Academy Fellow Professor Tom Calma named Senior Australian of Year

The Academy warmly congratulates Fellow Professor Tom Calma AO FAA FASSA who was last night named Senior Australian of the Year, in recognition of his tireless work as a human rights and social justice advocate.

Professor Calma is an Aboriginal Elder from the Kungarakan tribal group and a member of the Iwaidja tribal group, whose traditional lands are southwest of Darwin and on the Northern Territory’s Cobourg Peninsula.

Professor Tom Calma is recognised for his long-running advocacy work.

He was elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 2022, and with his appointment as the sixth Chancellor of the University of Canberra in January 2014 Professor Calma became the first Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander man to hold the position of Chancellor of any Australian university.

For over four decades he has championed the rights, responsibilities and welfare of Indigenous peoples’ health, justice, education, and employment status at local, community, state and international levels.

Alongside his social justice work, Professor Calma’s research interests include pharmacological application for scabies control, genomics, Indigenous cancers and tobacco control, as well as mental health and suicide prevention.

His work continues to have an enduring impact on public discourse in Australia and beyond: he co-led the co-design of a Voice to Parliament initiative, and his call for Australia to address the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples was the catalyst for the Close the Gap Campaign.

Professor Calma was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2012 and named ACT Australian of the Year in 2013 and ACT Senior Australian of the Year in 2023.

He was also recognised with an Australian Hero Tree Dedication of a hoop pine (Araucaria cunninghamii) at the National Arboretum Canberra in 2020.

For over four decades he has championed the rights, responsibilities and welfare of Indigenous peoples’ health, justice, education, and employment status.

Chair of the National Australia Day Council Danielle Roche OAM congratulated the 2023 Australian of the Year Award recipients, who include: Taryn Brumfitt, body image activist and internationally recognised keynote speaker; Awer Mabil, co-founder of a not-for-profit organisation for refugees; and Amar Singh, founder of a charity that transports grocery hampers and emergency goods to those in need.

“The 2023 Australians of the Year are great examples of the Australian spirit. Their courage, determination and fearlessness are an inspiration to us all,” Ms Roche said.

“Individually brilliant, Taryn, Tom, Awer and Amar share a common bond-using their life experience as a power for good, helping others around them and making the world a better place.”

Ms Roche described the recipients as “an extraordinary group of Australians of whom we can all be incredibly proud.”

“Tom has dedicated his life and career to being a champion of equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, lighting the path towards reconciliation,” she said.

The Academy also congratulates the other finalists for the Senior Australian of the Year: Teresa Plane (NSW), Bernard Tipiloura (NT), Claude Lyle Harvey OAM (QLD), Sandra Miller (SA), Dr Frances Donaldson (TAS), Professor Frank Oberklaid AM (VIC), and Theresa Kwok (WA).

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