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The Commonwealth Bank congratulates the 2007 Australians of the Year

25 January 2007

As the major sponsor of the Australian of the Year Awards, the Commonwealth Bank congratulates the 2007 Australians of the Year, who were announced today at the national awards ceremony in Canberra by Prime Minister, John Howard.

The categories include the national Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Australia’s Local Hero.

The new Australian of the Year is Professor Tim Flannery, one of the world's leading writer-scientists and thinkers and an internationally acclaimed explorer and environmentalist. Sir David Attenborough described him as being in the league of all-time great explorers such as David Livingstone. Professor Tim Flannery has shown that human activity is drastically altering Earth's climate and that these changes will have a devastating effect of life on this planet. He wrote a provocative book The Weather Makers, which debuted on the New York Times bestseller list and which also won this year's NSW Premier's Book of the Year award.

Senior Australian of the Year went to Phillip Herreen, one of Australia's most popular speedway drivers until a horrific crash in 1993, in his last race before retiring from the track, left him confined to a wheel chair. Originally from the building industry, he now helps people rebuild their lives. He's a volunteer peer support advocate, working side by side with injured people, giving them encouragement, inspiration, and hints on life in a wheelchair. He's a mentor to many sports people who have become disabled through accidents and he is a volunteer facilitator helping youth in trouble for driving and other offences.

Tania Major is this year’s Young Australian of the Year. She came to public attention three years ago as the youngest person ever elected to ATSIC. She broke the ice of public discussion about a number of issues concerning the welfare of young Indigenous people when she was featured on national television programs such as Four Corners and 60 Minutes. She spoke directly and very publicly to the prime minister and other opinion leaders about the appalling secrets of domestic violence in her community in the belief that the best way to represent her people was to tell the truth. Tania Major is the only person within her community to complete a university degree and to have successfully completed Year 12. Tania Major has become a role model for all young Australians.

Australia’s Local Hero is Shanaka Fernando. By establishing the "Lentil as Anything" concept, Shanaka Fernando has set a wholly successful example to society of how a commercial enterprise can be operated on a socially responsible and altruistic basis and still be financially successful and popular. Since Shanaka Fernando relinquished his personal capital in the first restaurant and turned it into a cooperative and youth training enterprise, the business has grown into four restaurants employing about 80 young people and providing space for artists and writers. This not-for-profit business celebrates compassion, individuality, and artistic expression under a philosophy that challenges and defies our consumerist society.

The Commonwealth Bank has been a major supporter of the Australian of the Year program since 1979. Barbara Chapman, Group Executive, People and Group Services, said, "These Awards are recognition of everything that is truly Australian. This is a country with amazing depths of talent in so many areas, as well as an incredible spirit when it comes to kindness and generosity in the community. These awards offer everyone the opportunity to show their national pride in a tangible way. We are honoured to have been part of this great initiative for so many years, and look forward to many more. We have a relationship with nine million Australians and we embrace the opportunity to celebrate the citizens who make us proud".

Ends

Notes to editors:

The Commonwealth Bank is the major sponsor of the Australian of the Year Awards and is proud to have supported the program since 1979. The Awards are a celebration of the achievements of Australians and the contributions they have made to their community. Australians from all backgrounds and disciplines including business, science and technology, humanitarian, sport, arts and entertainment are eligible for an Award. There are four Award categories - Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year (60 years and over), Young Australian of the Year (16 to 25 years) and Australia’s Local Hero.

For more information contact:

Bryan Fitzgerald
General Manager, Media and Issues Management
Commonwealth Bank of Australia
Ph: (02) 9378 2663
M: 0414 789 649
E: fitzgeb@cba.com.au

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