Posted on November 07 2019
The four SA recipients will join those from the other states and territories for the national awards ceremony at the National Arboretum in Canberra on 25 January 2020 – the 60th anniversary of the awards.
The 2020 SA Australian of the Year is eye surgeon and blindness prevention pioneer Dr James Muecke AM. Since starting his medical career in Kenya, 56-year-old Dr James Muecke AM has been passionate about fighting blindness. In 2000, he co-founded Vision Myanmar at the South Australian Institute of Ophthalmology. The $1 million program has developed and operated eye health and blindness initiatives in Myanmar. Inspired by this program’s success, James also co-founded Sight For All, a social impact organisation aiming to create a world where everyone can see. With 80 per cent of world blindness avoidable – and almost 90 per cent in poor countries – James treats blindness as a human rights issue. James creates low-cost programs to fight blindness through research, education and infrastructure, including the comprehensive training of colleagues in Sight For All’s partner countries. James donates 40 hours of personal time weekly to Sight For All and is closely involved in projects in Ethiopia, nine Asian countries, and mainstream and Aboriginal communities of Australia. His leadership, determination and passion has improved eye health and helped alleviate poverty and disadvantage.
Lifelong volunteer Sylvia McMillan is the 2020 SA Senior Australian of the Year. Sylvia McMillan has dedicated her life to being of service to her community. The 90-year-old woman has been a force of good to everyone around her – and shows no signs of stopping. She is still the chair for her local Legacy, the organisation that provides services to families of deceased defence force members. Sylvia also runs a Seniors club, Sunnysiders club, and card group, and is a member of Friends of the Parks. In between her volunteer activities she regularly attends the gym and meets with her school chums and her water aerobics group, at the local Parks Community Centre. As the Enfield volunteer bus driver for many years, Sylvia dressed up as Santa Claus at Christmas, revealing the joy volunteer work brings her. She was also on the board of the local branch of the health centre and the housing trust. Sylvia has received many community awards, including a Legends Award for her contributions to the community.
The 2020 SA Young Australian of the Year is runner, cyclist and fundraiser Zibeon Fielding. (Zibeon was unable to attend the presentation event this evening and the award was accepted on his behalf). Zibeon Fielding is dedicated to raising vital funds to help close the gap in Indigenous health. In 2016, he was selected for the Indigenous Marathon Project, training and competing in the New York, Boston and Tokyo Marathons. But these achievements were only preparation for Zibeon’s ultimate goal: to run an ultra-marathon through his homelands on the APY lands. He successfully raised $50,000 for Purple House, an organisation that provides dialysis to some of Australia’s most remote communities. This will enable Aboriginal people with diabetes to return from the cities to visit their homes. In 2019, Zibeon cycled 700 kilometres across the rough corrugated roads and extreme heat of the Australian outback, to bring about awareness for improvement of Aboriginal health and raise $40,000 for a new gym in his community. As a health worker, 25-year-old Zibeon has conducted health checks on children, educated communities about healthy living and eating, and run bike workshops along the way.
Cystic fibrosis advocate Emmah Evans is the 2020 SA Local Hero. Cystic fibrosis (CF) is the most common life-threatening hereditary illness in Australia, affecting the lungs and digestive system – and limiting average life expectancy to 37 years. Diagnosed with CF as a newborn, Emmah Evans was given up for adoption, after doctors believed she wouldn’t survive. Just before her 17th birthday, Emmah found her biological family by chance, who believed she had passed away. Now aged 32 and a mother-of-two, Emmah has a list of credible achievements to her name. As an Ambassador for the Cure4CF Foundation, Emmah raises awareness and funds for Cystic Fibrosis, and won a three-year battle with the Australian Government to put the life-changing drug, Orkambi, on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Through her social media platform, CF Mummy, Emmah has raised more than $50,000 to support research into a cure. Emmah regularly speaks in schools across Australia, inspiring students with her powerful account about overcoming obstacles, including bullying and depression, and living with an invisible disability.
For more information on the Australian of the Year Awards visit australianoftheyear.org.au.