These are the finalists for the 2022 Australian of the Year Awards
National Australia Day Council chief executive Karlie Brand said the finalists were all “extraordinary” people, praising their efforts and adding they inspire others “simply by doing what they are passionate about”.
“From quiet and lifelong dedication to overcoming challenges or finding purpose in adversity, these are people who look forward,” she said. “In doing so, they show us all what is possible when we strive for better.”
The awards will be announced in Canberra on 25 January.
Australian of the Year
A proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian, ACT finalist Patty Mills has had a legendary career in basketball, and as an Indigenous rights advocate.
Since leaving Canberra for the United States in 2007, he became a National Basketball Association (NBA) champion in 2014 with the San Antonio Spurs and competed in his fourth Olympics last year, leading the Boomers to their first-ever podium finish in Tokyo.
There, Mills was the first Indigenous Australian flagbearer at an Olympic opening ceremony.
ACT Australian of the Year finalist Patty Mills Source: Australian of the Year Awards
He told SBS Sport the Boomers’ historic bronze medal in Tokyo was the proudest sporting moment of his career to date.
“Being able to represent my country, Australia – in the green and gold as a Kokatha, Naghiralgal, Duaureb-Meriam man – through my sport in basketball, there isn’t a moment that I’ve felt more proud on the sporting field,” Mills said at the time.
Mills has also worked to create pathways and opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth through sport by launching Indigenous Basketball Australia, whose programs are a national first.
He is also the founder of the Team Mills Foundation, an organisation dedicated to supporting culture, diversity and underprivileged families. In 2020, he donated his $1.5 million salary to groups tackling racial inequality.
Aboriginal justice advocate and Central Arrernte woman Leanne Liddle is the Northern Territory finalist and the driving force behind a major agreement aimed at reducing Indigenous incarceration rates.
The Aboriginal Justice Agreement aims to reduce imprisonment rates, increase Aboriginal leadership and improve justice outcomes for Aboriginal Territorians.
2022 NT Australian of the Year finalist Leanne Liddle Source: Salty Dingo
Born and raised in Alice Springs, Ms Liddle was South Australia’s first Aboriginal policewoman, and has since worked in several high-profile government roles before joining the Aboriginal Justice Unit in 2017.
Queensland finalists Sue and Lloyd Clarke are the parents of domestic violence victim Hannah Clarke and have been recognised for their advocacy work.
Ms Clarke and her three children – Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey – were murdered by her estranged husband in Brisbane in 2020.
Following the loss of their daughter and grandchildren, Sue and Lloyd Clarke set up a foundation called Small Steps 4 Hannah that aims to educate the community on domestic violence and push for legal reform, including criminalising coercive control.
They have also worked with the Queensland government to establish the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce.
Champion Paralympian and disability advocate Dylan Alcott is Victoria’s finalist. With 23 quad wheelchair Grand Slam titles and a Newcombe Medal, he recently became the first male tennis player to win the Golden Slam.
He founded the Dylan Alcott Foundation, which provides scholarships and grant funding to Australians with a disability, while his AbilityFest is Australia’s first and only fully accessible music festival.
Dylon Alcott is an Australian of the Year finalist for 2022. Source: Supplied to the Australian of the Year Awards
Also in the running are South Australia’s vaccination researcher Professor Helen Marshall, New South Wales’ Professor Veena Sahajwalla, a waste research scientist, Tasmania’s documentary filmmaker and journalist Craig Leeson and Western Australia’s cyber safety educator and campaigner Paul Litherland.
Senior Australian of the Year
After moving to Australia from Egypt, NSW finalist Abla Tohamy Kadous helped to set up the country’s first welfare service for Muslim women, while raising five children.
She created the Islamic Women’s Welfare Association, a not-for-profit organisation that helps Islamic women participate in their communities through anti-discrimination forums, school-readiness programs, youth camps and cooking classes among other events.
Ms Kadous, in her 70s, is currently the association’s president and leads 50 other volunteers and staff.
2022 NSW Australian of the Year Awards finalist Abla Tohamy Kadous Source: Salty Dingo
In the Northern Territory, Robyn Burridge OAM, 77, is highly regarded as a leader, advocate and activist in the disability sector. With lived experience of cerebral palsy and expertise in disability advocacy, she is a founding member of Intergrated DisAbility Action, and a member of the governance committee on the Northern Territory Primary Health Network.
