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Australian of the Year preview

Tonight the 2005 Australian of the Year will be announced. It seems to be a shoe-in for Nicole Kidman.

Each state and mainland territory puts forward a nomination for the award, and Kidman is the New South Wales nomination. Her charity work is cited as much as her movie career.

Victoria is represented by Rodney Cocks, a UN peacekeeper who has worked in Timor Leste, Iraq and Afghanistan. Bill Bristow (Queensland) runs the Charity Flight service. Leading Greenpeace identity and dolphin conservationist Michael Bossley is South Australia's nomination. Woodchopping legend David Foster represents Tasmania. Air Vice-Marshall Julie Hammer, the highest-ranked woman in the history of the Australian Defence Forces, is the ACT nomination, while legendary indigenous actor David Gulpilil is the Northern Territory's candidate. (IMDb tells me that Gulpilil and Kidman have not made a movie together.)

But probably the other favourite for the award is WA's Dr Fiona Wood, a plastic surgeon at the Royal Perth Burns Unit who used an innovative spray-on skin treatment to treat burns victims from the 2002 Bali terrorist attack. Dr Wood was widely expected to win last year, when the award went rather disappointingly to Steve Waugh.

I'd be happy with any one of Dr Wood, Michael Bossley or David Gulpilil winning the award, though I think the star of "BMX Bandits" has this one in the bag.

Since the award was instituted in 1960, no less than 14 winners have been sportspeople, including each of the last three male Test cricket captains (Allan Border 1989, Mark Taylor 1999, Steve Waugh 2004). Only nine have been women, and five of those (Dawn Fraser 1964, Evonne Goolagong 1971, Shane Gould 1972, Kay Cottee 1988, Cathy Freeman 1998) have been sportspeople. Thankfully not one sports representative nominated this year, despite the Athens Olympics.

No one has won the Australian of the Year award to date as the result of a motion picture career, although Paul Hogan (1985) won the year before his motion picture debut in "Crocodile Dundee". The complete list of AOTY recipients can be found here.

Six, incidentally, have been aboriginal: Evonne Goolagong (1971), Galarrwuy Yunipingu (1978), Neville Bonner (1979), Lowitja O'Donohue (1984), Mandawuy Yunipingu (1992), and Cathy Freeman (1998).

There are also awards for Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Local Hero. The full list of nominees can be found here. I can't comment on too many of the names, but I will be cheering on Gardening Australia's Peter Cundall, the Tasmanian nominee for Senior Australian of the Year.

Nominations for the 2006 awards are now open.