Alumni News Articles

South Australia's Australian of the Year award recipients announced

13 November 2008

Ivan Copley, John Halbert, Matthew Cowdrey OAM, Beverley Langley

The National Australia Day Council congratulated all finalists on their achievements and acknowledged the recipients of this year's South Australian awards for their outstanding contributions.

"The four South Australian award recipients are contributing quite diverse areas of our community and will be wonderful ambassadors for South Australia," said Tam Johnston, Director of the Australian of the Year Awards.

"As the first State award recipients to be announced this year, South Australia sets a high standard for our national finalists."

All South Australian award recipients now become national finalists in their categories for the Australian of the Year Awards to be announced in Canberra on 25 January 2009.

South Australia 's Australian of the Year 2009 is Indigenous community worker Ivan Copley.
Ivan is a committed man of Aboriginal descent from the Peramangk people, the Kaurna people of the Adelaide plains and the Minang people of Western Australia. He has devoted his life to trying to achieve reconciliation and better outcomes for Indigenous Australians. As founder and Chair of the Campbelltown Council Reconciliation Committee he has achieved excellent results, including the signing of a Statement of Reconciliation by the Mayor, CEO of the Council and himself. Through his work with Rotary he established the first clean drinking water purifier in the Aboriginal community of Leigh Creek, having raised the funds for it himself. Whilst at the Australian Bureau of Statistics he arranged for second-hand computers to be installed in Aboriginal communities without computer access. Recently he established an Aboriginal Funeral Fund to assist family members to travel to funerals. He raises money for the Fund through sales of merchandise in his spare time. These are just a few of the many ways in which Ivan is putting his heart and soul into bettering his community. He has been described as a 'bridge for all peoples.'


South Australia 's Senior Australian of the Year 2009 is Australian Rules legend John Halbert MBE

John Halbert has served the South Australian National Football League, the Australian Football League, the Australian Football Foundation and the sport of Australian Rules at the community level with the greatest distinction and continues in many of his roles serving the game at a national level.  He made his debut with Sturt in 1955 and was an immediate success. By the time he retired from the game he had established a new record for the Blues by playing 260 games. John has had an exceptional career as an academic, sportsman, educator, mentor and public speaker.  His dedication to the development of young people has been a focus, and this was recognised when he was made a Member of the British Empire in 1969 for his work in sport and with young people.  Furthermore his service to the community has extended to his participation in the Lutheran Church as a congregation Chairman and Retirement Village Board Member.  John is an honourable and distinguished Australian who continues to inspire young people in Australia through his excellence in the field of sport and the community in general.   

South Australia 's Young Australian of the Year 2009 is swimming champion Matthew Cowdrey OAM (19)
Matthew Cowdrey was born with a congenital amputation of his left arm below the elbow and yet in all aspects of life he has overcome his disability to achieve great things. An outstanding athlete, he first began competitive swimming at the age of eight. Since then he has achieved international status, representing Australia at a number of competitions including the Paralympics in Greece where he won three gold, two silver and two bronze medals, and the World Championships in South Africa where he won five gold, two silver and one bronze medal. By the age of 19 Matthew had broken 72 world records, 127 Australian records and 180 Australian age records in a variety of strokes. In 2006, he swam a qualifying time that enabled him to become the first disabled person to participate in the Australian Short Course Championships against able-bodied athletes. In his spare time, Matthew is an influential mentor and role model to young people. He has exhibited extreme self-discipline in his quest to become the best in the world and holds the title of International Male Disabled Swimmer of the Year 2007 and Australia 's Paralympian of the Year 2008 . This year he captained the Australian Paralympic swimming team at the Beijing Games where he won more medals than any other Paralympian attending the event, claiming five Gold and three Silver medals. All five of his Gold medals were won in World Record Time. He is truly an inspiration to all.

South Australia's Local Hero of the Year 2009 is wildlife rescuer Beverley Langley of Cherry Gardens
Bev Langley runs a voluntary animal rescue service and has rescued and rehabilitated more than 6,000 injured and orphaned animals. Without the support of government funding she relies on donations and the goodwill of others to carry out her work. More than 120 volunteers assist her with feeding animals, building enclosures and collecting or donating food for the Minton Farm Native Animal and Bird Refuge that she set up on her property. Her residents include everything from horses, cows and kangaroos to geese, sugar gliders and kookaburras. Those animals unable to be released due to injuries that would prevent them from fending for themselves are retained at the farm and used to educate the community. Many school groups visit the farm and Bev takes every opportunity possible to teach both children and adults about wildlife, helping promote respect and understanding towards all animals. Every day Bev responds to many calls for help from organisations like the RSPCA, Belair National Park and the public. She is always there to assist community members, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with any injured or orphaned native animal or bird. Without financial reward, Bev has selflessly invested all her spare time into responding to the plight of our wildlife.