Australian of the Year Awards
The Australian of the Year Awards again honoured incredible Australians who have gone the extra mile to create a better country for us all. We all know someone that goes above and beyond in contributing to a greater community - the quiet achievers, the community heroes, the leaders and the doers.
Meet our 2023 Recipients
SA State Recipient Australian of the Year 2023
Taryn Brumfitt - Body image activist, director, writer and speaker
Documentary director Taryn Brumfitt leads the Body Image Movement, an Adelaide-based organisation that teaches people to love and appreciate their bodies. Her 2016 documentary Embrace tackled the serious issue of women’s body loathing and Taryn’s path to body acceptance. It was seen by millions of people in 190 countries and is available on Netflix.
Taryn has written four best-selling books. She released a documentary, Embrace Kids, in September 2022 that aims to teach nine- to 14-year-olds to move, nourish, respect and appreciate what their bodies can do.
She has collaborated with body image expert Dr Zali Yager to create an Embrace Kids companion parenting book. They have also created the Embrace Hub – a free, research-based resource for teachers, parents, children and communities on fostering body positivity.
Taryn’s work has reached more than 200 million people. She is an internationally recognised keynote speaker whose work is recognised by UN Women.
SA State Recipient Senior Australian of the Year 2023
Sandra Miller - Aboriginal rights activist, advocate for Indigenous health and welfare
Sandra Miller, a proud Wirangu woman from the Ceduna area, has been a trailblazer, breaking down barriers for Aboriginal women aspiring to leadership roles at a time when they were under-represented.
Sandra trained as a social worker and in the early 1980s worked for the Department of Community Welfare in Adelaide. She pushed to change government policies that were detrimental to Aboriginal children and encouraged Aboriginal people to become foster parents.
She went on to play an important part in policy development and service design across key state government portfolios, including Aboriginal health, ageing and welfare.
Sandra continues to be a strong voice for her community since leaving the public service. She’s had leadership roles in Aboriginal health and legal rights groups, and holds multiple board and executive appointments. She has represented her community in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance and at the United Nations.
SA State Recipient Young Australian of the Year 2023
Awer Mabil - Professional soccer player and co-founder of Barefoot to Boots
Socceroo Awer Mabil is co-founder of the not-for-profit organisation Barefoot to Boots, which aims for better health, education, policies and gender equality for refugees.
His own unique way of celebrating a goal is a message to those struggling with their mental health: you are not alone and you can speak up.
The winger knows something about trying times. Awer grew up in a Kenyan refugee camp after his family fled civil war in Sudan, before coming to Australia at 10. Only a year after reaching his dream to play for the Socceroos, his sister died in a car accident in 2019.
Awer says that he now feels ‘unbreakable’. It is his experience of hard times, the memory of his sister and the knowledge that young people see him as a role model that drives him to perform. It’s what he does that Awer wants to be known for – not his background.
SA State Recipient Local Hero 2023
Christine Robertson - Co-founder of Lost Pets of South Australia and creator of the Chipblitz program
More than 65,000 pets across Australia have received a microchip thanks to Christine Robertson, but that wasn’t what she initially set out to achieve.
Christine co-founded the Lost Pets of South Australia charity in 2013 to reunite lost pets with their families. The volunteer organisation uses social media and its connections with the RSPCA and other animal welfare groups to get lost animals back home.
However, it soon became apparent that many pets were being lost because their owners couldn’t afford to get them microchipped. Microchip fees generally start at about $65. So Christine developed the Chipblitz program in 2015, allowing trained implanters to microchip a pet for just $10.
Chipblitz is now the biggest pet microchipping program in the Southern Hemisphere. It has a partnership with national pet goods store PETstock and 1,400-plus volunteers. More than 44,000 pets have been chipped in South Australia alone since the program began.
