In what is a fascinating insight into some of our country’s highest achievers, the National Museum of Australia (NMA) and National Australia Day Council’s (NADC) fifth annual Australian of the Year exhibition opened earlier this month.
Presented in the NMA’s atrium for free, the exhibition asks each of the 2019 Australian of the Year state and territory recipients to pick out their favourite item and provide a brief description of what makes it special to them.
In doing so, we get an intimate, yet highly accessible glimpse into what makes each of them tick, telling us something about their lives, aspirations and experiences.
This year’s cohort includes: ACT 2019 Australian of the Year, journalist and women’s advocate Virginia Haussegger; WA’s Craig Challen SC OAM, cave diver and rescuer; NSW’s Kurt Fearnley AO, athlete and disability spokesperson; SA’s Dr Richard Harris SC OAM, anaesthetist and cave diver; NT’s Michael Long, AFL champion and community leader; and Queensland’s Jon Rouse, child exploitation investigator.
Ms Haussegger, passionate about conversations, women’s rights and gender equality, chose her pussy hat, an international symbol of protest participation and solidarity.
Worn widely during the United States Women’s Marches in 2017, they were a bold visual statement. They also gave those makers unable to attend a way to support the protest.
National Museum Director, Dr Mathew Trinca, said the recipients have chosen diverse and deeply personal objects reflecting their life’s journey.
“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 the NADC has collaborated with the NMA to bring together a unique exhibition that showcases our nation’s finest.
“We are honoured to share the remarkable stories of eight standout Australians through objects that provide a special insight into their lives, their passions and their contributions to our great country.”
The 2019 Australian of the Year exhibition is on display at the NMA’s Gandel Atrium until 17 February; nma.gov.au