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National Museum of Australia showcases personal objects

13 December 2018

A supporter of teenage parents, a cave diver and rescuer, an athlete and disability spokesperson, an anaesthetist and cave diver, a journalist and women’s advocate, an AFL champion and community leader, a child exploitation investigator, and a developer of affordable medicines will be honoured in a new exhibition featuring the 2019 Australian of the Year state and territory recipients.

The National Museum of Australia and the National Australia Day Council (NADC) today launched an exhibition of personal objects, chosen by the eight extraordinary 2019 Australian of the Year state and territory recipients, which tell us something about their lives, aspirations and experiences.

National Museum Director, Dr Mathew Trinca, said the recipients have chosen diverse and deeply personal objects reflecting their life’s journey.

‘We are so proud to feature these fascinating objects chosen by eight exceptional individuals. We hope many Australians will see this exhibition and reflect on the issues raised by the objects before us — and the endeavours of the Australians who selected them,’ Dr Trinca said.

NADC CEO Karlie Brand said, ‘This is the fifth year that the National Australia Day Council has collaborated with the National Museum of Australia to bring together a unique exhibition that showcases our nation’s finest.

‘We are honoured to share the remarkable stories of eight stand-out Australians through objects that provide a special insight into their lives, their passions and their contributions to our great country.’

  • 2019 TAS Australian of the Year, Bernadette Black: As a supporter of teenage parents, Bernadette Black selected the manuscript and published copy of her book, Brave Little Bear, which shares her experiences as a teenage mother.
  • 2019 WA Australian of the Year, Craig Challen SC OAM: As an experienced cave diver, Craig Challen joined the team that successfully rescued 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand. To reflect on his experience, Mr Challen chose The Ashley Book of Knots containing 3854 entries — his go-to reference that guided him to become a skilful maker of both practical and decorative knots.
  • 2019 NSW Australian of the Year, Kurt Fearnley AO: After 20 years representing Australia, Kurt Fearnley decided that the 2018 Commonwealth Games would be his retirement event. The helmet and gloves he wore when he won the wheelchair marathon symbolise Mr Fearnley’s own achievements and his advocacy of greater opportunities for people with disability.
  • 2019 SA Australian of the Year, Dr Richard Harris: For Dr Richard Harris, his cave-diving experience and his skills as an anaesthetist came together during a rescue mission to save 12 children from a cave in Thailand. To represent two very different parts of his life coming together, Dr Harris selected the first scuba regulator he purchased as a 15 year old and his Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists certificate.
  • 2019 ACT Australian of the Year, Virginia Haussegger: Passionate about conversations, women’s rights and gender equality, Virginia Haussegger selected her Pussyhat, an international symbol of protest participation and solidarity.
  • 2019 NT Australian of the Year, Michael Long: Australian Rules legend and outspoken opponent of racism, Michael Long selected the sandals he wore on ‘The Long Walk’. They represent his efforts to increase awareness of Indigenous issues.
  • 2019 QLD Australian of the Year, Jon Rouse: As leader of Task Force Argos, Jon Rouse is responsible for investigating online child exploitation and abuse. He chose a ceramic scorpion and patch, both symbols of the unit and its important work in preventing crimes against children.
  • 2019 VIC Australian of the Year, Mark Sullivan: Mark Sullivan leads a dedicated team that is committed to treating river blindness in sub-Saharan Africa. He chose a sculpture depicting a young boy leading a blind man — a common sight in some African countries.

Each year Australia celebrates the achievements and contributions of extraordinary people through the Australian of the Year Awards by profiling leading citizens who are role models for us all. The 2019 Australian of the Year Awards will be announced on 25 January 2019 at Parliament House, Canberra, and broadcast live on the ABC from 7.30pm.

The exhibition will be on display at the National Museum until 17 February 2019 and then tour nationally.


National Museum of Australia & Exhibition: Diane Morris, (02) 6208 5079, 0436 030 741 or

National Australia Day Council & Australian of the Year Awards: Nicole Browne, 0414 673 762,

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