Will the 2015 Australian of the Year be a Woman? January 23 2015

Every year Australia celebrates the contribution and achievements of inspiring Australian citizens through the Australian of the Year Awards. The Awards are a great opportunity to recognise and reward Australian role models. The announcement of the national award recipients occurs in Canberra on Australia Day Eve.

This year women are dominating with six of the eight finalists for the 2015 Australian of the Year being women. Women also dominate the Australian of the Year Awards overall. Across the four categories of Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Australia's Local Hero, 17 out of the 32 finalists are women.

Women have been a lot less likely to be nominated as finalists for the awards in the past. Last year only 11 out of the 31 finalists were female. Over the past 10 years only two out of the ten Australian of the Year winners have been women. In 2015 the odds are definitely different.

National Australia Day Council CEO Jeremy Lasek told Women's Agenda that "we've never had this many female finalists and it really reflects that we are moving forward as a society. Our finalists reflect the fact that women are now at the forefront of leadership roles in some of the most important sectors of our society."

Lasek also pointed out that "the national finalists represent the diversity of Australian society, with five finalists of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island background and six finalists who were born overseas and emigrated to Australia."

"The national finalists represent the diversity of Australian society, with five finalists of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island background and six finalists who were born overseas and emigrated to Australia. - See more at: http://www.probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2015/01/women-finalists-dominate-australian-year-awards-2015#sthash.iTezVZ83.dpuf

Many different fields of expertise, causes and social issues are represented amongst the finalists including science, human and equal rights advocacy, community leadership, medicine, volunteering, and more.

"Their contributions and achievements are also widely varied - ranging across science, human and equal rights advocacy, community leadership, medicine, volunteering, breaking down barriers and setting new benchmarks - but they are all inspirational Australians. - See more at: http://www.probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2015/01/women-finalists-dominate-australian-year-awards-2015#sthash.iTezVZ83.dpuf
"The national finalists represent the diversity of Australian society, with five finalists of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island background and six finalists who were born overseas and emigrated to Australia. - See more at: http://www.probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2015/01/women-finalists-dominate-australian-year-awards-2015#sthash.iTezVZ83.dpuf
"The national finalists represent the diversity of Australian society, with five finalists of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island background and six finalists who were born overseas and emigrated to Australia. - See more at: http://www.probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2015/01/women-finalists-dominate-australian-year-awards-2015#sthash.iTezVZ83.dpuf

The six female finalists for Australian of the Year 2015 are Rosie Batty, Deborra lee-Furness, Hetty Johnson AM, Professor Lyn Beazley AO, Dr Gill Hicks MBE, and Rosalie Kunoth-Monks OAM. The two male finalists this year are Rodney Croome and Glenn Keys.

Deborra-Lee Furness is arguably the finalist with the most prominent public profile due to her career in film and that of her gorgeous husband, Hugh Jackman. But it's her many years of adoption campaigning and fighting for the rights of children worldwide which has given her a one-in-eight chance of winning the Australian of the Year 2015 title.

Ms Furness, has two adopted children of her own, founded Adopt Change and launched National Adoption Awareness Week (NAAW) to shed light on the challenges being faced by Australian families trying to adopt here and overseas.

This Sydney-born mum believes that every child has a right to a family and told the ABC that her "biggest push is that we have a centre of excellence that's established that is a place where we educate the families that are taking kids that come from a hard place."

Another of the six remarkable female finalists is domestic violence campaigner and member of Pro Bono Australia's Impact 25, Rosie Batty from Victoria. Ms. Batty lost her 11 year old son Luke, who was the victim of domestic violence at the hands of his father.

Rosie now makes media and public speaking appearances in an effort to draw attention to family violence and bring about changes to the current system. The incredible strength that Rosie has found within herself to be able to rise above her own personal pain gives a voice to so many victims of domestic violence who may otherwise go unheard.

The Northern Territory finalist for Australian of the Year is humanitarian activist, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks. A strong advocate for for Indigenous people, Ms. Kunoth-Monks' numerous achievements include starring in the 1950s Australian screen classic "Jedda" and establishing the first Aboriginal hostel in Victoria.

