2018 AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR AWARDS ANNOUNCED

Posted 25 January 2018 8:43pm

2018 Australian of the Year – Professor Michelle Yvonne Simmons (NSW)

2018 Australia’s Local Hero – Eddie Woo (NSW)

2018 Senior Australian of the Year –  Dr Graham Farquhar AO (ACT)

2018 Young Australian of the Year – Samantha Kerr (WA)

 

A quantum physics professor whose work has launched Australia into “the space race of the computing era”, a teacher who makes maths accessible and fun, a biophysicist helping to solve the world’s food challenges and a footballer with the world at her feet have been announced as the 2018 Australians of the Year. 

The Prime Minister, The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, presented the four Australian of the Year Award recipients with trophies at a ceremony in the Great Hall of Parliament House in Canberra this evening.

 

The 2018 Australian of the Year is professor in quantum physics Professor Michelle Yvonne Simmons.

One of the world’s top scientists, Professor Michelle Yvonne Simmons has pioneered research that could lead to a quantum leap in computing and reshape the way we live and how we experience the world – her work is helping develop leading technology on a global scale, right here in Australia.

Since arriving in Australia from Britain in 1999, Michelle has transformed the University of NSW quantum physics department into a world leader in advanced computer systems.

In 2012, Michelle and her team created the world’s first transistor made from a single atom, along with the world’s thinnest wire. The breakthrough means Australia is now at the forefront of what Michelle calls the “space race of the computing era”. 

Michelle’s aim is to build a quantum computer able to solve problems in minutes which would otherwise take thousands of years. Such a discovery has the potential to revolutionise drug design, weather forecasting, self-driving vehicles, artificial intelligence and much more.

Michelle is an evangelist for Australian scientific research and a role model to young scientists everywhere. The 50 year old actively encourages all students – girls and boys – to dream big, challenge themselves and to achieve ambitious goals in science. Through her work she is naturally an inspiration for young women and a strong supporter of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

  

The 2018 Australia's Local Hero is mathematics teacher Eddie Woo.     

Eddie Woo is arguably Australia’s most famous mathematics teacher, making maths fun and attracting young people to engage with maths by making it relatable and interesting. 

The head mathematics teacher at Cherrybrook Technology High School in Western Sydney (the largest secondary school in New South Wales), Eddie started posting videos online in 2012 for a student who was sick with cancer and missing a lot of school. Before long, he was sharing the videos across the country and beyond.

‘Wootube’ now boasts more than 100,000 subscribers and has attracted more than eight million views worldwide and counting. With infectious enthusiasm, the father-of-three's unique and caring approach to teaching destigmatises mathematics as an inaccessible and difficult subject. 

Outside his high school classroom, 32 year old Eddie is a volunteer facilitator with the University of Sydney's Widening Participation and Outreach program and has motivated more than 1,400 students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

A brilliant student, Eddie could have chosen any field, but in defiance of social convention and his parents’ wish for him to become a doctor, he followed his passion and opted for teaching. Today, he is using his vocation to “pay it forward” and make education equitable for all.

His modern and flexible approach to teaching is taking education beyond the classroom and making it part of young people’s device-driven lives, not just in his own school but nationally and internationally. He is a highly energetic, passionate teacher and a proud spokesperson for the important role teachers play in shaping young lives and the future.

 

The 2018 Senior Australian of the Year is prize-winning biophysicist Dr Graham Farquhar AO. 

One of Australia's most eminent scientists, Dr Graham Farquhar is helping reshape our understanding of photosynthesis – the very basis of life on Earth. His work focuses on food security and how the world will feed growing populations into the future.

After growing up with a Tasmanian farming family background, Graham has used his love of science to deliver practical benefits to the agricultural sector. His study of mathematics and physics formed the bedrock of a career creating mathematical models of how plants work.

His research addresses agriculture and climate change and aims to solve some of the greatest challenges of our generation. Graham has received a string of accolades during his distinguished career for his research examining how water efficient crops can protect food security in a changing climate. Importantly, he has worked to improve world food security by developing strains of wheat that can grow with less water.

In 2017 Graham became the first Australian to win a Kyoto Prize – the most prestigious international award for fields not traditionally honoured with a Nobel Prize.

