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NSW Australian of the Year Award recipients announced

26 November 2007

An indigenous arts leader who uses dance and music to bring cultures together; the world MotoGP champion; a man who helps people in developing nations help themselves; and a south coast woman who has campaigned against domestic and child abuse in indigenous communities for 35 years were tonight named as the New South Wales recipients in the Australian of the Year Awards 2008.

The Hon John Watkins, Deputy Premier of New South Wales, Minister for Transport and Minister for Finance, presented the recipients with their awards in a ceremony at The Art Gallery of NSW this evening and praised all the finalists for their outstanding achievements and community input.

The New South Wales award recipients are:

The NSW Australian of the Year 2008 is the creator of Bangarra Dance Theatre, Stephen Page.

Stephen Page is an Indigenous dancer/choreographer who has achieved international recognition, bringing together the ancient and the modern with the Bangarra Dance Theatre. After graduating in 1983 he began a professional career as a dancer with the Sydney Dance Company. In 1988 he toured overseas with the Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre and, after joining as principal choreographer, in 1991 was appointed artistic director of the Bangarra Dance Theatre. Under Stephen the company has developed a particular style of performance, drawing on both traditional and urban Aboriginal cultures. Stephen's prolific work includes choreographing the Sydney Olympics Games ceremonies, sell-out performances of Bush on Bangarra's Australian and US tours, a stint as Artistic Director of the Adelaide Arts Festival, and numerous film and theatre credits. Earlier this year he directed a spectacular traditional smoking ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and he is currently preparing Bangarra's 2008 full length work Mathinna, inspired by a young Aboriginal girl's journey between two cultures.

The NSW Senior Australian of the Year 2008 is micro-credit pioneer David Bussau AM.

Thirty years ago David Bussau went to Bali to help rebuild rural areas devastated by an earthquake and found that traditional development solutions still left poor families trapped in poverty. He realised that what poor people wanted was work and that with jobs they could start to solve many of their other problems. His solution was to offer small business loans - a hand up instead of a hand out. David established the non-profit Maranatha Trust to fulfil his dream of helping the poor help themselves. In 1979 he joined forces with a like-minded counterpart in the USA to form Opportunity International. The results have been outstanding, with over 800,000 clients, mostly women, and creating millions of jobs in twenty-nine developing countries. David continues his work in micro-enterprise development by building relationships and providing consultancy services to governments, multi-national companies, and other organisations that have caught his vision and joined the fight against poverty.

The NSW Young Australian of the Year 2008 is World MotoGP champion Casey Stoner.

At just 22, Casey Stoner is Australia's world champion motorcycle racer, cementing his place in this year's MotoGP competition with a home win at Philip Island in October. Casey first competed when he was four years old, in a race for under-nine's, and he won his first national title at the ripe old age of six. By the time he was fourteen he had won 41 dirt and long track titles and 70 state titles. In a single weekend he won 32 of 35 races and all of the five titles up for grabs. Because the legal age for road racing in Australia is 16, his family took him to compete in Europe. After a string of successes since then, last year he finally accomplished his ambition of racing in the fastest and most prestigious of the cycle racing classes. With his highly competitive attitude Casey took on the best in the world and won.

The NSW Local Hero of the Year 2008 is human rights and health campaigner Joyce Donovan

Joyce Donovan, or Aunty Joyce as she is known in the Illawarra and more widely, is a leader who has earned the respect of the Aboriginal community that entitles her to be called an Elder. Joyce felt so strongly about unveiling the scourge of child abuse that she travelled all over NSW, sleeping on floors and living out of her car, gaining support for marches against child sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities. Following the success of the walks and the Purple Ribbon Project she was asked to coordinate an annual candle vigil to recognise that there will be no more silence over child abuse. She travelled thousands of miles conducting healing ceremonies for victims of domestic violence and bringing her message that it takes a whole community to raise a child. Joyce has worked tirelessly for more than 35 years and was the driving force behind the establishment of an Aboriginal Medical Service in Wollongong.

The NSW awards concluded the round of state and territory award announcements.

All state and territory recipients now become national finalists in the Australian of the Year Awards to be announced in Canberra on 25 January 2008.

Tam Johnston, National Manager of the Australian of the Year Awards, said this year's finalists are a diverse group of achievers.

"The 32 finalists from around the country come from very different backgrounds and areas of achievement or contribution, but they all have a passion for what they do," said Ms Johnston.

"Each, in their own way, is an Australian to be proud of."

The National Australia Day Council also paid tribute to Bernie Banton AM, who was NSW Senior Australian of the Year 2007.

"We are deeply saddened by Bernie's passing and our thoughts are very much with Bernie's family at this time," said Ms Johnston.

"As the NSW Senior Australian of the Year 2007, Bernie epitomised the great Australian values of fairness, justice and standing up for what you believe in and for others.

"Bernie will be fondly remembered and sadly missed and his efforts will have the eternal respect and pride of his fellow Australians."

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