WA Australian of the Year Recipients Announced

Posted 9 November 2013 4:45pm

Western Australia’s Australian of the Year 2014 - Professor Bruce Robinson AM

Western Australia’s Senior Australian of the Year 2014 - Fred Chaney AO

Western Australia’s Young Australian of the Year 2014 - Dr John van Bockxmeer

Western Australia’s Local Hero 2014 - Denise Smith-Ali

His Excellency Malcolm McCusker AC CVO QC, Governor of Western Australia, has congratulated the 2014 Western Australia’s Australian of the Year Award recipients at a special awards ceremony at Government House this afternoon.

Cancer Researcher Professor Bruce Robinson AM has been named Western Australia’s Australian of the Year 2014 for his world leading study of asbestos related cancer.

Professor Robinson, who is 63 years old and lives in Shenton Park, leads a large research team at the University of Western Australia’s School of Medicine and Pharmacology which is studying cancer immunology and asbestos diseases. Bruce and his team have been responsible for many world-first breakthroughs, including the first blood test for mesothelioma. 

His care for thousands of asbestos victims and their families extends well beyond the laboratory.  After establishing medical clinics focused on patients’ emotional and physical needs, Bruce initiated the highly successful Breaking Bad News course to help doctors with difficult conversations. 

Bruce is also a vocal advocate for fathering and has produced a number of books and DVDs on the topic, and also directs the Fathering Project at the University of Western Australia which aims to connect children with father figures. 

A passionate volunteer who has donated many hours of service to rural Indonesian medical clinics, Bruce’s personal philosophy is to turn compassion into action.

Reconciliation advocate Fred Chaney AO, has been awarded Western Australia’s Senior Australian of the Year 2014.

Now 72 years of age, Mr Chaney’s hard work in support of often marginalised people has never faltered.  As founding co-chair of Reconciliation Australia and an early advocate for Aboriginal voting rights in 1961 and for the 1967 referendum, Fred’s contribution has included helping establish the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia to his national role as the former Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. 

For many years, Fred was Deputy President of the National Native Title Tribunal and, more recently, is Chair of Desert Knowledge Australia and chaired the Board of Central Desert Native Title services.  He was instrumental in establishing the Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation, which supports Indigenous young people to reach their potential. 

The Claremont resident's long history of public service is rooted in his fierce commitment to social justice and a belief in the inherent equality of people.  In all his leadership roles, Fred inspires others to work collaboratively, respectfully and ambitiously to overcome the barriers that inhibit people’s full economic and social participation in Australian society.

Western Australia’s Young Australian of the Year 2014 is 25 year old Derby resident Dr John van Bockxmeer.

While working as a doctor in the remote Pilbara region, Dr Bockxmeer had an epiphany.  Looking out the window of the hospital, he saw Indigenous children kicking a tin can around the dusty oval and he knew it was time for change. 

He started recycling sports equipment in the city, packing a boot full of gear and driving the 3,500 kilometres from Albany to Kununurra to deliver it. 

Despite a series of successes, John realised that communities needed more than just sports equipment to stay healthy, and so he founded Fair Game, a charity that assists thousands of people in Indigenous and migrant communities with recycled equipment, sport, fitness and wellness programs and capacity-building through health education.  

A natural leader, John inspires those around him through the breadth and quality of his achievements.  He coordinates a unique mentoring program for Fair Game volunteers and represents excellence in the fields of medicine and community development at the local, national and international levels. 

Denise Smith-Ali has been awarded Western Australia’s Local Hero 2014 for her tireless work as a linguist.

A Noongar woman from the south west of Western Australia, 54 year old Denise lives in South Bunbury and is the custodian of two clans - Kaneang and Wilman of the Noongar Nation. 

Denise has overcome many challenges to become the only Noongar linguist in Australia and has dedicated her life to reclaiming and reviving the language of the Noongar people. 

Denise has always been interested in her culture and language.  Her early focus on educating young people and engaging them in their linguistic roots has shifted to documenting creation and ancestral stories that relate to country.

Today, Denise produces resources to support Noongar language education in traditional and contemporary contexts, records and documents ancestral language and knowledge, and supports community awareness programs. 

She is also working on a cultural mapping project using Google Earth.  Without Denise’s contribution, the Noongar language may no longer be active.

Denise not only volunteers with the Noongar community in Perth, she donates her time and expertise to Aboriginal language communities throughout Australia, helping them to keep their languages alive.


The Western Australia award recipients will join recipients from the other States and Territories as finalists for the national awards to be announced on 25 January 2014 in Canberra. 

His Excellency Malcolm McCusker AC CVO QC, Governor of Western Australia said the Western Australian award recipients were all making important contributions to the community.

“The Australian of the Year Awards for Western Australia honour significant contributions made to the community, in many different ways, by Western Australians - some prominent, some less well known.  They do more than that, however.  The stories of the service they have given will, I have no doubt, inspire others to follow their example and make a difference for the better,” said His Excellency.

His Excellency Malcolm McCusker AC CVO QC, Governor of Western Australia was awarded Western Australia’s Australian of the Year 2011.

 National Australia Day Council CEO, Jeremy Lasek, said the Western Australia award recipients were all amazing Australians dedicated to their passions.

“The Western Australia finalists are remarkable Australians working at a local, national and global level to help others,” said Mr Lasek.

“We are proud to be able to recognise these great Australians who are making a positive difference to the world we live in.”

The Commonwealth Bank has been the major sponsor of the Australian of the Year Awards for more than 30 years. Chief Executive Officer Ian Narev congratulated the Western Australia award recipients.

“The Commonwealth Bank is proud to recognise your outstanding achievements. Congratulations on becoming national finalists in the Australian of the Year Awards - you should all be very proud,” said Mr Narev.

“We are pleased to be able to celebrate and acknowledge your ongoing dedication to building a better country for us all.”  

 For more information on the Australian of the Year Awards visit australianoftheyear.org.au

Media contact: Zannie Abbott 0418 274 291 or Nicole Browne on 0414 673 762

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