The 2014 Australian Of The Year finalists are marked by a common trait: they are passionate about giving back to society.
Their stories and achievements are diverse, but the finalists for the 2014 Australian Of The Year award share some common threads.
An AFL player, anti-bullying campaigner, ballet dancer, singer, doctor, professor and a community advocate are all in the running for the honour to be bestowed on Saturday.
NSW nominee Adam Goodes and Victoria’s John Caldwell have both experienced first-hand what it’s like to be on the receiving end of racism and bullying.
In May last year, Sydney Swans AFL player Goodes called out a teenager who labelled him an “ape” during a match.
He used the incident to develop an educational tool to teach indigenous Australians and minority groups to say no to racism, through the Goodes-O’Loughlin Foundation.
For recruiting firm founder Mr Caldwell, it’s about bringing about generational change through his work with various anti-bullying organisations.
“I wanted to give something back, to help people who are where I was 20 years ago,” Mr Caldwell said.
Representing the arts, QLD ballet dancer Li Cunxin and Northern Territory singer/songwriter Shellie Morris have used their disciplines to inspire and educate.
Li’s extraordinary life going from poverty to artistic triumph has been turned into the feature film Mao’s Last Dancer.
Now, he hopes to raise the Queensland Ballet to an international standard.
“As a child I was always full of dreams, full of hope,” he said.
Morris used music as her way of trying to alleviate the poverty and health issues that plague indigenous Australia.
Like her, South Australian community leader Dr Felicity-ann Lewis’s work with Aboriginal people was also recognised with a nomination. She helped raise $100,000 towards Australia’s first memorial recognising the sacrifice of indigenous people in war.
In the medical field, WA finalist Professor Bruce Robinson can tick world-first breakthroughs off his resume: the renowned cancer researcher developed the first blood test for mesothelioma.
For Tasmanian food microbiologist Professor Thomas McMeekin, it took some convincing before overseas authorities adopted his idea – a system that ensures our meat stays fresh.
ACT neonatal specialist Dr Zsuzsoka Kecskes turned a simple idea – allowing parents of premature babies to have more say – into a successful operation at a Canberra hospital.
Among the nominees for Senior Australian of The Year are journalist-turned-inventor Peter Ford, veterans campaigner Graham Walker, conceptual artist Dr Christina Henri, teacher and disability advocate Dr Christine Durham, scientist and environmental leader Dr Barbara Hardy, indigenous community advocates Klaus Helms and Fred Chaney, and paediatrician Dr Robert McGregor.
There’s a similar mix among the Young Australian of the Year finalists.
Disability advocate Huy Nguyen, medical researcher Clare Smith, social entrepreneur Daniel Flynn, engineer Julian O’Shea, youth advocate Emily Osborne, Dr John van Bockxmeer, paralympian Jacqueline Freney and child protection activist Jordyn Archer are all in the running for the gong.