‘Each person nominated this year represents the best of Australia’
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, praising the finalists of the 2015 Australian of the Year Awards, remarked: “You’ve all made our country a better place. Some of you have inspired us, others have challenged us, all of you have amazed us. You are proof that there is no limit to what Australians can achieve.”
This year’s finalists, as well as the 2014 award winners, were hosted by Mr Abbott at a special morning tea at Parliament House ahead of the official ceremony in Canberra, where the winners will be unveiled.
Mr Abbott said each person nominated this year represents the best of Australia.
“Each of you would be a worthy winner, and every one of you is addressing a vital issue in our national life,” he said.
“Deborah-Lee Furness, promoting adoption and the cause of giving children without families a better life and families without children a better life.
“Rosie Batty, who faced an unimaginable tragedy and has become an inspirational campaigner against domestic violence.
“Hettie Johnston, Australia’s foremost child protection activist.
“Professor Lyn Beazley, a medical researcher and educator helping people not just here in Australia, but right around the world.
“Gill Hicks, who like Rosie Batty has turned adversity, extraordinary horrible adversity, into an opportunity to help others to come closer to being their best selves.
“Rodney Croome, the activist who more than anyone else ended legal sanctions against gay people in this country.
“Glenn Keys, a remarkable medical entrepreneur and philanthropist, again doing good not just here but right around the world.
“And Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, who has been a long-term campaigner for the environment and for reconciliation.
“All of you, every one of you, are doing an extraordinary job and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Adam Goodes urges winner to make time for community work
Last year’s Australian of the Year, Sydney Swans player Adam Goodes, advised whoever receives this year’s award to both enjoy the privilege, but to also continue making time for community work.
The star footballer and Indigenous rights activist said the role was a busy one, but his advice to future recipients is to keep up the good work that got them nominated.
“You just need to enjoy it. You’re a finalist for a reason and that’s because you do fantastic work in the community,” he said.
“That’s your bread and butter. That’s what you’re going to continue to do and I really encourage them to try and get as much awareness as possible using this platform to do that.”
Ms Batty, who has campaigned against domestic violence since her son Luke was killed by his father last year, said she felt overwhelmed by the nomination considering the circumstances that brought her to public attention.
Speaking before a lunch in honour of the nominees, Ms Batty said the moment was a difficult one, but one she was determined to make good use of. “It’s one-in-three women. One woman a week is killed and one-in-four children. I keep repeating those statistics because we all should know them and they’re indisputable,” she said.
Fellow nominee Ms Furness said she was thrilled with this morning’s announcement of a new Government agency aimed at making it easier to adopt children from overseas.
The Intercountry Adoption Support Service is being set up to help families navigate the complex process and reduce waiting times.
Furness said it was something she has been advocating for for eight years.
“Streamlining adoption and making the process easier for people to navigate so more kids are going to find families, and inside I’m skipping and jumping up and down,” she said.
Chairman of the National Australia Day Council, Ben Roberts-Smith VC, who is Australia’s most highly decorated soldier, said he was in awe of the courage shown by the outgoing Australian of the Year winners and those who are nominated for this year’s awards.
“Quite frankly I’m in awe of what you have done this year, let alone what you have achieved in your lives,” he said.
“The courage you have shown this year in promoting your causes and championing the individual situations you have faced has been quite awe inspiring so thank you for that.
“The 2015 recipients … the 32 nominees, you are, as it has been said, fantastic Australians.”
– ABC News