Monday, January 24, 2011

Australian of the Year Awards

I went to check out the Australian of the Year awards. I wasn't sure when they hand out these awards.  It turns out it's the eve of Australia Day. I guess that's coming up.  It's hard to figure it all out with the time difference.

Let me try....

It's 5 pm 24 January here.   So that means it's 10 am on 25 January in Australia.

Here's the Australian of the Year website.  

I'm glad there's going to be a new Australian of the year soon.  I'm not a huge fan of Patrick McGorry.  He might be a super nice guy.  And I wouldn't doubt that he's done some positive things.   But he seems to be a strong advocate for psychiatric medication. I'm not. He's also big on diagnosing people with mental illnesses.  I'm not. I'm big on believing we can be energetic, angry, weird, sad, paranoid etc. without necessarily being mentally ill. Sometimes it IS mental illness. Sometimes it's just being a human in a difficult world.  

So, who are the new nominees?  I'm going to take a brief look at all of them.   

There are four categories. Because I'm lazy and don't want to spend all evening on this, I'm going to skip one of them.  I'm going to look at Australian of the Year, Australian Youth of the Year, and Australian senior of the Year.  I'm going to skip the local heroes.  Maybe I'll look at those on another day.

I'll start with the nominees from New South Wales.

There's Larissa Behrendt who is a Eualeyai and Kamillaroi women.  I have no idea who they are, so let me go google that.  Well, I didn't find anything when I googled Eualeyai, but when I googled Kamillaroi, I got Katoomba.  So it must be people around the Blue Mountains area.  

Behrendt is a lawyer and author.  Her recent award-winning novel is called Legacy. She writes, and she fights for the rights of Torres Strait Islanders and Australian Aboriginal people.

Ron McCallum is the senior nominee.  He's blind, and he's a professor.  He's an advocate for equal rights, in terms of people who have a disability.   He does work for an organization called Radio 2RPH.  It sounds like an awesome organization.  They use volunteers to read newspapers, and other things like that, on the radio.  If I was in Australia, and I turned on the radio right now, I'd hear someone reading the Daily Telegraph

That's really nice.  Sometimes I try to imagine being blind, and it seems really awful.   I rely SO much on my eyes.  I do a lot of reading. It is nice to know that there are services out there to make things easier and better for blind people. For me though, the worst thing about blindness would be not being able to see Jack's drawings anymore.  That would be heartbreaking. I love his artwork.   

Tara Winkler is the youth nominee.  She rescues orphans in Cambodia.  I admire her.  There're people like me.  We whine and blog about the problems in the world.  Sometimes we donate some money.   We offer our shoulder to cry on.   But Tara actually went out, gathered resources, did some major organizing, and rescued children who needed rescuing. That impresses me.  

Now for the Victorian Nominees. 

Simon McKeon is a wealthy corporate yacht boat guy.  But he's the type of rich man who gives back to the community.  He donates his time, money, and skills. It seems his big thing is encouraging businesses to get involved with the developing world. 

The senior Victorian Nominee is Leslie Erdie.   Back when he was not a senior, he escaped from Nazis. Like Mckeon, Erdie is a successful business guy who gives back to the community.

It's inspiring to see people who have been through dangerous situations, find success, and then reach out to help others.

Speaking of inspiring.   Let me take this short detour and gush over JK Rowling.   I love her story.    I think it's inspiring on two levels.   First I think there's a fantastic message about single mothers out there.  I wish everyone who spoke trash about single mothers was forced to hear her story. She was a married woman with an abusive husband.  They split up.  She had an infant, so it was really hard to find a job. To get a job, she needed childcare. To afford childcare she needed a job.  It's a bit of a catch-22.  So she went on welfare.  Should we look down on a mother for that? Definitely not. But a lot of people do.  

The other part of her story that I love is that she worked SO hard.  Taking care of a baby can be really hard. It's exhausting.  And I'm sure it's even more exhausting when you don't have a partner helping you.   I think it's very impressive that Rowling managed to do the mothering thing AND write a novel.   I think that should be remembered by anyone who uses the excuse Well, I'd love to do that, but I just don't have the time. least in most cases.  My feeling is that if someone TRULY wants to do something, they can manage to find at least a little time to pursue what they want to pursue. 

Okay. End of my JK Rowling bit. 

The Youth Nominee for Victoria is Angela Barker.   Like the congresswoman in America (and my sister), Barker was brain damaged by the actions of another human being.  She was beat up by her boyfriend. The injuries sound profound.  Barker had to spend two years in a nursing home for the elderly.  The experience was awful for her, so she advocates for brain injured patients to have alternate care. There were an Australian musician who was into that cause.   I forgot which one.  

Now I'm onto the Queensland nominees.

The medium-aged one is Noel Hayman.   He's Queensland's first Aboriginal doctor, and he works to close the gap. This gap refers to the fact that Aboriginal Australians have a much lower life expectancy of other Australians.  

Is there ANY country out there where the health and well-being of the original inhabitants are on par with those of the invaders?   Seriously.  If anyone knows of one, please tell me.  Can it ever work out?  If there IS a positive example, then maybe other counties can learn from it.

Shelly Argent is the senior nominee for Queensland.  She's an advocate for gay and lesbian rights.   This crusade began when her son came out of the closet.  Hopefully, these days parents like Argent are in the majority when it comes to these situations. I know of bloggers with gay and/or transgender children.   They have so much acceptance and compassion for their kids.  It's such a nice contrast to the horror stories we hear.  I have a hard time understanding parents who reject and/or disown their own children.