Rosalie's passion for justice, education, children and youth affairs, has lead her to work as a government adviser, interpreter and environmental campaigner, and care for other children besides her own.

Ms. Kunoth-Monks has dedicated her life to abolishing the divide between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians and has demonstrated enduring commitment to her country and community.

To hear more inspiring stories about the 2015 Australian of the Year finalists you can catch all the awards presentation action on TV, online, on radio or via social media.

The team at Bits of Australia want to congratulate all the 2015 finalists.

Who do you think deserves to win the Australian of the Year award? We'd love to hear you comments.

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks

State and Territory Award recipients in the four Award categories - Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Australia's Local Hero - are now national finalists for the Awards which will be announced in Canberra on 25 January 2015.

Australian of the Year finalists include domestic violence campaigner and a member of Pro Bono Australia’s Impact 25, Rosie Batty from Victoria.

The award selectors said when Rosie Batty spoke out calmly just hours after her son’s murder, she gave voice to many thousands of victims of domestic violence who had until then remained unheard.  “Batty has risen above her personal tragedy and the great loss of her 11 year old son, Luke, who was the victim of domestic violence at the hands of his father in a very public assault.  Rosie’s story jolted Australia into recognising that family violence can happen to anyone.”

Child advocate and adoption campaigner Deborra-lee Furness from NSW.

Furness is fighting for the rights of children in Australia and around the world.  The mother of two adopted children Furness established National Adoption Awareness Week in 2008, building the campaign from a volunteer-led, grassroots organisation to an active advocacy group.  In 2014, Deborra-lee launched Adopt Change and is leading the campaign to overhaul Australia’s anti-adoption culture and lobby for national adoption law reform.

Child protection activist Hetty Johnston AM from Queensland.

Founder of child protection charity, Bravehearts, Hetty Johnston established Bravehearts in 1997 after learning her daughter had been sexually assaulted.  Since then, Johnston has dedicated her life to creating awareness that child sexual assault is largely preventable and encouraging the nation to prioritise the safety of children. Today, Hetty leads a team of more than 70 employees who provide therapeutic, educational and advocacy servicesnationally.

Scientist Professor Lyn Beazley AO from Western Australia.

Professor Beazley has dedicated over 30 years to neuroscience, researching recovery from brain injury and changing clinical practice in the treatment of premature infants.  As Western Australia’s Chief Scientist from 2006 to 2013,Prof Beazley advised Governments on science and innovation, worked closely with industry and was a science ambassador in Australia and internationally.  She helped establish a nationwide ‘hotline’ for school laboratory technicians, worked for healthier waterways by establishing Dolphin Watch,spearheaded a program supplying microscopes to over 450 primary schools and introduced the international science communication competition Famelab to Australia.

Peace campaigner Dr Gill Hicks MBE from South Australia.

Dr Gill Hicks survived the London bombing of King’s Cross and Russell Square tube stations in July 2005. Her injuries were so severe that paramedics couldn’t even identify her gender.   Trapped in the chaos, her legs destroyed, she  was the last person to be rescued alive from the train. In the nine years since Dr Hicks has dedicated her life to working for world peace.  The founder of M.A.D. For Peace, her work concentrates on ending violent extremism and building sustainable peace.

Equality activist Rodney Croome AM from Tasmania.

A champion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights in Tasmania and throughout Australia, Croome has spent the past 26 years campaigning for decriminalisation, anti-discrimination protections, and the recognition of same-sex relationships and families, including marriage equality. He has also worked tirelessly to end discrimination and improve educational and health outcomes for LGBTI people, particularly those in rural and remote communities.

Business and philanthropic leader Glenn Keys from the Australian Capital Territory.