From his long-term base at the Australian National University in Canberra, and now aged 70, Graham is tackling some of the most profound challenges facing humanity and the environment.

 

The 2018 Young Australian of the Year is sportsperson Samantha Kerr.

When her dream of playing for the West Coast Eagles was shot down because she was the ‘wrong’ gender in a male-dominated sport, Sam switched to another football code – soccer. By the time she was 15, Sam was representing Australia in the Matildas. Now, aged 24, Sam has held contracts with Sydney FC, Perth Glory and is in her fifth season in America's National Women's Soccer League, recently becoming its all-time leading goal scorer. In 2017, she was named a finalist for FIFA Female Player of the Year.

Arguably the best women's soccer player in the world, the West Australian is an engaging ambassador for all women's sport. Her love for the game and her country is infectious. While she celebrates her prolific goal-scoring ability with a trademark backflip, Sam is a well-grounded athlete who inspires young and old with her athletic prowess and sportsmanship.

Sam’s prodigious football skills are the basis of her stellar career, but her professionalism, commitment to being best on field and her remarkably mature approach to life stand as admirable examples to young women everywhere.

Samantha Kerr is an inspirational sportsperson, a champion of equality and a young woman whose achievements serve as motivation for girls to aim high and chase their dreams.

National Australia Day Council Chair, Danielle Roche OAM, congratulated the 2018 Australian of the Year Award recipients.

“Michelle, Eddie, Graham and Samantha are inspirational Australians whose contributions are making our wonderful nation a better place and making a real difference to the lives of others,” said Ms Roche.

“They are breaking down barriers, forging new futures, looking at old problems in different ways and creating new pathways.

“They are a truly extraordinary group of people, and through their success, they remind us we all have something to contribute.”

Commonwealth Bank is the major sponsor of the Australian of the Year Awards and has proudly supported the program for over 30 years.

Chief Executive Officer, Ian Narev, congratulated the four recipients.

“It is a pleasure to congratulate the four 2018 Australians of the Year on behalf of the Commonwealth Bank,” said Mr Narev. 

“Each of you has contributed to making our nation a better place and should feel extremely proud of what you have achieved. We thank you for your contributions - your personal stories are an inspiration to us all.”

Professor Michelle Yvonne Simmons, Eddie Woo and Dr Graham Farquhar will take part in Australia Day activities in Blacktown and Sydney tomorrow. 

 

Nominations for the 2019 Australian of the Year are now open at australianoftheyear.org.au.

 

Additional information: see below additional information about the 2018 recipients. 

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

Photos:  Photos of the 2018 Award recipients will be available for download after approx 9:30pm 2from https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B3zfB7dMM-RmWHlKbzg5aWR5V2c  

 

2018 AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR

PROFESSOR MICHELLE YVONNE SIMMONS

 

Date of birth:

14 July 1967

 

Lives:

Woollahra, Sydney, NSW

 

Place of birth:

London, England

 

Arrived Australia:

1999 (Australian Citizen since 2007)

 

Partner:

Mr Thomas Barlow

 

Children:

Jack, Blue and Bondi Barlow

 

Education:

Secondary: Eltham Green, London, 1985

Durham University:  Bachelor of Science Honours (Physics) 1988,

Bachelor of Science Honours (Chemistry) 1988, PhD Physics (1992)

 

Occupation:

Director, UNSW, Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation & Communication Technology

UNSW Bio:

Professor Simmons is the Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, a Laureate Fellow and a Scientia Professor of Physics at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. Following her PhD in II-VI solar cells at the University of Durham in the UK in 1992 she was a Research Fellow at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, UK, working with Professor Sir Michael Pepper FRS in GaAs-based quantum electronics. In 1999, she was awarded a QEII Fellowship and came to Australia as a founding member of the Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computer Technology where she established a large research group dedicated to the fabrication of atomic-scale devices in silicon using the atomic precision of a scanning tunneling microscopy. Her group has developed the world's smallest transistor and the narrowest conducting wires in silicon made with atomic precision. In 2005 she was awarded the Pawsey Medal by the Australian Academy of Science and in 2006 became the one of the youngest elected Fellows of this Academy. In 2012 she was named the NSW Scientist of the Year, in 2013 was awarded a Laureate Fellowship and in 2014 has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

