Meet Australia's leading Seniors in 2019
WE ARE proud to introduce you to eight senior Australians who are outstanding contributors to our community and to its wellbeing in a variety of ways.
Each of these people are winners of their state Senior Australian of the Year award and are in the running for the ultimate national accolade, Senior Australian of the Year in 2019, to be announced on January 26.
They have shared with Seniors News how they will use their raised profile in 2019.
ACT - Dr Sue Packer AM, 76
Paediatrician and child advocate, she advocates for the rights of children in the healthcare system and in the wider community. Dr Packer has been involved in child abuse prevention through the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect since its early days, treated babies and children suffering terrible trauma from child abuse, championed the importance of early childhood environments for the developing brain and was one of the driving forces behind the acknowledgement of the importance of creating child-friendly spaces in hospitals and the value of play in recovery.
Who should be Senior Australian of the Year in 2019?
This poll ended on 20 December 2019.
Dr Sue Packer
Professor James Dale
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
"My intention is to use my profile to encourage all Australians to think seriously about the experiences and challenges for all children growing up in Australia in the 21st century.
"There is much we could all do to improve their lives and opportunities as they grow up, particularly considering the comparative wealth of Australia.
"When we think about our children and their vulnerabilities and the options we have to improve their lives, many of the possible measures would also be of benefit to vulnerable groups of adults- in particular the elderly and those with disabilities, to enable them to live fuller and more satisfying lives".
Northern Territory - Charlie King OAM, 67
The veteran sports broadcaster and human rights campaigner is much-loved in the Northern Territory and around Australia.
In 2008 Charlie became the first Indigenous Australian to commentate at an Olympic Games. He initiated the zero-tolerance campaign 'NO MORE' in 2006 which has links with more than five sporting codes and nearly a hundred teams - and is still growing.
For 25 years he has also volunteered to sit with children in trouble without a parent or guardian during police interviews.
"My vision is to contribute to an Australian community where all of its members feel safe.
"The elimination of violence requires a monumental shift in the way that Australian's view domestic violence.
"I think that it is vitally important to connect with diverse groups of people, including seniors from across Australia to harness their knowledge and to develop constructive actions that can lead to change.
"This provides an opportunity to recognise the contribution that Senior Australians and all Australians can make in influencing a change in the attitudes and beliefs that lead to domestic and family violence."
NSW - Heather Lee OAM, 92
She started walking regularly late in life, signing up for a series of fun runs in her late 70s and discovering she was actually quite quick.
In 2011, at her physiotherapist's suggestion, Heather competed in the Australian Masters Games, just before her 85th birthday - winning four gold medals.
In 2012, she set a new Australian record for the 5km race-walking event for her age group. Later that year, at the Australian Masters Track and Field Championships, she broke three Australian records; the 10km (84m 06.00s), the 1500m (11m 36.90s) and her own 5km (now in 41m 25.40s).
Currently, Heather holds eight Australian and five world records.
She has been a member of the local Hawkesbury Cancer Support Group for many years and was the 2018 Cancer Council March Charge Ambassador.
Remarkably, Heather is one of the few people who walks the full 24 hours of the Hawkesbury Relay for Life.
"I am the message," Heather said. "Independence is vital. Make wellness your goal with diet, lifestyle and exercise to nurture your body, mind and spirit.
"I never define myself by age and never define anyone else by age, because getting old is an achievement."
Queensland - Professor James Dale AO, 68
The scientist, researcher and humanitarian has led significant research programs in agricultural biotechnology.
Professor Dale's work includes seeking a solution to Vitamin A deficiency, which leads to death of about 670,000 children in developing countries, and blindness in another 400,000. He led a project to genetically modify bananas, the staple diet in many poor countries, to boost their pro-vitamin A levels.
Professor Dale has also led developments including medical technology that enables rapid testing for genetic diseases, and molecular farming technology that aims to produce edible, plant-based vaccines.
"Within the next 30 years our climate will degenerate and the world population will grow to more than 9 billion people. Together these will have a major impact on food and nutrition security.
"Most of the population increase with be in the tropics and sub-tropics. Australia is one of the very few developed countries with tropical regions and tropical agriculture.
"I will use this award to stress that Australia has an opportunity or maybe a responsibility to be a major contributor to the development of the next versions of our tropical crops to alleviate this impending food and nutritional insecurity. Importantly, to do this we will need to mobilise all the technologies we have available."
South Australia - Reginald Dodd, 78
The Arabunna elder used a Roget's Thesaurus to interpret complex legislation and made his first Native Title claim in 1998.
