On behalf of Reconciliation Australia’s directors, staff, partners and supporters I warmly welcome the announcement that Professor Tom Calma AO has been awarded Senior Australian of the Year.
Statement by Karen Mundine, CEO of Reconciliation Australia.
I congratulate Professor Calma on his award and agree that he is eminently deserving of this honour.
Tom has been a highly effective co-chair of Reconciliation Australian for more than a decade, leading through good times and tough times with great humility, humour and grace.
However, his leadership of this organisation is only a small part of his enormous contribution to Australian public life over many decades.
An Elder of the Kungarakan People of the Northern Territory, he had humble beginnings and experienced first-hand the racism, dispossession and poverty endured by so many First Nations people.
It is a credit to his intellect, drive, and determination that he has overcome these obstacles and lived a life of enormous achievements, not just for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people but for all Australians.
These achievements include being a key catalyst in the establishment of the Close the Gap Campaign and of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and leading the Tackling Indigenous Smoking campaign since its inception.
More recently he was co-leader, with Professor Marcia Langton, of the Indigenous Voice Co-design Process and co-authored the final report of that process which has become, in many ways, the blueprint for the Voice to Parliament.
He was the second Aboriginal person to become chancellor of an Australian University when he was appointed to that position by the University of Canberra in 2014.
Last year he became the first Aboriginal person to be elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science for his effective championing of the health, education and justice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
On a personal level, it has been an immense pleasure to serve as CEO of Reconciliation Australia, under the leadership and guidance of this formidable Aboriginal man.
I have no doubt that Professor Tom Calma will continue to serve his people and all Australians in this latest role.