Heroic cave divers, champion athletes and selfless community advocates are among the exceptional finalists for this year’s Australian of the Year award.
A hot field of state and territory winners are in Canberra, with the national award to be revealed at a ceremony at the National Arboretum on Friday night.
South Australian anaesthetist Richard Harris and West Australian retired vet Craig Challen were given state honours for their role in the daring rescue of 12 young boys and their coach from a flooded cave in Thailand.
“For two good mates to share the award would be tremendous,” Dr Harris said.
Three-time Paralympic gold medallist Kurt Fearnley has been nominated for the national award after a glittering 20-year wheelchair racing career.
“The sport gave me life. The sport changed the way I saw myself in about 10 seconds,” Fearnley said.
The NSW Australian of the Year, who was born without part of his spine, has also been an advocate for people with disability, campaigning for greater access in communities and workplaces.
Victorian Australian of the Year Mark Sullivan, is the founder and managing director of not-for-profit Medicines Development for Global Health.
MDGH received a world-first approval for its new medicine, moxidectin, which treats river blindness, a debilitating disease endemic amongst the world’s poorest people.
Queensland’s finalist is Detective Inspector Jon Rouse, for his work with Australia’s first police operation proactively targeting online child sex predators.
Former Essendon AFL star Michael Long’s work in reconciliation, including his annual Long Walk which raises awareness of indigenous issues, earned him the nomination for Northern Territory.
Tasmanian Bernadette Black founded the BRAVE foundation, Australia’s only national organisation supporting and representing 8300 expectant and parenting teenagers a year.
She’s in the running for the national gong, along with ACT women’s advocate and journalist Virginia Haussegger for her work with a foundation striving for gender equality in public life.