A leader in both business and philanthropy, Glenn Keys is a former Australian Defence Force test flight engineer, as managing director of global healthcare provider, Aspen Medical, Glenn puts corporate social responsibility at the heart of his business.  The parent of a child with an intellectual disability, Glenn is passionate about helping people with disability reach their potential.  As the Chairman of Special Olympics ACT, he has worked to provide opportunities for athletes with a disability to develop physical fitness, gain skills and forge friendships. He is  an inaugural board member of the National Disability Insurance Agency.

Humanitarian Rosalie Kunoth-Monks OAM from the Northern Territory.

Growing up on the remote Utopia Station in the Northern Territory, Rosalie Kunoth‐Monks learnt the laws of her tribe, the Anmatjere people.  After moving to Alice Springs to attend school, Rosalie was cast in the lead role in the classic Australian film Jedda in 1953. Later, she spent a decade as a nun in a Melbourne convent before leaving to establish the first Aboriginal hostel in Victoria.   Passionate about law, justice, education, children and youth affairs, Kunoth‐Monks cares for other children besides her own and has an enduring commitment to her country and her community.

"All the Australian of the Year Award national finalists are remarkable people making a real difference to our nation," Jeremy Lasek, CEO of the National Australia Day Council said.

"It's wonderful to see so many women among the finalists in all four Award categories and across the board it's great to recognise Australians whose strength of character, courage, achievements and vision are making Australia a better place.

"The national finalists represent the diversity of Australian society, with five finalists of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island background and six finalists who were born overseas and emigrated to Australia.

"Their contributions and achievements are also widely varied - ranging across science, human and equal rights advocacy, community leadership, medicine, volunteering, breaking down barriers and setting new benchmarks - but they are all inspirational Australians.

- See more at: http://www.probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2015/01/women-finalists-dominate-australian-year-awards-2015#sthash.ubP36Ujd.dpuf

Six of the eight finalists for the 2015 Australian of the Year Award are women - the highest number of female finalists in the category since the State and Territory award process was introduced in 2003.  Of the 32 finalists across all four award categories, 17 are women.

State and Territory Award recipients in the four Award categories - Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Australia's Local Hero - are now national finalists for the Awards which will be announced in Canberra on 25 January 2015.

Australian of the Year finalists include domestic violence campaigner and a member of Pro Bono Australia’s Impact 25, Rosie Batty from Victoria.

The award selectors said when Rosie Batty spoke out calmly just hours after her son’s murder, she gave voice to many thousands of victims of domestic violence who had until then remained unheard.  “Batty has risen above her personal tragedy and the great loss of her 11 year old son, Luke, who was the victim of domestic violence at the hands of his father in a very public assault.  Rosie’s story jolted Australia into recognising that family violence can happen to anyone.”

Child advocate and adoption campaigner Deborra-lee Furness from NSW.

Furness is fighting for the rights of children in Australia and around the world.  The mother of two adopted children Furness established National Adoption Awareness Week in 2008, building the campaign from a volunteer-led, grassroots organisation to an active advocacy group.  In 2014, Deborra-lee launched Adopt Change and is leading the campaign to overhaul Australia’s anti-adoption culture and lobby for national adoption law reform.

Child protection activist Hetty Johnston AM from Queensland.

Founder of child protection charity, Bravehearts, Hetty Johnston established Bravehearts in 1997 after learning her daughter had been sexually assaulted.  Since then, Johnston has dedicated her life to creating awareness that child sexual assault is largely preventable and encouraging the nation to prioritise the safety of children. Today, Hetty leads a team of more than 70 employees who provide therapeutic, educational and advocacy servicesnationally.

Scientist Professor Lyn Beazley AO from Western Australia.

Professor Beazley has dedicated over 30 years to neuroscience, researching recovery from brain injury and changing clinical practice in the treatment of premature infants.  As Western Australia’s Chief Scientist from 2006 to 2013,Prof Beazley advised Governments on science and innovation, worked closely with industry and was a science ambassador in Australia and internationally.  She helped establish a nationwide ‘hotline’ for school laboratory technicians, worked for healthier waterways by establishing Dolphin Watch,spearheaded a program supplying microscopes to over 450 primary schools and introduced the international science communication competition Famelab to Australia.