Oh!   I know of the youth from Queensland.  Jessica Watson!   Awesome.  I hope she wins, although the others seem equally deserving.  For those who don't know the story....Watson sailed around the world.  She's only sixteen.   Not only did she brave the wild unpredictable waters of the sea; she also had to endure the criticism and judgments of people who believe teenagers belong in classrooms, and not on exciting adventures.  

AND Watson is a homeschooler, so of course I like that. 

Now I'm onto Western Australia.

First we have Malcolm McCuster.  He's a barrister and a philanthropist.  He's another one of those successful men who gives back to the community. He donates a lot of money, and he donates a lot of his time. 

Robert Vojakovic is the senior nominee for Western Australia.  His thing is helping victims of asbestos.  He actually worked with the stuff himself, but didn't get ill.   Still, maybe realizing that bad things could have happened to him, inspired him to help those who weren't as fortunate.

Vojakovic started the Asbestos Disease Society of Australia. Well, they say he incorporated it. I'm guessing that means he started it.

The youth Australian of the Year for Western Australia is Clinton Heal.   Wow. His last name fits his story pretty well.    Heal was a victim of skin cancer.   What he found upon his diagnosis was that there was limited support and resources for people in his situation.   Is that for cancer in general, or just skin cancer?   I always imagined there was a lot of support for people with cancer.    From what I'm reading on his biography, I'm guessing they're talking about there not being enough support for skin cancer specifically.  Clinton Heal helped to change that.

Now for South Australia.

Tanya Monro is a physicist. She works with science that helps creates tools for various industries.   Yeah.  Most of it goes over my head.   Sorry.

Don Bursill is the senior nominee. His job involves water.  He helps to make sure that water is safe to drink.  That's quite important.  

Vincent Bucksin is a young Aboriginal Australian who has embraced his culture, and works to keep his culture alive by teaching the community about it.  He has helped to make sure that the language of Kaurna doesn't fade into oblivion by teaching it to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children.   It would be great if all (or most of) Aboriginal languages could be protected in this way.  

Now I'm looking at the Tassie nominees.   

Deborah De Williams  is a survivor of breast cancer and an advocate for early-screening.  Tim and I argued about this recently.  My sisters and I are in a VERY high risk group. We're Ashkenazi Jews, and our grandfather had breast cancer.   There's been talk of us getting the genetic screening.   It's a bit controversial.   I mentioned it to Tim when we passed a health testing business near our house.   Tim didn't think it was a good idea.   His feeling is what's the point?  If you think you're of high risk, then just act like you ARE at high risk.  What would that mean though?   Getting mammograms all the time?  From what I remember of the conversation, Tim didn't seem enthusiastic about Mammograms either.    I don't know.   Is he right?   Would taking these tests only make us worry too much?    Well, he wouldn't worry.  He's not a worrier.   But I would worry. 

Edited to Add 5/14/15-It turns out we're not in a high risk group...took an online test that told me that. 

I guess it's something I need to look into...eventually.   

Mary Parsissons is the senior nominee.  She's a lifeline counseler with a history of working with mothers suffering from postpartum depression. And she has worked with families dealing with cot death.  

Lifeline is a place people can call if they need to talk to someone.   There are times I've needed someone to talk to, but I've never called such a service.  I wonder if they would have been helpful.   I guess the reason I don't call is I worry they won't make me feel any better.   Or I worry my problems aren't impressive enough.  I don't know.  I've had SO many times in life where I've tried to tell people my problem, and I just ended up feeling really stupid and regretful afterward.  So I guess I have to wonder if it wouldn't be the same if I called a hotline. 

I'm not doubting that they've helped people before.  I'm sure they've saved lives.  But you could depend on who answers the phone.  Some people might be more empathetic.   Some people might be better listeners.  Some people can get all the training in the world, and still not be as helpful as you need them to be. 

The youth nominee for Tasmania is Kirsty Albion.  She's a campaigner for climate change.  She kind of looks like she could be the daughter of my best friend in Texas.   The ironic/funny thing is my Texas friend is a climate-change denier.   Well, she believes the climate is changing, but she's one of those who believes it's natural and not the fault of us humans. 

Now for the ACT. 

Ian Chubb is a neuroscientist who does work in universities.   The Australian of the Year website calls him a Higher Education Icon.   He has positions high up there in various university hierarchies.  

The senior nominee is Marie Coleman.   She's an advocate for women, and does various work in that area.   She seems like one of those charitable people who works in a variety of areas, rather than concentrating on a specific passion. I guess it's kind of like Margaret Whitlam. Although I guess we could say Coleman's things is women in general.

The Youth Nominee is David Bresnik.  He helps children who are disadvantaged by providing camps and other programs for them.  

Now I'm off to the Northern Territory. 

Michael Christie is another nominee that works with Aboriginal languages. I keep spelling Aboriginal wrong.  What's with that?   Christi does work with the Yolngu people, and is fluent in that language. 

Oh!  This is cool.  Christie helped to set up a program where Yolngu Elders could use digital technology to teach their language to students around the world.  Maybe I could learn one day!

Here's a video from a singer named Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu.  He sings in the Yolngu language, and also English.

Barry Abbott is the senior nominee for the Northern Territory.  He's a cattleman who takes troubled youth and helps them by having them help him with his work.   Sometimes that's the nicest thing you can do for someone--make them feel that they're useful and needed.  

The youth nominee for the Northern Territory is Kalinda Griffiths.   She helps with Indigenous health issues by doing research on health issues.  She looks at the statistics and data of things like cancer.    

Well, that's it.

I guess we'll see who the winners are later.