WESTERN AUSTRALIA'S AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR AWARD RECIPIENTS 2012 ANNOUNCED

Posted 19 November 2011 12:00am

Western Australia's Australian of the Year 2012 - Professor Donna Cross

Western Australia's Senior Australian of the Year 2012 - George Jones AM

Western Australia's Young Australian of the Year 2012 - David Pocock

Western Australia's Local Hero 2012 - Helen Fitzroy

Children's advocate Professor Donna Cross has been named Western Australia's Australian of Year 2012 and presented with her award by the Governor of Western Australia, His Excellency Mr Malcolm McCusker AO QC.

Donna is the Foundation Professor of Child and Adolescent Health at the Child Health Promotion Research Centre. She is recognised internationally, having conducted research throughout the USA as well as Canada, Russia, Estonia, Japan and Israel, and with organisations including WHO, UNICEF and the American Health Foundation.

Since 1989 Donna has harnessed the results of her extensive school-based research to influence health promotion in schools. Her focus has been on changing the way Australian schools prevent and respond to aggression and the role of families in creating safer, more respectful communities.

Over the years, 51 year old Donna has tackled many issues affecting the wellbeing of children and young people. She has campaigned against drug use, cigarette smoking, bullying and child abuse and has worked to raise awareness of HIV and road safety.

With the increasing occurrence of cyber-bullying, Donna is at the forefront of measures to counter and reduce its insidious impact and the risk it presents to vulnerable children. She has won many awards for her research, leadership and advocacy, and is a tireless champion for positive, whole school approaches to children’s wellbeing.

Community champion George Jones AM was awarded Western Australia's Senior Australian of the Year 2012 for his unstinting work with charities and the not-for-profit sector.

George lived at Parkerville Children's Home as a boy and is now a Parkerville Board member and a strong supporter of the recently opened George Jones Child Advocacy Centre. A prolific fundraiser, George was instrumental in securing funds for the centre and has raised more than $16 million for the Ear Science Institute of Australia, for a world-class medical research and clinical facility to treat hearing loss, balance disorders and ear disease. As a sufferer of Meniere’s disease, an inner ear disorder that affects hearing and balance, George understands how debilitating such conditions can be.

George's unwavering commitment to doing the right thing, giving his time and skills where needed and taking a leadership role was evident again in 2009, when a tragic plane crash in West Africa killed the entire board of mining company Sundance Resources. George, who was former Chair of the business, didn’t hesitate to step back in. Although he had previously retired due to ill health, 67 year old George felt a responsibility to guide the organisation through its crisis, rebuilding the board and caring for the families of his former colleagues. His determination to help rebuild Sundance Resources and his dedicated charity and fundraising work are a testament to George’s selflessness.

Western Australian Young Australian of the Year 2012 is 23 year old rugby champion and philanthropist David Pocock.

When he was 14, David Pocock’s life changed forever. Political upheaval in Zimbabwe saw his family evicted from their farm, forcing them to flee to Australia. Just three years later, David’s prodigious talent as a rugby union player was spotted by Australian selectors and his career path was set. David captained the Australian rugby team’s under-20s at the junior world championships and in 2010 won the John Eales medal as Australia’s outstanding rugby player.

David has never forgotten the struggles of the poor in his birthplace. In 2009, he and a close friend Luke O’Keefe established Eightytwenty Vision, a charitable foundation to help underprivileged people in rural Zimbabwe. David donates money and raises funds to improve the lives of the sick and the poor and returns to Zimbabwe regularly. The projects focus on health care for HIV and AIDS sufferers, education for children, food and water security, and human rights.

An elite footballer with the world at his feet, David could have easily turned his back on his past. But his strong value system, integrity and sense of purpose in life are central to his character and his career in rugby enables him to create greater awareness of the plight of rural Africans.

(Note: David Pocock was unable to attend the awards event)

The Western Australian Local Hero 2012 is Esperance resident Helen Fitzroy, who has devoted her life to campaigning for greater mine safety and fighting for better support.

When she lost her husband, Steve, 20 years ago in an underground mining accident in Western Australia, Helen was left with three young children. At the time, there were few support services for families of workers killed or permanently injured while working in WA's resources industry.

Now that Helen’s children have grown up and are independent, she has refocused her energies, devoting her time to preventing other families having to experience what her family endured. The culmination of her efforts was Miners’ Promise, a not-for-profit scheme supported by BHP Billiton that offers immediate financial assistance in the event of death or permanent injury. The scheme covers mortgage repayments, car loans, daily living expenses, funeral costs, as well as emotional and trauma support, financial and legal advice.

At 54, Helen has now written a book entitled Just a Number, which is an account of her life bringing up three young children on her own. She is now Deputy Chair of Miners’ Promise and is working to extend the scheme to other states. Thanks to Helen’s determination and tireless advocacy for resource workers’ safety and rights, their families will be properly supported should a mining accident occur.

The Western Australian recipients will now join recipients from all other States and Territories as finalists for the national awards to be announced on 25 January 2012 in Canberra.

Tam Johnston, Program Director for the National Australia Day Council, said Western Australia's award recipients are a diverse group of people who all share common values of helping others.

“The award recipients are extraordinary Western Australians whose efforts are making a difference in their home state, nationally and internationally," said Ms Johnston.

Executive Director of the Australia Day Council of Western Australia, Graham Partridge, added his congratulations to all the finalists and award recipients.

"The Australia Day Council of Western Australia is extremely proud to put this group of award recipients forward as WA's contenders for the Australian of the Year Awards nationally," said Mr Partridge.

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

"The Commonwealth Bank is proud to be part of acknowledging the work and efforts of an impressive group of Australians through the Australian of the Year Awards," said Mr Norris.

"This year's Western Australian award recipients are extraordinary people that we can all be inspired by. It is the passion and determination of individuals like these that make Australia a terrific country. I wish them the best of luck for the national awards in January."