Four inspirational First Nations people are among the national finalists for the 2022 Australian of the Year Awards.
Each of the national finalists have been nominated by the National Australia Day Council due to their impact and achievement in a range of sectors including science and medicine, social and community projects, human rights advocacy, social entrepreneurship, sustainability, and contributions to the pandemic response.
The Australian of the year finalist is – Australian Capital Territory Australian of the Year recipient and NBA superstar Patty Mills.
Mills recently competed in his fourth Olympics, leading the Boomers to their first-ever podium finish in Tokyo, and made history as the first Indigenous Australian Olympic flag bearer.
Off the court, Mills has used his profile and platform to have an enormous positive impact as the founder of the Team Mills Foundation – an organisation dedicated to supporting and championing culture, diversity and underprivileged families.
He also launched Indigenous Basketball Australia, whose programs, competitions and inspirational and motivational sessions are a national first. In 2020, Patty donated his $1.5 million salary to organisations tackling racial inequality.
Also an Australian of the year finalist – Northern Territory recipient of Australian Of The Year 2022, Central Arrernte woman Leanne Liddle, who has been recognised for her passion and tireless efforts for justice.
As Director of the Aboriginal Justice Unit, Liddle has travelled thousands of kilometres to meet and listen to Aboriginal communities across the Northern Territory.
She has been the driving force behind the Northern Territory Aboriginal Justice Agreement, which, in partnership with Aboriginal people aims to: reduce imprisonment rates; increase Aboriginal leadership; and improve justice outcomes for Aboriginal Territorians.
She is committed to empowering Aboriginal Territorians with justice solutions that will work where others have failed.
2022 Senior Australian of the Year finalist – Queensland’s Senior Australian of the Year, Dr Colin Dillon AM APM, was the country’s first Indigenous police officer when he entered the Queensland Police Force in 1965 – one decade before the Racial Discrimination Act became law.
In 1987, he showed great courage as the first serving police officer to voluntarily step forward and give first-hand knowledge under oath before the Fitzgerald Inquiry into Police Corruption.
His evidence was instrumental in sending many corrupt officers, including the Police Commissioner, and several politicians to prison.
Dr Dillon has been awarded the Australian Police Medal and received an honorary doctorate from the Queensland University of Technology, and in 2013 was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to the Indigenous community.
Since retiring from the police force, Dr Dillon has served as Chairman of Indigenous radio station, 98.9FM, and as a Director of the Queensland Heart Foundation. Currently, he’s community member on the Parole Board of Queensland.
Young Australian of the year finalist – is Tasmania’s Young Australian of the Year, Palawa woman Kaytlyn Johnson is an inspiring youth leader.
Last year she won the First National Real Estate Leadership Award at the Tasmanian Young Achiever Awards, while also taking out the major category – the Premier’s Young Achiever of the Year Award.
Johnson is a member of Project O – an initiative that empowers young rural women to develop new skills, connect with their communities, and use their voices to campaign for change. Its latest ‘Colourathon’ art initiative raised more than $12,000 for women and children experiencing family violence.
She is also a talented singer-songwriter with her music featured on triple j Unearthed.
The four Indigenous finalists have made an outstanding contribution to the community, and are worthy winners of their state and territory categories, and worthy finalists in the national awards.
By Giovanni Torre