taken home science awards for other exceptional ideas, such as a system that simultaneously collects solar power and filters water, a spoon that accurately measures and delivers oral medicine to children, and a device that deters garden snails without the use of poison. While empowering young people to embrace science, Macinley also demonstrates the power of giving back to the community as a national youth ambassador for environmental organisation, Green Cross Australia.

The 2018 NSW Local Hero is mathematics teacher Eddie Woo. Arguably Australia’s most famous mathematics teacher, Eddie Woo makes maths fun. The head mathematics teacher at Cherrybrook Technology High School, the largest secondary school in New South Wales, Eddie started posting videos online in 2012 for a student who was sick with cancer and missing a lot of school. Before long, he was sharing the videos across the country and beyond. Wootube now boasts more than 80,000 subscribers and has attracted more than six million views worldwide and counting. With infectious enthusiasm, the father-of-three's unique and caring approach to teaching destigmatises mathematics as an inaccessible and difficult subject. Outside his high school classroom, Eddie is a volunteer facilitator with the University of Sydney's Widening Participation and Outreach program and has motivated more than 1,400 students from disadvantaged backgrounds. A brilliant student, Eddie could have chosen any field, but in defiance of social convention and his parents opted for teaching. Today, he is using his vocation to “pay it forward” and make education equitable for all.

 NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said the Australian of the Year Awards celebrate the selfless contributions and wonderful achievements of Australians.

“The NSW Australians of the Year contribute so much to our community. Their dedication to the issues that affect our State and our nation ignites discussion, raises awareness and improves our lives,” said Ms Berejiklian.

“Leading by example, they inspire all of us to make a difference in our communities. On behalf of the people of NSW I thank them for their contribution to NSW and wish everyone the very best of luck for the national announcement.”

 National Australia Day Council CEO, Ms Jenny Barbour, said the NSW Award recipients are examples of how individuals can have big impacts.

"The Australian of the Year Awards allow us to recognise and celebrate the achievements of outstanding Australians – people making extraordinary contributions to our society," said Ms Barbour.

“The stories of the NSW Award recipients show us the power of an individual and how one person can make a big difference – from education to medicine to scientific breakthroughs, they are all making an impact.”

Commonwealth Bank has proudly sponsored the Australian of the Year Awards for over 30 years. Chief Executive Officer, Ian Narev, said it was an honour to acknowledge the NSW Award recipients.

“We would like to congratulate Professor Michelle Simmons, Dr Catherine Hamlin, Macinely Butson and Eddie Woo on becoming State and Territory recipients in the Australian of the Year Awards,” said Mr Narev.

“All recipients should feel extremely proud of their achievements. We wish them all the very best in the national Awards on 25 January.”


For more information on the 2018 Australian of the Year Awards recipients visit the Honour Roll

More information on State and Territory selection panel members can be found here

Photos from the Awards announcement event can be downloaded as available from

Media contact: Nicole Browne 0414 673 762 or 

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