Alumni News Articles


16 November 2011

South Australia's Australian of the Year 2012 - Robyn Layton QC

South Australia's Senior Australian of the Year 2012 - Dr Bruce Foster AM

South Australia's Young Australian of the Year 2012 - Rebecca Richards

South Australia's Local Hero 2012 - Dr Leon Earle

Social justice advocate Robyn Layton QC has been named South Australia's Australian of the Year 2012 and presented with her award by the Governor of South Australia, His Excellency Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce AC CSC RANR.

The 66 year old former Supreme Court Judge has fought for the rights of the disadvantaged throughout her working life. Now, as co-chair of Reconciliation South Australia and Adjunct Professor at the University of South Australia School of Law, Robyn is a highly respected commentator on Aboriginal issues.

Her interest began in the late 1960s after she went into partnership with the late Honourable Elliott Johnston, renowned campaigner on behalf of Aboriginal people. There she worked pro bono on behalf of Aboriginal people charged with criminal offences. She was appointed as solicitor for the Central Aboriginal Land Rights team from 1972–74, travelling extensively to see for herself the conditions and issues people had to deal with in remote Aboriginal communities.

Robyn has worked hard for child protection, both during the Child Protection Review and, since 2005, as Chair of the Advisory Committee for the Australian Centre for Protection at the University of South Australia. Robyn is Patron of the Migrant Resource Centre and International Women’s Day Committee, and is a member of the National Advisory Group of the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre.

Dr Bruce Foster AM was awarded South Australia's Senior Australian of the Year 2012 for his lifetime of work as a paediatric orthopaedic surgeon which has benefited hundreds of thousands of children in Australia alone.

For the past 30 years Dr Foster has devoted his medical career to understanding the structure and function of bone growth. He and his team developed new treatment strategies for bone deformities and skeletal diseases in children that currently have no cure. His special interest in leg lengthening and spinal deformities has seen him practice all around the world.

Currently Deputy Director of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, 62 year old Bruce operates outreach clinics in the Northern Territory, Kangaroo Island and at the Flinders Medical Centre.

Determined to find better, less painful ways to help straighten and lengthen the limbs of children affected by crippling growth problems, Bruce set up the Bone Growth Foundation in 1991 which funds research and treatment for a quarter of a million Australian children afflicted with bone impairments.

Bruce has been instrumental in the trialling of an innovative internal limb lengthening procedure – the Fitbone – and is one of the few surgeons in the world able to fit this device.

South Australia's Young Australian of the Year 2012 is 24 year old anthropologist Rebecca Richards who is the first Aboriginal Rhodes scholar and is committed to conserving her heritage and helping young people.

Rebecca was the first person in her family to complete high school and is an anthropology honours student who grew up in the Riverland and is a member of the Adnyamathanha and Barngarla peoples. Her interest in anthropology was sparked at 14 when she did fieldwork in her native Adnyamathanha lands with her father alongside Philip Jones, the head of anthropology at the South Australian Museum.

While undertaking her anthropology degree, which she achieved with first class honours, Rebecca completed a cadetship at the National Museum of Australia and then an internship at The Smithsonian Institute in Washington.

Backing up her remarkable academic and professional achievements is her passionate engagement with Indigenous health, human rights and education issues. She was a volunteer mentor at a teen challenge drug rehabilitation bush survival camp, National Indigenous Youth Mobility Program spokesperson from 2007–10, mentor in the 2010 University of Adelaide Indigenous head-start program for rural students, and 2010 youth ambassador for the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence.

Her other international representations include for Oxfam, ZONTA and the United Nations.

(Note: Rebecca was unable to attend the awards presentation event)

Adelaide's Dr Leon Earle is South Australia's Local Hero 2012, recognised for his research and lobbying which resulted in the establishment of the Men's Shed network across Australia.

The Men’s Shed movement brings men together in a comfortable space – a kind of therapeutic centre where men can make things, pursue a hobby or simply chat over a cup of tea. Leon believes these sheds can help link older men with their past, present and future.

His Eureka moment occurred in 1985 when the South Australian Department of Recreation and Sport asked him to find out what seniors were doing for leisure. Having served as a Professor and visiting Professor of Gerontology in national and overseas universities, Leon had been studying men’s retirement since his PhD in 1978. His subsequent study showed him that men had few networks outside family and friends but that a communal shed could provide a lifeline to positive ageing. He published his research, lobbied government and trained staff in nursing homes and retirement villages.

Communal sheds, run by a coordinator, are now popping up all over Australia and providing retired men around the nation with a new network of likeminded people. Now 69, Leon can see the benefits of his research and his passionate work in starting the sheds making a positive impact in many communities.

The South Australian award recipients will now join recipients from all other States and Territories as finalists for the national awards to be announced on 25 January 2012 in Canberra.

Tam Johnston, Program Director for the National Australia Day Council, said the South Australian award recipients were an extraordinary group of people whose efforts were making a tangible difference for many others.

“South Australians can be very proud of their award recipients, their achievements and efforts are making a positive impact on those around them as well as nationally and internationally," said Ms Johnston.

The Commonwealth Bank has been the major sponsor of the Australian of the Year Awards for more than 30 years. Chief Executive Officer Ralph Norris congratulated the South Australian award recipients.

"The Commonwealth Bank is proud to be part of acknowledging the work and efforts of an impressive group of Australians through the Australian of the Year Awards," said Mr Norris.

"This year's South Australian recipients are extraordinary people that we can all be inspired by. It is the passion and determination of individuals like these that make Australia a terrific country. I wish them the best of luck for the national awards in January."

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