The eight finalists for Australian of the year have been announced and the list includes a record number of women.
Six out of the eight finalists for the top category are women. Women also dominate the awards overall – across the four categories of Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the year and Australia’s local hero, 17 out of 32 nominees are women.
In the past, women have been less likely than men to be nominated as finalists and even more unlikely to get the top prize – only 11 out of the 31 finalists were women last year. And in the last decade, only two out of ten Australian of the Year winners were women.
“We’ve never had this many female finalists and it really reflects that we are moving forward as a society. Our finalists reflect the fact that women are now at the forefront of leadership roles in some of the most important sectors of our society,” National Australia Day Council CEO Jeremy Lasek told Women’s Agenda.
This year’s six female finalists are Rosie Batty, Deborra lee-Furness, Hetty Johnson AM, Professor Lyn Beazley AO, Dr Gill Hicks MBE, and Rosalie Kunoth-Monks OAM.
Rosie Batty has been a campaigner against domestic and family violence since her 11-year-old son was killed by his father in February of this year. Batty speaks publicly about the prevalence of family violence and its destructive impact on its victims. “I want to tell everybody that family violence happens to everybody. No matter how nice your house is, how intelligent you are. It can happen to anyone, and everyone,” Batty said to the media outside her son’s funeral.
Deborra-lee Furness is an adoption advocate as well as being an actor, director and producer. She founded the advocacy group National Adoption Awareness Week in 2008. This year, she launched Adopt Change, and through these organisations she lobbies for adoption law reform and to combat anti-adoption culture in Australia. Furness also works as a World Vision Ambassador to spread awareness about the world’s orphan crisis.
Hetty Johnson AM founded child protection advocacy group Bravehearts in 1997. She founded the organisation after being told her daughter had been sexually assaulted, and resolved to advocate for the protection of children against sexual assault and violence. She supports children across Australia who have been victims of assault and has also campaigned for broad legislative and policy changes around these issues.
Professor Lyn Beazley AO is a neuroscientist who has dedicated her research to investigating brain damage and the treatment of infants at risk of pre-term delivery. She was also the chief scientist and advisor to the Western Australian Government between 2006 and 2013. She also organises outreach activities promoting science and technology in Western Australian communities. She was awarded the Order or Australia in 2009.
Dr Gill Hicks MBE was so badly injured in the explosion on the London Underground in 2005 that paramedics could not identify her. After surviving the attack, she was determined to campaign to end extremist violence and work towards durable peace. She founded advocacy group M.A.D for Peace and has been advocating against violence for the past nine years.
Rosalie Kunoth-Monks OAM is a humanitarian activist who established the first Aboriginal hostel in Victoria. She has since worked as a government adviser, an interpreter and an environmental campaigner. She has served on several boards as an adviser on Indigenous issues. She has also starred in Australian dramas and has run for public office in the Senate and the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly.
The winner of the Australian of the Year Award will be announced in Canberra on January 25.