Honourable note to all of the finalists:
2023 Australian of the Year (SA) Finalists:
Professor Christopher Daniels PHD DSC FAICD - Environmentalist, zoologist and science communicator
Andrea Madeley - Lawyer and workplace safety advocate
Marie Elizabeth Shaw QC - Philanthropist and co-founder, Ice Factor program
2023 Senior Australian of the Year (SA) Finalists:
2023 Young Australian of the Year (SA) Finalists:
Josh Cavallo - Professional soccer player and equality champion
Felicity Graham - Author, advocate and CEO at Fostering Change Australia
Meet our 2022 Recipients
SA State Recipient Australian of the Year 2022
Professor Helen Marshall - Vaccination researcher
Professor Helen Marshall is one of Australia’s most celebrated and recognised vaccination researchers. Specialising in vaccinology, public health and infectious diseases at the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute, Helen has been involved in game-changing studies that have had a global impact.
A key focus is the fight to stop meningococcal B. Helen is a lead investigator for the ‘B Part of It’ study, which assessed the effectiveness of meningococcal B vaccines on invasive meningococcal disease in Australian teens and young adults. The study is the largest of its kind globally and investigates the herd immunity impact of the meningococcal B vaccine.
Since 2004, Helen has published 211 peer-reviewed papers and been awarded 17 research grants totalling more than $33 million. She’s also been the recipient of three National Health and Medical Research Council Fellowships.
During the pandemic, Helen has provided advice about meningococcal B and COVID-19 to the South Australian Minister for Health and the Chief Public Health Officer.
SA State Recipient Senior Australian of the Year 2022
Mark Le Messurier - Educator, counsellor and author
Mark Le Messurier has devoted his life to improving the self-worth, wellbeing, mental health and life outcomes of young people. He focuses on who he calls the ‘tough kids’ – those who are struggling in some capacity. This includes children with disabilities, global developmental delays, disadvantage, disorders, neglect, or a combination of issues.
After a 20-year teaching career, Mark opened a private-practice consultancy to mentor children and teenagers who needed support beyond the school system, and to coach parents. His goal has always been to create environments that set children and adults up for success.
He’s authored numerous books for teachers and parents, including co-authoring What’s the Buzz? – a world-class social and emotional literacy education program. It’s become a standard course in the training of teachers, counsellors, psychologists, social workers, and youth workers in over 90 countries.
Mark’s generosity and consideration for others is profound, far reaching, and life changing. He’s helped many families and is a relatable role model and mentor.
SA State Recipient Young Australian of the Year 2022
Dr Trudy Lin - Special needs dentistry consultant
As the youngest of only 25 practising specialists in Australia’s Special Needs Dentistry sector, Dr Trudy Lin provides oral healthcare to people with disability, psychiatric illness, and complex medical issues such as cancer. She also treats people experiencing homelessness and domestic violence.
Trudy’s passion for dentistry started as a child, after seeing the profound impact poor oral health had on her father’s life, including his physical, social and psychological wellbeing. From then on, she was set on specialising in Special Needs Dentistry to care for the most vulnerable people – a place she believed her profession could create the most positive impact.
Trudy has completed a research thesis on implementing a triaging tool to improve oral healthcare access for people with disability. This work has received multiple accolades, including the 2020 Australian and New Zealand division winner of the International Association of Dental Research Poster Competition.
Showing a strong work ethic and exemplary leadership skills, Trudy continues to dedicate her career to improving access to oral healthcare for all Australians.
SA State Recipient Local Hero 2022
Monique Bareham - Lymphoedema Advocate and Leader
Ten years ago, Monique Bareham received a cancer diagnosis. Like many people who go through cancer treatment, she was left with lymphoedema – a chronic, debilitating and incurable condition caused by damage to the lymphatic system.
Monique soon realised South Australia was the only state without a compression garment subsidy program. This meant many people living with lymphoedema were going without these necessary medical items.
Wanting to make a difference, Monique joined the Lymphoedema Support Group SA, now Lymphoedema Association SA Inc., and soon took on the role of president. After years of attending meetings, gathering personal experiences from people living with lymphoedema, and lobbying the state, the South Australian government announced a compression garment subsidy scheme in July 2020. Such a breakthrough would not have been possible without Monique’s efforts.
Monique remains tireless in her advocacy for the lymphoedema community across South Australia. She monitors the roll-out of the compression garment subsidy scheme to ensure availability and equity in its delivery.
