Alumni News Articles

NSW Australian of the Year Award recipients announced

25 November 2010

NSW Australian of the Year 2011 – Professor Larissa Behrendt
NSW Senior Australian of the Year 2011 - Professor Ron McCallum AO
NSW Young Australian of the Year 2011 - Tara Winkler
NSW Local Hero 2011 - Donald Ritchie OAM
Indigenous rights lawyer Professor Larissa Behrendt has been named NSW Australian of the Year 2011, in recognition of her passionate and articulate advocacy for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

A Eualeyai and Kamillaroi woman who decided to become a lawyer at age 11 when her Indigenous father found his mother’s removal certificate, Larissa is an academic and author and is currently a Professor of Law and Indigenous Studies at the University of Technology (UTS).

Spurred on by the treatment of the stolen generations, she wrote her first novel, ‘Home’, which won the 2002 David Uniapon Award and a 2005 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize. She is also the author of several books on Indigenous legal issues and her second novel, ‘Legacy’, was recently released.

Larissa is a Land Commissioner at the Land and Environment Court, alternate Chair of the Serious Offenders Review Board, a member of the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia, and a founding member of the Australian Academy of Law. She is the Chair of the Humanities and Creative Arts panel of the Australian Research Council College of Experts, and Director of Research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at UTS. She is a Director of the Sydney Writer’s Festival and Bangarra Dance Theatre and was she was named the NAIDOC Indigenous Person of the Year 2009.

The NSW Senior Australian of the Year 2011 is Professor Ron McCallum AO of Artarmon, who has campaigned for equal rights for people with disabilities throughout his life.

Ron was the first totally blind person to have been appointed to a full professorship at an Australian university and was the foundation Professor in Industrial Law at the University of Sydney where he also served five years as Dean of Law. He has fervently pursued equal rights for working people across the globe and was the inaugural President of the Australian Labour Law Association from 2001 to 2009.

Now 62, he is the Chair of Radio for the Print Handicapped of New South Wales Co-operative. The organisation operates radio 2RPH, which reads out newspapers and magazines over the air for blind and other print handicapped listeners. He is also one of two Deputy Chairs of Vision Australia, and one of 12 members of the first monitoring committee for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He was appointed inaugural Rapporteur of this committee and is now the Chair. Ron has also recently been appointed to the Federal Government’s National People with Disabilities and Carers Council.

The NSW Young Australian of the Year 2011 is 25 year old orphan rescuer Tara Winkler, who has been recognised for her inspirational work in saving orphan children in Cambodia.

A just 24, Tara changed her entire life after a holiday to Cambodia where she was deeply moved by the suffering of children she encountered at a run-down orphanage in Battambang. The experience convinced her to leave a budding career in film and her home in Vaucluse, Sydney to return to Cambodia and help the children she has met. After discovering the abuse the children were being subjected to, she set up the Cambodian Children’s Trust and her own orphanage in just two weeks. Battambang’s Governor and government authorities gave her team full support to remove the children from the former orphanage and re-house them. She is now ‘mother’ to 27 orphans, some as young as two, and employs a nurse, local director, social worker and cook.

Tara intends to transform the orphanage into a sustainable eco-village and plans to spend five years and $2 million introducing development projects that will enable the orphanage to support itself. Her designs include buying a 40-hectare plot to establish a plantation as well as a fruit, vegetable and herb permaculture garden. A medical facility, animal clinic, education program and English school are in the works. Against huge odds, Tara is changing the lives of some of Cambodia’s most neglected children.

The NSW Local Hero 2011 is Donald Ritchie OAM from Vaucluse, whose sense of humanity and caring nature has saved many lives.

Donald has lived opposite the The Gap in Sydney’s eastern suburbs for almost five decades.  The cliffs in this area make it an infamous suicide spot.  In a situation where most would turn a blind eye, Don keeps an active eye out for people who might need help. For years the 84 year old has been coaxing people away from the cliffside by inviting them back to his home for a chat over a cup of tea. In this way, Don has saved more than 160 lives.

Over the years, he has received tokens of thanks from many he has saved, but, tragically, the deaths of so many are eternally etched in his mind. Don’s services to suicide prevention are truly remarkable. His kind words and simple hospitality have made an enormous difference to so many individuals and their families. 

The NSW award recipients will now join recipients from all other States and Territories as finalists for the national awards to be announced on 25 January 2011 in Canberra. 

Tam Johnston, Program Director for the National Australia Day Council, said the NSW award recipients shared a concern for the rights of all people.

“The NSW award recipients are making life better for others with their work. Their contributions are something we can all be very proud of,” said Ms Johnston.

Ralph Norris, CEO Commonwealth Bank, offered his congratulations to the NSW award recipients.
The Commonwealth Bank has been the major sponsor of the Australian of the Year Awards for more than thirty years.

“On behalf of the Commonwealth Bank, I would like to congratulate the NSW award recipients. Their hard work and achievements are an inspiration to the Australian community,” said Mr Norris.

For more information about the NSW Award recipients, click here.

Subscribe to our Newsletter