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20 December 2021

National Museum of Australia showcases diverse objects of personal reflection

A tennis racquet, a group of tiles created from recycled materials, handcuffs and footprints of a murdered woman are among the objects chosen by the 2022 Australian of the Year state and territory recipients, who include Australia’s ‘Rubbish Queen’, a vaccination expert and Indigenous and Paralympic sporting legends.

The National Museum of Australia and the National Australia Day Council (NADC) today launched an exhibition of significant objects chosen by the eight extraordinary 2022 Australian of the Year state and territory recipients, and which tell us something about their lives, aspirations and experiences.

National Museum director Dr Mathew Trinca said after a year of immense challenges, the state and territory recipients have selected objects that bring a sense of hope for the future.

'We are honoured to feature these inspirational and poignant objects selected by eight exceptional individuals. We invite all Australians to see the objects on display, discover the remarkable stories of the Australians who selected them and reflect on the issues they raise,' Dr Trinca said.

National Australia Day Council CEO Ms Karlie Brand said the objects had moved beyond being ordinary possessions and were now extraordinarily significant.

'These items tell of the exceptional experiences of our state and territory recipients. They form part of the narrative of achievement that continues to be told in their daily lives,' Ms Brand said.

Curator Dr Lily Withycombe said, 'I love this exhibition. These unexpected, personal objects give the background story to such extraordinary Australians and help everyone connect with their life journeys. It makes their achievements all the more inspiring.'

  • 2022 Australian Capital Territory Australian of the Year, Patrick (Patty) Mills: In 2014 Patty Mills became an NBA champion with the San Antonio Spurs. He recently competed in his fourth Olympics, leading the Boomers in Tokyo to their first-ever Olympic medal. As Patty is in the middle of the NBA season in the United States, playing for the Brooklyn Nets, he has not had a chance to choose an object for display. So we have taken the opportunity to display an object from the Museum’s collection – the singlet Danny Morseu wore at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Morseu was a founding member of the National Basketball League and the first Torres Strait Islander to represent Australia at the Olympic Games. He is also Patty Mills’s uncle!
  • 2022 New South Wales Australian of the Year, Professor Veena Sahajwalla: Professor Veena Sahajwalla pioneers research into waste – turning it into a new generation of green materials and products. She is best known for her invention of ‘green steel’ technology, which uses carbon extracted from old tyres to replace coal or coke in steel manufacturing. Veena selected tiles created from recycled timber, textiles and glass and designed for use in domestic and commercial buildings. They were manufactured using new technologies at the Green Ceramics MICROfactorie at the University of New South Wales.
  • 2022 Northern Territory Australian of the Year, Leanne Liddle: Arrernte woman Leanne Liddle is committed to empowering Indigenous Territorians with justice solutions that will work for them. She is the driving force behind the Northern Territory Aboriginal Justice Agreement, which, in partnership with Aboriginal people, aims to reduce incarceration rates, increase Aboriginal leadership and improve justice outcomes for Indigenous Territorians. When Leanne was a young officer with South Australia Police, she found some handcuffs in an antique shop. They would have been attached to leg and neck chains and used to imprison First Nations people. Despite her distress, Leanne felt compelled to buy them to teach future generations about Australia’s history.
  • 2022 Queensland Australian of the Year, Sue and Lloyd Clarke: Despite unimaginable grief following the murder of their daughter Hannah and three grandchildren, Sue and Lloyd Clarke have shown extraordinary dedication to educating Australians on the dangers of coercive control and domestic violence. Through their foundation, Small Steps 4 Hannah, Sue and Lloyd want to empower victims to speak up, help family members to be aware of those who may be in an unsafe environment and create a safe place for those who need it most. The Intensive Care Unit usually provides families with handprints of the deceased, but Hannah’s hands were so severely burnt that they captured her footprints instead.
  • 2022 South Australia Australian of the Year, Professor Helen Marshall: Specialising in vaccinology, public health and infectious diseases at the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute, Helen Marshall has been involved in studies that have had a global impact. Her key focus is the fight to prevent meningococcal disease, which has high rates of morbidity and mortality. Invasive meningococcal disease can result in long-term disability and Helen is a lead investigator in the ‘B Part of It’ study. Helen chose a photo and football belonging to a family friend, 18-year-old Jack Klemich, who died suddenly of meningococcal disease.
  • 2022 Tasmania Australian of the Year, Craig Leeson: In 2017, Craig released his first feature-length documentary, A Plastic Ocean. Viewed around the world, it helped create impetus for global action to save our oceans from plastic pollution. Craig’s latest film, The Last Glaciers, looks at the impact of climate change. Craig chose the camera he used to film A Plastic Ocean. It was the first of the ultra-definition cinematic cameras and captured underwater sequences and interviews with his hero, Sir David Attenborough.
  • 2022 Victoria Australian of the Year, Dylan Alcott OAM: At the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, Dylan Alcott won a gold medal in wheelchair basketball before switching to tennis and winning three more Paralympic golds. Dylan has also won 23 quad wheelchair Grand Slam titles and a Newcombe Medal. He recently became the first male in any form of tennis to win the Golden Slam – four Grand Slam titles and an Olympic gold medal in one year. Dylan chose the tennis racquet he used for this amazing achievement.
  • 2022 Western Australia Australian of the Year, Paul Litherland: While working as a police officer in Western Australia’s Technology Crime Unit, Paul Litherland became acutely aware of how vulnerable children are on the internet. Frustrated by the limited resources available for children and their parents, and the lack of legislation to help fight internet crime, Paul began conducting cyber safety presentations at schools. Paul’s mother Patricia was a talented soprano who toured Western Australia. She taught Paul and his siblings to sing and music became a refuge from their violent father. One day, Paul’s father destroyed all Patricia’s recordings, except one, a 78rpm record, on which 15-year-old Patricia sings an old Scottish hymn, The Piper from Over the Way.

Each year, Australia celebrates the achievements and contributions of extraordinary people through the Australian of the Year Awards, which honour leading citizens who are role models for all.

The 2022 Australian of the Year exhibition will be on display at the National Museum in Canberra until 14 February 2022 and will then tour nationally.

Media contact: Diana Streak 02 6208 5091 | 0409 888 976 or

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