Geoffrey Rush named 2012 Australian of the Year

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

File photo of Geoffrey Rush at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival
Image: Georges Biard.

On the eve of Australia's national day celebrations, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced Geoffrey Rush's receipt of this year's Australian of the Year award. Presenting the accolade to Rush on the lawn of Parliament House, Gillard cited his "outstanding achievements in a lifelong career on the stage and screen and long term commitment to the Australian arts"; Rush is one of only a handful of actors with a claim to the 'Triple crown of acting', having won Tony, Emmy and Academy awards..

Marita Cheng, a 22 year old engineering advocate — and student at the University of Melbourne, is the new Young Australian of the Year. Chosen for her "leadership in the occupational landscape for women by encouraging girls to pursue engineering studies and careers", Cheng founded Robogals Global in 2008 to address low participation by women in technologically-oriented fields.

Laurie Baymarrwangga, an elder from the island of Murrungga in East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, is the new Senior Australian of the Year. Cited for her "extraordinary commitment to maintaining her culture, the environment of her beloved Crocodile Islands and ensuring younger generations continue to keep their heritage alive", she initiated the Yan-nhangu dictionary project, and still continues to support the now-online project; aged in her nineties, and not knowing English when she launched her project, Baymarrwangga was unable to attend the ceremony.

Lynne Sawyers of Darbys Falls was named Australia's Local Hero. A foster mother to over 200 children and, as laid-out in her citation, "for 15 years, she has been on call to care for lost, abused and bewildered children in heartbreaking circumstances."

Over 5,000 nominations contended for this year's awards.