Alumni News Articles

Western Australia's Australians of the Year recipients honoured

21 November 2009

Alzheimer’s disease researcher Professor Ralph Martins was tonight named Western Australia’s Australian of the Year 2010 and presented with his award by the Governor of Western Australia, His Excellency Dr Ken Michael AC.

Professor Ralph Martins is recognised as a world leader of research into Alzheimer’s disease. His team made the first significant discovery, showing that the beta amyloid protein that coats the brain is the foundation of Alzheimer’s. The 52 year old from Maddington has been instrumental in bringing to Perth new technology that makes it possible to determine if a patient has deposits of the toxic beta amyloid. Professor Martins continues to work to develop an early diagnostic blood test.  Professor Martins was born in Manama, Bahrain.  His parents were from Goa, India and were living and working in Bahrain.  Ralph moved to Perth at 16 years of age. Now he shares Australia’s breakthrough research on Alzheimer’s disease with specialists in India and has also presented his findings in Bahrain. 

Western Australia’s Senior Australian of the Year 2010 is wildlife rescuer June Butcher.  The 74 year old founded Kanyana Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in 1986. Kanyana now has 140 volunteers and operates 365 days of the year caring for over 2,000 animals each year. June is also involved with the Department of Environment and Conservation’s Western Shield endangered species captive breeding program for bilbies. She is now in the process of fulfilling her dream by moving Kanyana from her three-acre home to a new 16-hectare site.

The Western Australia Young Australian of the Year 2010 is Trooper Mark Donaldson VC. The 30 year old soldier was this year awarded the Victoria Cross, Australia’s highest military honour. When Mark’s unit in Afghanistan was hit by an ambush, he deliberately drew enemy fire to himself on several occasions so that wounded soldiers could be moved to safety. Then, when he saw a coalition force interpreter lying wounded, he ran 80 metres across exposed ground to rescue him and carry him to safety. His bravery in the face of great danger saved lives and won him the highest respect.

Boyup Brook’s Rhonda Parker was awarded Western Australian Local Hero 2010 for her long term commitment to her community.  The tireless volunteer has been the driving force behind many local organisations for the past 28 years and is considered to be the glue that holds the community together. Rhonda is the longstanding Music Director for the Boyup Brook Country Music Club, which organises Western Australia’s largest country music festival and she has also held numerous positions with many other organisations in her local district. Rhonda’s enthusiasm and lack of hubris make her a much-loved figure in this small town.

The four Western Australia award recipients will now join award recipients from all other States and Territories as finalists for the national awards to be announced on 25 January 2010 in Canberra. 

Tam Johnston, Program Director for the National Australia Day Council, said all four Western Australia award recipients will travel to Canberra for the national awards and to take part in the 50th Anniversary of the Australian of the Year Awards program.

“All the State and Territory award recipients will attend a special celebration event on 24 January before the announcement on 25 January,” said Ms Johnston.

“It will be a very special occasion and we look forward to sharing it with Western Australia’s finest.”

Ralph Norris, CEO Commonwealth Bank, offered his congratulations to the 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 all recipients of the Western Australia awards. Their hard work and achievements are an inspiration to the community,” said Mr Norris.