Ms Burridge established Focus-A-Bility in 1997 to provide advocacy, case management and information to those with disability. She received an Order of Australia Medal for service to people with disability in 2020.
Dr Colin Dillon AM APM, Queensland’s finalist, entered the Queensland Police Force in 1965, becoming the country’s first Indigenous police officer.
Dr Dillon, 77, has been awarded the Australian Police Medal and was made a member of the Order of Australia for his service to the Indigenous community in 2013.
Queensland Senior Australian of the Year finalist Dr Colin Dillon AM APM. Source: Salty Dingo
Other finalists in this category include South Australia’s Mark Le Messurier, an educator, counsellor and author, Tasmania’s Bruce French AO, an agricultural scientist and founder of Food Plants International, Gaye Hamilton, Deputy Chancellor of Victoria University, and Western Australia’s Janice Standen, president of volunteer-run charity organisation Rearing Grandchildren WA.
Young Australian of the Year
Dr Daniel Nour, 26, founded Street Side Medics in 2020 after identifying a gap in the healthcare of vulnerable people in NSW.
Street Side Medics is a not-for-profit, GP-led mobile medical service for people experiencing homelessness. With four clinics across the state, it now has 145 volunteers and has cared for more than 300 patients.
Dr Nour volunteers and helps to run the clinics while working full time at Royal North Shore Hospital.
Sizolwenkoski Fuyana, 21, is a businesswoman, podcaster and youth advocate from the Northern Territory who helps to support disadvantaged youth who are at risk of entering the justice system.
After overcoming her own adversities and mental health issues, she founded Fuyana Support – a youth-orientated consultancy firm that provides social and emotional wellbeing support to young people. A law and psychology student, she also works with youth at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.
2022 Northern Terrritory Young Australian of the Year Sizolwenkosi Fuyana Source: Salty Dingo
Ahmed Hassan, 25, has a clear vision on how to best assist and advocate for disadvantaged youth from multicultural backgrounds across Victoria.
Born in Melbourne’s north to parents from Somalia and Eritrea, he co-founded Youth Activating Youth in 2014 alongside fellow community leader and current chief executive, Ali Ahmed. The not-for-profit organisation offers support to these young people to re-engage in their communities.
Other finalists include Western Australia’s Kendall Whyte, mental health advocate and founder of grassroots charity Blue Tree Project, Tasmania’s Kaytlyn Johnson, a Palawa woman, youth leader and singer-songwriter and South Australia’s Dr Trudy Lin, a special needs dentistry consultant. Queensland’s Dr Tahnee Bridson, founder of Hand-n-Hand Peer Support assists healthcare workers experiencing wellbeing or mental health difficulties, and the ACT’s Sean Dondas is an advocate and CanTeen youth leader supporting young people cope with a cancer diagnosis.
Australia’s Local Hero
Since arriving in Australia from Eritrea as a refugee, Saba Abraham has dedicated much of her time to supporting other refugees and uplifting her community.
She was part of a group of leaders from culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Brisbane during the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak to ensure appropriate public health messaging was received.
Ms Abraham is also the founder of Mu’ooz Restaurant in Brisbane’s west – a not-for-profit enterprise restaurant and catering business that provides opportunities and employment for women who have arrived as refugees. Since 2013, Mu’ooz has trained and employed more than 270 women.
2022 Queensland Local Hero Saba Abraham Source: Salty Dingo
In Victoria, Leo op den Brouw has been an active volunteer with the Mallacoota State Emergency Service for 35 years, and a unit controller since 2017.
His leadership was on display during and after the 2019-20 bushfires, when an out-of-control bushfire devastated the township and surrounding region, bringing down 123 homes and burning 83 per cent of the land. Fortunately, no lives were lost.
He continues to be an integral part of Mallacoota’s response and recovery.
Other finalists in this category include Tasmania’s Kimberley Smith APM, a community volunteer with the Rotary Club of Sullivans Cove and Western Australia’s Craig Hollywood, founder of national initiative Short Back & Sidewalks which provides free haircuts to the homeless. South Australia’s Monique Bareham is president of the Lymphoedema Association SA while the Northern Territory’s Rebecca Forrest is an event organiser and fundraiser. NSW’s Shanna Whan is the founder of Sober in the Country, which tackles alcohol use in rural Australia, and the ACT’s Luke Ferguson is a youth support worker at a Canberra high school catering to the needs of students with disabilities.