Australian of the Year Awards 2010


Among this year's nominees are a host of eco-inspiring Aussies...

Australian of the Year Awards

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Several eco-conscious Aussies are in the running for this year's Australian of the Year Awards.

Environmental campaigners, wildlife rescuers and sustainability leaders are just some of the finalists with green credentials, with their nominations spanning across the categories of Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year and Australia's Local Hero.

The winners of the annual awards will be announced on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra this Monday, January 25.

"These are people who have been nominated by their peers, the people of Australia," said Tam Johnston, Program Director for the National Australia Day Council, of all those in the running.

"They represent everything we admire about great Australian values, world-leading achievements and community building."

There are eight nominees in each of the award categories, one from each state and territory - read on to learn more about the green heroes among...

Australian of the Year

Jon Dee

Jon Dee

Environmental campaigner and G editorial advisory board member and columnist Jon Dee is in the running for this year's main national title.

Best known as the co-founder of Planet Ark, Dee initiated a successful lobbying campaign for Australia's three-year phase-out of incandescent light bulbs and also spearheaded a campaign to help phase out the use of plastic bags. He instigated National Recycling Week, founded the World Environment News service, co-founded National Tree Day and established the eco-awareness rating campaign group Do Something! in 2008.

Bruce Englefield

Bruce Englefield

With the devastating facial tumour disease sweeping through our Tasmanian devil population, Bruce Englefield is determined to help conserve the iconic animal that brought him to Australia in the first place.

On holiday in Australia nine years ago, British-born Englefield and wife, Maureen, made a spur of the moment decision and bought a wildlife park. He donated the use of 28 acres of his land to the Tasmanian government in order to establish a wild population of disease-free devils, called the Devil Island Project.

In order to fund the project Englefield, who became an Australian citizen 3 yeas ago, ran the London Marathon at age 65. He now devotes himself full-time to the cause.

Senior Australian of the Year

June Butcher

June Butcher

June Butcher's love of wildlife inspired her to begin taking in and caring for injured animals on her 1.2 hectare property, Kanyana, east of Perth, in the late 1960s. As the area built up, the number of injured animals continued to increase and, in 1986, Butcher founded Kanyana Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. Since then, the centre has more than doubled in capacity to meet the rehabilitation needs of wildlife from the local community and around the state.

Kanyana now has 140 volunteers and cares for over 2000 animals, representing 150 species, each year. Butcher is also involved with the Department of Environment and Conservation's Western Shield endangered species captive breeding program for bilbies. She told G Magazine that she was excited and honoured to be nominated for Senior Australian of the Year, and hopes her nomination will bring more attention to her work and to the environment.

"I'm really hoping that it raises the profile of wildlife carers in Australia for a start, to see the work we do is significant and important, not just for the wildlife but as an educational facility," she said.

Bill Mollison

Bill Mollison

Known as the 'father of permaculture', Bill Mollison is an influential figure in the world of sustainable agriculture. After studying psychology and science at university he pioneered the teaching of Environmental Psychology before, in 1972, he developed the idea of permaculture, now accepted as a viable alternative to chemical-based agriculture around the world.

Mollison is the founding director of The Permaculture Institute, which he describes as the "largest aid program in the whole world," and which operates hundreds of thousands of permaculture programs globally. In 1991, he won the Right Livelihood Award for his work on practical solutions to the world's problems. He has been named one of Australia's Icons of the Millennium, has received the Banksia Environment Award and was featured among G's Top 20 Eco Heroes in the November/December issue.

According to Mollison, he achieved all of this without much support or interest from governments or politicians, making him a reluctant finalist for this year's Senior Australian of the Year and a bit bemused by all the fuss.

"I would walk into a village and say, I'm not here with any government or any church and I'm here to help. That was my approach," he said.

He thinks education, not awards, is what will ensure his legacy lives on in the decades to come. "I am a teacher," he said. "And I taught thousands of teachers and now they are teaching."

Young Australian of the Year

Larissa Brown

Larissa Brown

Also listed among G's Eco Heroes, Larissa Brown founded the Centre for Sustainability Leadership out of her bedroom at the age of 24. Six years later, she's the executive director of a registered not-for-profit group with more than 100 volunteers, a partnership with the United Nations, and a Melbourne office.

The Centre mentors young Australians to lead efforts to create a more sustainable world. "Our idea is powerful," Brown said of the program. " We have tried to get people in positions of influence to care and that hasn't worked well, so now we are trying to get people who care into positions of influence."

Brown was awarded the Australian Young Environmentalist of the Year in 2008, named the 2009 Young Conservationist of the Year by Australian Geographic and is listed as one of Melbourne's ten most influential environmentalists.

"I am thrilled that our work in sustainability leadership has been acknowledged by the Australia Day Committee, as there has never been a more important time in history to be promoting leadership in sustainability," she told G. "I hope through this award Australians will see how by combining your natural strengths with your passions anyone and everyone can be a leader in sustainability."

Australia's Local Hero

Ronni Kahn

Ronni Kahn

After working in the hospitality industry for 20 years, Ronni Kahn (of Bronte, NSW) had seen a lot of food go to waste. Fed up and looking for a solution, in 2004 she set up OzHarvest, a food rescue charity that collects surplus food from restaurants, cafes and events.

The organisation now has over 600 food donors and delivers more than 110,000 meals to 163 charities in Sydney, Canberra and Wollongong each month. Kahn believes her organisation has had a significant impact on the environment, saving thousands of tonnes of food from landfill.

She told G that she hopes her nomination will help her in her mission to expand the charity nationally. "I'm absolutely overwhelmed and very excited because I believe it's an amazing platform for me to generate awareness for OzHarvest," she said.

She also hopes the award will help her to spread the word about food rescue and security.

"I'm absolutely mad about sharing the message that we all have a purpose and we all have to find what our purpose is to our community and to our country," she said.