Alumni News Articles

Western Australia's Australian of the Year Award recipients announced

28 November 2007

The Indigenous arts leader better known as his alter-ego Mary G; a nun dedicated to remote area education in the Kimberley; an organ transplant recipient who now promotes organ donation; and a Bunbury woman dedicated to helping the homeless were tonight named as Western Australia's recipients in the Australian of the Year Awards 2008.

The Governor of Western Australia, His Excellency Dr Ken Michael AC, presented the recipients with their awards at a ceremony at Government House and congratulated all finalists for their achievements.

The Western Australia award recipients are:

Western Australia 's Australian of the Year 2008 is Indigenous arts leader Mark Bin Bakar.

Known to many across Australia as the multi-media personality Mary G, Mark Bin Bakar has dedicated much of his adult life to increasing cultural understanding and working tirelessly to present an insight into Indigenous culture. Mark has created many opportunities for Indigenous musicians, including establishing the very successful music school Abmusic 20 years ago. As the self-effacing, flamboyant, and powerful 'Queen of the Kimberley,' he has become a national cult figure while also raising awareness of important social issues facing Indigenous people. As well as his nationally broadcast radio show, Mark travels extensively throughout remote areas talking to people about alcohol and drug abuse, health care, emotional wellbeing, respect for elders, domestic violence, and instilling a sense of pride back into the wider community. In 2007, he was recognised as National NAIDOC Person of the Year.

Western Australia 's Senior Australian of the Year 2008 is remote area educator Sister Patricia Rhatigan.

Patricia Rhatigan has worked for almost 50 years as a nun in the Kimberly region. Being a nun and working for the needy is all she has ever wanted to do, beginning at a leprosarium in Broome and the Beagle Bay mission. She became a classroom teacher in 1960 and served in a range of roles leading to her becoming the foundation regional officer for the Catholic Education Office in Broome. After negotiating for first year undergraduate degrees to be offered fully through the Broome campus of the Notre Dame University, Sister Patricia was appointed Dean of the campus in 1998. Under her leadership the campus inaugurated its studies in nursing and counselling and a Diploma of Indigenous Management. She is a prodigious researcher of remote area teaching and is currently the coordinator of the Sisters of St John of God Kimberly Centenary activities.

Western Australia's Young Australian of the Year 2008 is organ donor advocate Simone McMahon.

Born with poor kidney function and suffering chronic renal failure at age nine, Simone McMahon was on dialysis ten hours a day and received a kidney transplant when she was eleven. She has been passionately promoting organ and tissue donation ever since. Twenty-five year old Simone is Western Australian State President and a national director of Transplant Australia, a volunteer with the Kidney Health Foundation, and a wish granter with the Starlight Foundation - spending much of her time encouraging seriously ill children and helping to grant their wishes. She is a Churchill Fellow whose scholarship allowed her to identify successful international models of organ and tissue donation and assess promotion strategies that provide support to transplant recipients, donor families, and living donors. Simone's story inspires people to consider organ donation as an act of kindness that replaces despair with hope, giving people on transplant waiting lists the courage to face an otherwise unbearably uncertain future.

Western Australia 's Local Hero of the Year 2008 is Bunbury community worker Geraldine Webster.

Geraldine Webster was the inspiration behind setting up the In Town Centre in Bunbury 17 years ago. Many said it couldn't be done. Even experts in the field counselled her against providing a service to the homeless that involved a mix of young people, men, women and children, especially under one roof. After several temporary accommodation bases, the Centre now operates from its own purpose built premises. Geraldine's dedication and commitment to the homeless has changed the lives of many, some of whom have gone on to be role models for others. Some have returned to complete their education, and even gone on to university. Geraldine has volunteered her time at the Centre four days a week for the past 17 years and was also involved in setting up a young mothers' group. Geraldine's foresight and commitment to the Bunbury community ensures that everyone has at least two meals a day.

"Western Australia can be very proud of these award recipients, all of whom have made a real difference in the lives of others," said Tam Johnston, National Manager of the Australian of the Year Awards.

"Like all our award recipients this year, they have been truly inspirational in their own fields and in the broader community."

All Western Australia award recipients now become national finalists in the Australian of the Year Awards to be announced in Canberra on 25 January 2008.