Peace campaigner Dr Gill Hicks MBE from South Australia.

Dr Gill Hicks survived the London bombing of King’s Cross and Russell Square tube stations in July 2005. Her injuries were so severe that paramedics couldn’t even identify her gender.   Trapped in the chaos, her legs destroyed, she  was the last person to be rescued alive from the train. In the nine years since Dr Hicks has dedicated her life to working for world peace.  The founder of M.A.D. For Peace, her work concentrates on ending violent extremism and building sustainable peace.

Equality activist Rodney Croome AM from Tasmania.

A champion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights in Tasmania and throughout Australia, Croome has spent the past 26 years campaigning for decriminalisation, anti-discrimination protections, and the recognition of same-sex relationships and families, including marriage equality. He has also worked tirelessly to end discrimination and improve educational and health outcomes for LGBTI people, particularly those in rural and remote communities.

Business and philanthropic leader Glenn Keys from the Australian Capital Territory.

A leader in both business and philanthropy, Glenn Keys is a former Australian Defence Force test flight engineer, as managing director of global healthcare provider, Aspen Medical, Glenn puts corporate social responsibility at the heart of his business.  The parent of a child with an intellectual disability, Glenn is passionate about helping people with disability reach their potential.  As the Chairman of Special Olympics ACT, he has worked to provide opportunities for athletes with a disability to develop physical fitness, gain skills and forge friendships. He is  an inaugural board member of the National Disability Insurance Agency.

Humanitarian Rosalie Kunoth-Monks OAM from the Northern Territory.

Growing up on the remote Utopia Station in the Northern Territory, Rosalie Kunoth‐Monks learnt the laws of her tribe, the Anmatjere people.  After moving to Alice Springs to attend school, Rosalie was cast in the lead role in the classic Australian film Jedda in 1953. Later, she spent a decade as a nun in a Melbourne convent before leaving to establish the first Aboriginal hostel in Victoria.   Passionate about law, justice, education, children and youth affairs, Kunoth‐Monks cares for other children besides her own and has an enduring commitment to her country and her community.

"All the Australian of the Year Award national finalists are remarkable people making a real difference to our nation," Jeremy Lasek, CEO of the National Australia Day Council said.

"It's wonderful to see so many women among the finalists in all four Award categories and across the board it's great to recognise Australians whose strength of character, courage, achievements and vision are making Australia a better place.

"The national finalists represent the diversity of Australian society, with five finalists of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island background and six finalists who were born overseas and emigrated to Australia.

"Their contributions and achievements are also widely varied - ranging across science, human and equal rights advocacy, community leadership, medicine, volunteering, breaking down barriers and setting new benchmarks - but they are all inspirational Australians.

- See more at: http://www.probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2015/01/women-finalists-dominate-australian-year-awards-2015#sthash.ubP36Ujd.dpuf

Six of the eight finalists for the 2015 Australian of the Year Award are women - the highest number of female finalists in the category since the State and Territory award process was introduced in 2003.  Of the 32 finalists across all four award categories, 17 are women.

State and Territory Award recipients in the four Award categories - Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Australia's Local Hero - are now national finalists for the Awards which will be announced in Canberra on 25 January 2015.

Australian of the Year finalists include domestic violence campaigner and a member of Pro Bono Australia’s Impact 25, Rosie Batty from Victoria.

The award selectors said when Rosie Batty spoke out calmly just hours after her son’s murder, she gave voice to many thousands of victims of domestic violence who had until then remained unheard.  “Batty has risen above her personal tragedy and the great loss of her 11 year old son, Luke, who was the victim of domestic violence at the hands of his father in a very public assault.  Rosie’s story jolted Australia into recognising that family violence can happen to anyone.”

Child advocate and adoption campaigner Deborra-lee Furness from NSW.

Furness is fighting for the rights of children in Australia and around the world.  The mother of two adopted children Furness established National Adoption Awareness Week in 2008, building the campaign from a volunteer-led, grassroots organisation to an active advocacy group.  In 2014, Deborra-lee launched Adopt Change and is leading the campaign to overhaul Australia’s anti-adoption culture and lobby for national adoption law reform.

