CANBERRA: Publishing icon Ita Buttrose has been named Australian of the Year.
The 71-year-old was yesterday honoured at a ceremony in Canberra for her extraordinary and groundbreaking media career and role in raising awareness of health and media issues.
Ms Buttrose said she was honoured to follow in the footsteps of so many distinguished Australians.
“This is one of the proudest moments of my life,” she said, her voicing quavering slightly.
“How wonderful to be honoured for doing something that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed doing for most of my life – being a journalist and working for causes for which I have a genuine passion and commitment.”
Ms Buttrose said as Australian of the Year she would seek to promote a more positive approach to ageing by combating ageist attitudes.
She will also seek to promote preventative health strategies.
“I believe preventative health strategies need to begin in childhood and be followed all through life,” she said.
Born in Sydney’s Potts Point, Ms Buttrose began her career as a 15-year-old copy girl at the Australian Women’s Weekly, before scoring a spot as a cadet journalist on the women’s section at the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph.
She was appointed women’s editor of the newspapers at just 23. But it was as founding editor of Cleo magazine that she shot to national prominence in the 1970s.
Indigenous leader Shane Phillips was named Australia’s 2013 Local Hero for his community leadership, particularly in his local area of Redfern in inner Sydney. The 48-year-old father of three is a respected member of the Redfern community.
“I’m a real Redfern boy,” he said in a video presentation after the award was announced.
Mr Phillips is regarded as a man of integrity and a community voice on issues such as juvenile justice and Aboriginal deaths in custody.
He still lives in Redfern, where he was born and raised.
Akram Azimi fled Afghanistan with his mother and brother at the height of a bloody civil war, arriving in Australia a child refugee.
Now, the 25-year-old is the 2013 Young Australian of the Year.
“This country has been incredibly good to me,” he said in a video presentation before the award was announced.
The West Australian local was yesterday awarded the honour in Canberra for his mentoring work with indigenous communities and people with disability.
He said Australia was “home to one of the world’s oldest cultures” and he was lucky to be able to interact with that.
Mr Azimi was born in Kabul in 1987 and during his earlier years the Taliban viciously consolidated its power in the country through a vicious civil conflict involving warring tribal factions.
In 1999 he fled with his family, arriving in Perth and enrolling in Warwick Senior High School.
At first “an ostracised refugee kid with no prospects”, Mr Azimi excelled academically and rose to become head boy of the school.
He also graduated school dux, topping his tertiary entrance exam scores among his classmates, and went on to study a triple major in law, science and arts at the University of Western Australia.
But it was his philanthropic work with the disadvantaged in the community that piqued the interest of those tasked with choosing an inspirational young Australian to receive the annual honour.
For three years, Mr Azimi mentored young indigenous Australians in the remote community of Looma in the Kimberley region, and primary school students in a small farming community in the WA wheat belt.
In 2011, he co-founded a student-run initiative to raise awareness about indigenous issues in universities, and has also worked with the True Blue Dreaming, a youth mentoring network.
Mr Azimi is also mentoring a Special Olympics athlete to raise public awareness about disability issues.
He lives with his family in the Perth suburb of Marangaroo.
More than 700 people turned out in the warm weather to watch the award presentations in front of Parliament House.
Others, some flag-adorned, some waving flags, watched on from the nearby lawns.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the winners had done much to serve and enrich the nation.
Among the official guests were Nova Peris with her children, Brendan Nelson and Adam Spencer.