At Reg's initiative the Arabunna Marree People (LAMP) was created with lawyers across Australia providing substantial pro bono assistance, including legal support for Native Title.
Other LAMP initiatives included a submission for National Heritage listing of Arabunna country; securing funding for heritage restoration works; and emergency assistance to individual Arabunna women and men.
With a LAMP lawyer, Reg also co-designed and co-taught a law course at RMIT University on country.
Reg has led cultural immersion tours of the Lake Eyre region since 1996 to financially support the Arabunna Centre and promote reconciliation. He is also a magnificent photographic artist, holding many successful exhibitions.
"I will take this opportunity to create a dialog with the government that will deliver and provide quality essential service to remote towns and communities.
"My plan is to consult with the public through meetings and talks. I will continue the cross cultural tours that have been a great success over the last 20 years or so. I will also continue the work with LAMP on heritage and cultural issues."
Tasmania - Sally Wise, 67
Sally is a kitchen guru, author and media presenter who is dedicated to equipping everyday people to prepare nourishing food with accessible ingredients.
In 2006 she received a request for a radio presenter to lead a discussion on jams and preserves. This led to Sally's book A Year in a Bottle which thousands of copies; the first of 15 popular cookbooks.
Sally launched a program at Risdon prison to teach soon-to-be released inmates cooking skills. She also speaks to community groups to promote better nutrition using accessible ingredients.
In addition, Sally helps new businesses in the food sector to optimise their recipes and techniques on a pro bono basis.
"This past year has cemented my pathway and passion for the year to come, through chance encounters in cooking programs I have conducted.
"It has made me realise that there are silent, uncomplaining, often unnoticed groups within the community that would truly benefit from 'companionable' cookery - where the cooking and recipes are, as a natural part of the process, a catalyst to communication - between generations, cultures - at all levels of society.
"My goal is to seek out such groups and place increased focus on the positive social, as well as inherent nutritional, benefits from preparing never-fail, delicious dishes made from readily accessible ingredients."
Victoria - Ms Alison Harcourt, 89
Alison is now best known for developing integer linear programming, the basis of efficient computer processing. The 1960 paper, written with Ailsa Land on the topic, has been cited in 3000 academic journal articles.
Alison was also one of the first users of CSIRAC, Australia's first digital computer.
As a statistician, she worked with social scientist Ronald Henderson and economist RJ Harper on what became known on the Melbourne Poverty Survey, Australia's first systematic, quantitative measure of poverty. Their work formed the basis of the 1972 Royal Commission into poverty.
Alison's work with fellow statistician Malcolm Clark on the randomisation of electoral ballot papers led to a change in the Commonwealth Electoral Act in 1984.
"I've always loved numbers, so one of my aims for next year is to try to convey that love to others.
"This feeling is one which I believe anyone can absorb, but I'm aware that many people acquired a fear of numbers when they were young which they have not been able to shake off.
"We should recognise that we are using numbers all the time, to measure temperature or the ingredients to make a cake, to knit a jumper or to check at what date in spring we should plant tomato seedlings.
"Specifically, from the experience of using numbers and listening to how others use them, we can expand our appreciation of the wide world of mathematics.
"More generally, we should ask older people about their life journey. We should also consider, rather than dismiss, creative people who want to challenge old ways. We should respect the enthusiasm of youth and the wisdom of immigrants.
"Put simply, we should be open to other people's ideas."
West Australia - Frank Mallard, 73
The Yamatji elder, ex-serviceman and volunteer is a proud ambassador and advocate for the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and women.
Frank served in the Australian army from 1962 to 1985, and in the Army Reserves from 1986 to 1999. He saw active duty in Borneo and Vietnam - but on returning home, like other Aboriginal soldiers, was rejected by the RSL. This spurred him to promote the military service of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within Veterans' Affairs and the broader community.
Today, despite PTSD and Parkinson's disease, Frank is Media Officer at Ellenbrook RSL and a dedicated veterans' issues volunteer. He is the Chairperson of Voice of the Voiceless Ministry that helps people with addiction, mental illness and social issues.
"I would like to go back to the old ways in Australia where we had the welfare of our families uppermost in our minds. To the days when the older members of family were cared for by the family and not sent off to an aged care facility.
"I know that that cannot happen, so I would use my position to indulge my passion of caring for the less fortunate in our society, to make the community aware of the mental health problems faced by our military and the youth, and bring comfort to the homeless and marginalised in our cities, by providing free health care, meals and shelter, to those who can't afford it.
"We are acclaimed as the 'lucky country', but we have many people who would not think that. Some of them have served their country, but their country has forgotten them. Lest we forget."