Child protection activist Hetty Johnston AM from Queensland.

Founder of child protection charity, Bravehearts, Hetty Johnston established Bravehearts in 1997 after learning her daughter had been sexually assaulted.  Since then, Johnston has dedicated her life to creating awareness that child sexual assault is largely preventable and encouraging the nation to prioritise the safety of children. Today, Hetty leads a team of more than 70 employees who provide therapeutic, educational and advocacy servicesnationally.

Scientist Professor Lyn Beazley AO from Western Australia.

Professor Beazley has dedicated over 30 years to neuroscience, researching recovery from brain injury and changing clinical practice in the treatment of premature infants.  As Western Australia’s Chief Scientist from 2006 to 2013,Prof Beazley advised Governments on science and innovation, worked closely with industry and was a science ambassador in Australia and internationally.  She helped establish a nationwide ‘hotline’ for school laboratory technicians, worked for healthier waterways by establishing Dolphin Watch,spearheaded a program supplying microscopes to over 450 primary schools and introduced the international science communication competition Famelab to Australia.

Peace campaigner Dr Gill Hicks MBE from South Australia.

Dr Gill Hicks survived the London bombing of King’s Cross and Russell Square tube stations in July 2005. Her injuries were so severe that paramedics couldn’t even identify her gender.   Trapped in the chaos, her legs destroyed, she  was the last person to be rescued alive from the train. In the nine years since Dr Hicks has dedicated her life to working for world peace.  The founder of M.A.D. For Peace, her work concentrates on ending violent extremism and building sustainable peace.

Equality activist Rodney Croome AM from Tasmania.

A champion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights in Tasmania and throughout Australia, Croome has spent the past 26 years campaigning for decriminalisation, anti-discrimination protections, and the recognition of same-sex relationships and families, including marriage equality. He has also worked tirelessly to end discrimination and improve educational and health outcomes for LGBTI people, particularly those in rural and remote communities.

Business and philanthropic leader Glenn Keys from the Australian Capital Territory.

A leader in both business and philanthropy, Glenn Keys is a former Australian Defence Force test flight engineer, as managing director of global healthcare provider, Aspen Medical, Glenn puts corporate social responsibility at the heart of his business.  The parent of a child with an intellectual disability, Glenn is passionate about helping people with disability reach their potential.  As the Chairman of Special Olympics ACT, he has worked to provide opportunities for athletes with a disability to develop physical fitness, gain skills and forge friendships. He is  an inaugural board member of the National Disability Insurance Agency.

Humanitarian Rosalie Kunoth-Monks OAM from the Northern Territory.

Growing up on the remote Utopia Station in the Northern Territory, Rosalie Kunoth‐Monks learnt the laws of her tribe, the Anmatjere people.  After moving to Alice Springs to attend school, Rosalie was cast in the lead role in the classic Australian film Jedda in 1953. Later, she spent a decade as a nun in a Melbourne convent before leaving to establish the first Aboriginal hostel in Victoria.   Passionate about law, justice, education, children and youth affairs, Kunoth‐Monks cares for other children besides her own and has an enduring commitment to her country and her community.

"All the Australian of the Year Award national finalists are remarkable people making a real difference to our nation," Jeremy Lasek, CEO of the National Australia Day Council said.

"It's wonderful to see so many women among the finalists in all four Award categories and across the board it's great to recognise Australians whose strength of character, courage, achievements and vision are making Australia a better place.

"The national finalists represent the diversity of Australian society, with five finalists of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island background and six finalists who were born overseas and emigrated to Australia.

"Their contributions and achievements are also widely varied - ranging across science, human and equal rights advocacy, community leadership, medicine, volunteering, breaking down barriers and setting new benchmarks - but they are all inspirational Australians.

- See more at: http://www.probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2015/01/women-finalists-dominate-australian-year-awards-2015#sthash.ubP36Ujd.dpuf