Dr Samantha Pillay - Surgeon, entrepreneur, author and educator
Natasha Stott Despoja AO - Gender equality advocate and inaugural Chair of Our Watch
2022 Young Australian of the Year (SA) Finalists:
Kyle Chalmers OAM - Olympic swimming champion
Bianca Nilsson - Founder of Renegade Records
Zoe Simpson - Founder of Mount Gambier Hay Run
Meet our 2021 Recipients
Tanya Hosch is the first Indigenous person and second woman appointed to the AFL executive. She has held leadership roles in sport, the arts, culture, social justice and public policy. One of the pre-eminent Indigenous leaders pursuing constitutional recognition of Australia’s First Nations people, Tanya’s principled leadership is transforming the AFL – advancing women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, gender-diverse Australians and the entire community.
Tanya championed the first Indigenous player statue of Nicky Winmar and instigated a review of anti-vilification policy within the code. She helped secure an apology for Adam Goodes from the AFL and delivered a new industry framework to help prevent racist treatment of players.
Tanya also helped found advocacy organisation The Indigenous Players Alliance. She drove a new respect and responsibility policy enabling women to seek redress for unacceptable behaviour, and a world-first gender diversity policy for a contact sport. In 2020, she drove a hugely successful social media campaign aimed at informing and protecting Indigenous communities from COVID-19.
At 76 years old, Professor Richard Bruggemann is continuing to make a difference to the lives of people living with an intellectual disability. Throughout his career, he has provided expert advice to governments on disability services, legislation, inclusion and rights.
He is a dedicated volunteer, has sat on more than 20 non-government boards and committees, and is a prolific writer on topics of concern for the disability community. This year, he was called on by the South Australian Government to join the special taskforce investigating the tragic death of cerebral palsy sufferer, Ann Marie Smith.
Richard was also appointed to a new government role to assess the temporary orders to protect people living with a cognitive or mental impairment from the spread of the COVID-19 virus. His ongoing leadership has helped create a community service system that helps people with intellectual disability and their families enjoy a better quality of life.
At just 18 years of age, Isobel Marshall co-founded TABOO with school friend Eloise Hall, to help women around the world by breaking down stigma around menstruation and providing greater access to hygiene products. Isobel and business partner Eloise, crowdfunded $56,000 to launch their range of products in August 2019.
TABOO sells high quality, ethically sourced, organic cotton pads and tampons to an Australian market, with 100 per cent of net profits going to One Girls – a charity providing education programs for girls and women in Sierra Leone and Uganda. Locally, Isobel and TABOO have partnered with Vinnies Women’s Crisis centre, providing free access to pads and tampons for women who require emergency accommodation in South Australia.
Recognising period poverty is not just a big city issue, they also support the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council. Isobel is also a full-time student at the University of Adelaide, where she is studying a Bachelor of Medicine (MBBS) and a Bachelor of Surgery.
Former footballer Russell Ebert OAM is a legendary figure with the Port Adelaide Football Club. A four-time winner of the Magarey Medal, awarded to the best and fairest player in the South Australian National Football League, he’s considered one of the club’s greatest players of all time.
Today, Russell continues to give back to the club and the South Australian community through his leadership of the club’s Power Community Ltd (PCL) youth programs. He is particularly passionate about PCL’s Power to End Violence Against Women (PTEVAW) program, which he delivers to Year 10 students around the state. Developed with Centacare Catholic Family Services and the South Australian Department for Education, PTEVAW challenges gender-based attitudes and promotes respectful relationships and an end to domestic violence. The program has reached more than 5,000 students since starting in 2016. Russell is also a passionate supporter of children living with disabilities and is a fundraising ambassador for disability services organisation, Novita.
Dr Joy O'Hazy - Doctor and Initiator of Birthing Kits
Professor Nicola Spurrier - Chief Public Health Officer, Paediatrician and Physician
2021 Young Australian of the Year (SA) Finalists:
Alicia Beik - Businesswoman and Migrant Activist
Holly Scott - Road Safety Advocate
Tori Marshall - Founder and Director of Lift Up Voices