2019 Australian of the year awards announced
Cave-diving medics who helped save a boys’ soccer team in Thailand, parents fighting childhood bullying after the loss of their daughter, a paediatrician advocating for the prevention of child abuse and a musician inspiring indigenous youth while keeping Yolngu Matha language alive through rap have been announced as the 2019 Australians of the Year.
2019 Australians of the Year – Dr Craig Challen SC OAM (WA) & Dr Richard Harris SC OAM (SA)
2019 Australia’s Local Heroes – Kate & Tick Everett (NT)
2019 Senior Australian of the Year – Dr Sue Packer AM (ACT)
2019 Young Australian of the Year – Danzal Baker (NT)
The Prime Minister, The Hon Scott Morrison MP, presented the Australian of the Year Award recipients with trophies at a ceremony at The National Arboretum in Canberra this evening, 25 January 2019.
For the first time since State and Territory award finalists were introduced to the program in 2004, two State finalists have been jointly awarded the title of Australian of the Year.
Dr Craig Challen SC OAM of Wangara DC, Western Australia and Dr Richard Harris SC OAM of Adelaide, South Australia were named 2019 Australians of the Year for their heroic efforts as part of an international rescue mission to save 12 boys from flooded caves in Thailand.
In July 2018, anaesthetist Dr Richard Harris and retired vet Dr Craig Challen made worldwide headlines when they joined an international team to rescue a group of boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
Richard is a diver with 30 years’ experience and a specialist in aeromedical retrieval. He has previously participated in complex diving recoveries, appeared in National Geographic documentaries and, in 2015, was recognised for his outstanding contribution to cave exploration. In 2017 he was awarded The Australasian Technical Diver of the Year.
Craig has dived some of Australia’s deepest wrecks and has set depth records in diving, including diving to 194m in the Pearse Resurgence, New Zealand in 2011. He was awarded Technical Diver of the Year 2009 at the Australian technical diving conference Oztek.
The pair are long-time friends and diving buddies who were about to depart on a cave-diving holiday when they received the call for help with the delicate rescue mission in Thailand. Putting their own lives at risk and working under great pressure, the pair played crucial roles in the rescue.
Richard’s medical expertise was key in the plan to get the children out of the caves. After swimming through the narrow cave system to assess the health of those trapped and giving the medical all-clear for each evacuee, he administered an anaesthetic to each to enable their rescue. Richard was key to the mission’s success, remaining in the cave system until the last evacuee was safe.
Craig’s technical expertise was critical to the rescue. He played a leading role, working 10 to 12 hours each day in extremely dangerous conditions to swim the children one-by-one through the dark and narrow flooded caves.
Both Craig and Richard were awarded the Star of Courage for unwavering and selfless bravery following the successful rescue of the trapped soccer team.
The pair have remained humble about their role in the rescue, but have been embraced proudly by Australians as quiet heroes whose efforts are admired and applauded.
The 2019 Australia’s Local Hero award was presented to Kate and Tick Everett of Katherine NT.
Following the tragic death of their teenage daughter, Amy ‘Dolly’ Everett in January 2018, following extensive bullying, Kate and Tick Everett founded Dolly’s Dream, to create positive change and a legacy to their daughter.
Dolly’s Dream aims to raise awareness about bullying and its potentially devastating effects on children and families. It delivers community education on bullying issues and strategies for preventing and mitigating bullying, through cultural change and victim support. More than 250 communities have held fundraisers and events to support Dolly's Dream, with a particular focus on regional and rural Australia.
Kate and Tick’s non-stop advocacy, meeting with the Prime Minister and Education and Health Ministers across the country, has resulted in governments taking action to prevent childhood bullying. Kate and Tick advocate tenaciously on a voluntary basis while continuing to muster cattle, train horses and care for their daughter, Megan, from their home in Katherine, Northern Territory.
The 2019 Senior Australian of the Year is 76 year old Dr Suzanne Packer AM, of Canberra ACT.
Since starting her career as a paediatrician in 1972, Dr Sue Packer AM has worked tirelessly to advocate for the rights of children in our healthcare system and in the wider community.
She has been involved in child abuse prevention through the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect since its very early days and has treated child abuse victims. Sue has also championed the importance of early childhood environments for the developing brain, leading to recognition by education and government agencies.
Sue was one of the driving forces behind the acknowledgement of the importance of creating child-friendly spaces in hospitals and the value of play in recovery. Lecturing internationally and volunteering on a number of boards to improve health and well-being of children, Sue stands up for the rights of children at every opportunity and encourages others to do the same.
The 2019 Young Australian of the Year is 22 year old Indigenous rapper, musician and dancer Danzal Baker, of Darwin NT.
Working across rap, dance, acting and visual art, Danzal Baker is an inspiration to indigenous youth. A multi-talented, multi-lingual, Indigenous artist, Danzal, otherwise known as Baker Boy, is the first Indigenous artist to achieve mainstream success rapping in the Yolngu Matha language.
Raised in Milingimbi and Maningrida, Danzal rapped his way to national prominence when his single Marryuna was voted into 17th place in Triple J’s Hottest 100 for 2017; a notable follow-up from his debut single Cloud 9, which won Triple J’s Unearthed competition. Danzal is also an award winner at the National Indigenous Music Awards.
He has signed a record deal with Select Music and was handpicked by English rapper Dizzee Rascal to be his Australian support act. In 2018, Danzal won the prestigious Charles Darwin University Art Award at the Northern Territory Young Achievers Awards. Touring Australia extensively, Danzal is using his talent to inspire young people in remote Indigenous communities and encourage them to embrace their culture and embrace opportunities to lead their communities.
Chair of the National Australia Day Council, Danielle Roche OAM, congratulated the 2019 Australian of the Year Award recipients and highlighted their unique contributions.
“The 2019 Australians of the Year are among our nation’s finest citizens,” Ms Roche said.
“They embody the very best of the Australian spirit – a commitment to improving the lives of others, a determination to succeed and the ability to inspire us to think about how we can contribute to our nation.
They are the people that make us proud to be Australian.
“Richard Harris and Craig Challen led a heroic rescue under the spotlight of the world’s media. They placed the safety of others above their own and inspired hope when hope seemed lost. Their selflessness, courage and willingness to help others in a time of need typifies the Australian spirit.
“Kate and Tick Everett endured heartbreak and put their own grief aside to drive cultural change, prevent bullying and ensure that other children and parents never have to suffer as their family has. By founding Dolly’s Dream to confront bullying, they have displayed incredible courage and commitment.
“Suzanne Packer is a lifetime advocate for the health, safety and rights of all children. Her dedication to protecting young lives has brought about practical change in treating children and has directly improved the lives of untold children.
“Danzal Baker is an inspirational young Australian, an outstanding musical talent and dedicated advocate for Indigenous Australian culture. Through his music, he inspires young Indigenous Australians to embrace their heritage while sharing his own cultural stories with a wider audience here in Australia, and around the world”.
Dr Craig Challen, Dr Richard Harris, Dr Suzanne Packer, Kate and Tick Everett will attend the National Flag Raising and Citizenship Ceremony in Canberra on Australia Day morning, Saturday 26 January 2019. Craig, Richard, Sue, Kate and Tick will then attend an Australia Day ceremony in Parramatta, Sydney in the early afternoon before appearing at the Sydney Australia Day celebrations at Circular Quay.
Nominations for the 2020 Australian of the Year are now open. If there's someone you think should be considered, you can nominate them now at www.australianoftheyear.org.au
25 January 2019.