Australian of the Year Awards 2015 announced
6:57pm, Canberra: For the first time in the history of the Australian of the Year Awards, women have been awarded the top honour in all four award categories - 2015 Australian of the Year, 2015 Young Australian of the Year, 2015 Senior Australian of the Year and 2015 Australia's Local Hero.
The Prime Minister, The Hon Tony Abbott MP, announced the Awards and presented the recipients with their trophies at a public event in front of Parliament House in Canberra this evening.
The 2015 Australian of the Year is Rosie Batty from Tyabb, Victoria. Rosie has risen above her personal tragedy and the great loss of her 11 year old son, Luke, who was the victim of domestic violence at the hands of his father in a very public assault. Rosie’s story jolted Australia into recognising that family violence can happen to anyone and she has given voice to many thousands of victims of domestic violence who had until then remained unheard. Rosie now champions efforts to fight domestic violence, making many media and public speaking appearances to shine a spotlight on the issue and call for systemic changes. Her incredible strength and selfless efforts are an inspiration to many other victims of domestic violence, while her courage and willingness to speak out will make Australia a far better and safer place. The 52 year old has won the respect and hearts of Australians for her strength of character and the way in which she has taken her own tragic experience and turned it into a call for change to help save others.
The 2015 Senior Australian of the Year is 61 year old Jackie French from the Araluen Valley, NSW. Living in a shed and needing to register her car, Jackie wrote her first children’s book, Rainstones, in 1991. While her editor said it was the messiest, worst spelt manuscript ever received, the book was shortlisted for Children’s Book of the Year and Jackie’s career as a best-selling author began. One of the few writers to win both literary and children’s choice awards, Jackie has published 140 books in 32 languages and received more than 60 literary prizes for beloved children’s classics such as Diary of a Wombat. Overcoming dyslexia herself, Jackie is a tireless advocate for children with learning difficulties. As the current national Children’s Laureate, Jackie is travelling the country to promote literacy and share the transformational power of reading, creativity and story-telling in the lives of young Australians. Passionate about the conservation of wildlife and our planet, 61 year old Jackie is also a director of The Wombat Foundation which raises funds for research into the preservation of the endangered northern hairy nosed wombat.
The 2015 Young Australian of the Year is 21 year old Drisana Levitzke-Gray of Balga, Western Australia. The fifth generation in her family to be born deaf, Drisana is dedicated to helping other deaf people and advocating their human rights. Born into a family with deaf parents, a deaf brother and a deaf extended family, Drisana cherishes her first language, Auslan. She promotes the deaf community as one without borders and one of rich language, culture, history and traditions. As the only Australian selected to attend the Frontrunners international deaf leadership course in 2012 and 2013, Drisana worked with communities in Europe and Samoa to expand leadership capacity and human rights understanding of deaf youth. In 2014, Drisana became the first deaf Auslan user to fulfil her civic duty as a juror. Drisana is the embodiment of the concept of ‘deaf gain’, not ‘hearing loss’, inspiring the deaf community, encouraging others to accept diversity and promoting a positive image of deafness which says loudly and proudly: “it is OK to be deaf”.
Charity founder Juliette Wright is 2015 Australia's Local Hero. The 41 year old from Camp Mountain, Queensland is the Founder and CEO of GIVIT, a portal to ensure quality goods get to where they are most needed by safely connecting an online network of givers. Inspired and relentlessly ambitious, Juliette is on a mission to alleviate poverty across Australia. Establishing the online platform in 2009 to connect those who have with those who need, Juliette is changing the face of how society helps its most vulnerable and marginalised people. Juliette’s vision, hard work and determination have resulted in donations of more than 126,000 items to disadvantaged members of the Australian community through GIVIT. Juliette’s passion is supporting each community by ensuring local donors give to local residents in need. In 2011, when Queensland was hit by devastating floods, GIVIT became the state government’s official website for matching donors and recipients - with 1.8 million hits resulting in 33,500 goods matched in three weeks. Juliette's positive ‘can do’ attitude inspires others to embrace philanthropy and she has just launched GIVIT Kids, a safe online platform for children to give new or pre-loved belongings.
The Chairman of the National Australia Day Council, Ben Roberts-Smith VC, MG, congratulated the Award recipients not only as great Australians, but also as role models.
"From an extraordinary group of finalists, all of whom are inspirational Australians and great ambassadors for their home states and territories, we have four Award recipients who stand as role models to us all," said Mr Roberts-Smith.
"It is a great moment in the 55 year history of these Awards to honour four women.
"Rosie, Jackie, Drisana and Juliette remind us of the many ways in which women contribute to our nation - that women are a force for change, a voice for rights, influencers, educators and the heart of our communities.
"Most of all, they are admired and respected by their fellow Australians - they are people we can be proud of and look to as examples of the good in us all."
The Australian of the Year Award recipients were selected from nominations submitted by the public.
The Commonwealth Bank is the major sponsor of the Australian of the Year Awards and has been a proud partner of the program for more than 35 years.
Commonwealth Bank Chief Executive Officer, Ian Narev, congratulated the 2015 Australian of the Year Award recipients.
"Today, we welcome four remarkable people to the honour roll of great Australians. Congratulations to the 2015 Award recipients for your outstanding achievements. You inspire us all to make a positive difference to our communities and our country," said Mr Narev.
Rosie Batty, Jackie French, Drisana Levitzke-Gray and Juliette Wright will take part in Australia Day activities by attending the National Flag Raising and Citizenship Ceremony in Canberra tomorrow morning and will attend various functions in Melbourne and Sydney in the afternoon and evening.
If there's someone you think should be considered for the Australian of the YearAwards 2016, you can nominate them now at australianoftheyear.org.au.