Three Indigenous people who are leaders in their individual fields are among the eight finalists in this year’s Australian of the Year Awards.
They are National Rugby League player and Indigenous mentor Johnathan Thurston, Njamal woman and psychologist Dr Tracy Westerman and ACT community leader Dion Devow.
North Queensland Cowboys captain Thurston was named Queensland’s Australian of the Year in November for his work mentoring Indigenous youth.
Dr Westerman is Western Australia’s Australian of the Year and Mr Devow is holder of the state title for the ACT.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will announce the overall Australian of the Year at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday night.
There are 32 people up for four awards — Australian of the Year, Senior of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Australia’s Local Hero.
Thurston said this week it was time for a conversation about the timing of Australia Day.
He told rugby league site NRL.com: “I think we need to have a national chat about it, and I think Australians need to be educated on why some Indigenous Australians, Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, aren’t fans of or aren’t associated with January 26.”
Dr Westerman founded her Indigenous Psychological Services with no funding in 1998 to address the high rates of mental illness among Aboriginal people.
Today she is considered a world leader in the field.
Mr Devow, an entrepreneur and community leader, owns Darkies Design, a business that produces modern Aboriginal-themed clothing and other promotional materials.
He also champions other Indigenous people to build businesses and achieve economic independence.
Two other Aboriginal women are also up for awards.
A senior Elder from Gawa in north-west Arnhem Land, Kathy Guthadjaka, is a finalist for Senior of the Year for her work as an educator since the 1960s.
A Yolngu researcher at Charles Darwin University, Guthadjaka is leading academic research into language, knowledge, culture and country.
Aboriginal community police officer Bettina Danganbarr, who works in the East Arnhem community of Galiwin’ku, is a contender for the Local Hero award for her work in the area of domestic violence.
- The Australian of the Year Awards will be broadcast live on ABC TV and ABC Radio from 7.30pm on Thursday January 25 and simulcast live on ABC iview and ABC News.