2018 AUSTRALIA’S LOCAL HERO

EDDIE WOO

Date of birth:

19 September, 1985

 

Lives:

Baulkham Hills, Sydney, NSW

 

Place of birth:

Sydney, NSW

 

Partner:

Mrs Michelle Woo

 

Children:

Nathan, Emily, Jamie

 

Occupation 

- Head Teacher Mathematics, Cherrybrook Technical High School (NSW Department of Education)

- Creator ‘Wootube’

 

Education:

Secondary: James Ruse Agricultural High School, 2003

University of Sydney: Bachelor of Education (Secondary Mathematics & Technology), Honours, 2007

 

Awards:

- NSW Premier’s Prize for Innovation in Mathematics Education

- 2017 University of Sydney Young Alumni Award for Outstanding Achievement

    

2018 SENIOR AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR

DR GRAHAM FARQUHAR AO 

Date of birth:

8 December, 1947

 

Lives:

Burra, NSW (south of Queanbeyan)

 

Place of birth:

Hobart, TAS

 

Partner:

Dr Josette Masle

 

Children:

Ms Ella Masle-Farquhar and Mr Etienne Masle-Farquhar

 

Occupation: 

Distinguished Professor, Australian National University

 

Education:

Secondary:  Wesley College, 1965

Australian National University: Physics and Applied Maths, 1968

 

Academic Awards/Distinctions

1968 Biophysics Scholarship

1970 -73 Commonwealth Post-graduate Scholarship

1980 P.L. Goldacre Award from the Australian Society of Plant Physiologists

1981 Senior Scientist Award under the Japan/Australia Science and Technology Agreement for collaborative research at RIKEN

1982 Australian American Educational Foundation (FULBRIGHT) Senior Scientist Fellowship for research at Carnegie Institution of Washington, Stanford

1983 Gottschalk Medal from the Australian Academy of Science

1984 British Council Academic Links and Interchange Scheme Award

1986 Australia - Royal Society Exchange Award

1987 Bourse de haut niveau du Ministère de la Recherche et de l'Enseignement Superieur de France

1988 Elected to Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Science

1991 Elected to Corresponding Membership of the American Society of Plant Physiologists

1991 CSIRO Medal for research achievement

1995 Elected to Fellowship of Royal Society (of London)

2001 Leading Australian Citation Laureate

2001 CSIRO Medal for team research

2004 Top100 Award

2005 JG Wood Lecturer (Australian Society of Plant Scientists)

2005 Gary Comer Climate Change Mentor Award

2006 Honorary Doctorate, Universiteit Antwerpen

2009 Land & Water Senior Research Fellowship

2011 Alexander von Humboldt Research Award

2013 Einstein Professor of Chinese Academy of Sciences

2013 Honorary Doctorate, University of Wageningen

2013 Elected Foreign Associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences

2013 Honorary Professorship, Centre for Agricultural Resources Research Shijiazhuang, Chinese Academy of Sciences

2015 Carnegie Centenary Professorship (Universities of Scotland)

2015 Elected to Life Membership of the Australian Society of Plant Scientists

2016 Macfarlane Burnet Medal and Lecture

 

Other Awards and Distinctions

2003 Centenary Medal: Citation ‘For service to Australian society and science in plant physiology’.

2006 Royal Society of Tasmania R.M. Johnston Memorial Medal. Awarded to “a scholar of great distinction in any field within the Society’s purview.”

2007 Shared Nobel Prize: Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change

2011 Peter Baume Award: The Australian National University’s highest award

2013 Order of Australia Officer (AO) in the General Division

2014 Rank Prize (U.K.) (Nutrition, animal & crop husbandry - shared with RA Richards)

2015 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science

 

2018 YOUNG AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR

SAMANTHA KERR

Date of birth:

10 September, 1993

 

Lives:

North Coogee, WA

 

Place of birth:

East Fremantle, WA

 

Occupation:

Athlete, Football Federation Australia

- Perth Glory

- Matildas

 

Education:

Secondary: Somerville Baptist College, 2010

 

Awards:

- 2017 AFC Women’s Player of the Year

- Australian Sports Woman of the Year

- MVP, America's National Women's Soccer League

- Julie Dolan Medal for Australia’s W-League 2016/7