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Australian of the Year preview 2006

For the second year running I am doing a preview of the Australian of the Year award, which will be announced by John Winston Howard later today. Please refer to my 2005 preview for some facts, figures and background on past winners.

The eight state and territory nominees, as announced in November:

New South Wales: Justice Michael Kirby, member of the High Court of Australia since 1996, and a distinguished jurist with many accomplisjments to his name. Often finds himself the dissenting voice on conservative judgments handed down by the court. Openly gay, and was the subject of a disgraceful and unsuccessful smear a few years ago by JWH attack-dog Senator Bill Heffernan, based on fabricated documents. It will be an interesting scene if JWH has to congratulate Justice Kirby tonight.

Queensland: Professor Ian Frazer, Director of the Centre for Cancer and Immunology Research at the University of Queensland. Among other things, he advises the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on papillomavirus vaccines. Already named "Australian of the Year" by The Australian newspaper, though this is not an automatic indicator of the winner here. Nonetheless, he would be a safe and popular choice.

South Australia: Dr Bill Griggs, Director of the Trauma Service at Royal Adelaide Hospital. Not likely to better Prof. Frazer's claims in the medical science field.

Tasmania: Richard Bovill, rural activist and leader of the Fair Dinkum Food Challenge. Outraged by cheap imports of produce from overseas (apparently McDonald's decision to use potatoes from New Zealand was the last straw), a group of North Tasmanian farmers led by Bovill took a convoy of tractors on a protest trail around rural Victoria and New South Wales before meeting John Howard in Canberra. A folk hero if ever there was one. He'd be my pick for Australian of the Year, but I expect the judging panel to ignore the "traditional Australian value" of larrikinism and pass him by.

Victoria: Reverend Tim Costello, Chief Executive Officer of World Vision Australia, minister of the Baptist Church, alumnus of Monash University, former Mayor of St Kilda and current brother of Peter Costello. Two brothers with more differing ideologies you could hardly imagine. Reverend Tim seems to be the popular favourite at the moment, and the one I expect to win the title tonight. Another interesting scenario as he shakes hands with JWH.

Western Australia: Emeritus Professor Geoffrey Bolton, distinguished historian and currently Chancellor of Murdoch University. An outstanding Australian intellectual, but not a likely winner this year.

Australian Capital Territory: Dr Geoffrey Lancaster, associate professor in theKeyboard Institute at the School of Music at Australian National University. This year's token representative of the performing arts, and not a serious contender for national honours.

Northern Territory: Peter Fannin, Indigenous Arts Patron and botanist. Been a quiet year up the Top End by the looks of it.

I can make no comment on the Senior Australian of the Year nominations. The only name I know in the Young Australian of the Year nominations is Trisha Broadbridge, whose husband, AFL footballer Troy Broadbridge, died in the December 2004 tsunami while they were on their honeymoon. The "Local Hero Regional" nominations are all unknown to me, but I can't think of a more deserving "Local Hero Metropolitan" than Victoria's nomination, former AFL legend Michael Long. If there was a write-in candidate for Australian of the Year, he would be my pick.

The full list of nominees in each category can be found here.

(PS: Note that there are no current sportspeople in the main Australian of the Year nominees? Hoo-ray!)