NEWCASTLE Herald investigative journalist Joanne McCarthy has been nominated for the 2019 NSW Australian of the Year Award, in a field dominated by Hunter personalities.
Ms McCarthy, whose tireless, award-winning reporting was a catalyst for the creation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, was announced as a nominee for the award on Thursday afternoon, alongside two Novocastrians – brain cancer awareness advocate Mark Hughes and athlete and champion for the rights of people with disabilities, Kurt Fearnley.
“Kurt Fearnley and Mark Hughes are two extraordinary leaders and it is an honour to be nominated beside them,” Ms McCarthy said in response to the announcement.
“I am very proud of the Hunter region for having three of the four finalists in the 2019 NSW Australian of the Year Awards,” she said.
Mr Hughes, a former Knights player and co-creator of the Mark Hughes Foundation, said he was “blown away” by the nomination.
“It’s a huge honour,” he said.
Mr Hughes said he particularly wanted to acknowledge the support of his wife, Kirralee, who formed the Mark Hughes Foundation with him after he was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2014.
“Life can take some real twists and turns and, for me, my health changed overnight, forever,” he said.
“I’m just so grateful I had the people around me that helped put the Mark Hughes Foundation in place and put us on the map.
“I think of my wife, and family, and friends and supporters. I couldn’t have done it without any of them. I’m representing all those people.”
Mr Hughes said the nominations for the 2019 NSW Australian of the Year had a “real Newcastle flavour”.
He commended the leadership demonstrated by Mr Fearnley.
“Kurt’s a wonderful role model and someone that’s been a wonderful ambassador for Newcastle for a long time,” he said.
Kogarah robotics researcher Salah Sukkarieh is also a finalist in the category, with the chosen NSW Australian of the Year to be announced in Sydney on Monday night.
The NSW Award recipients will then join other state and territory recipients in the national awards, which will be held in Canberra on January 25.
National Australia Day Council chief executive Karlie Brand said the NSW nominees were among more than 120 people being recognised in all states and territories as part of the 2019 Australian of the Year Awards.
“The NSW nominees are an extraordinary group of people whose achievements and contributions remind us we can all achieve more than we think and make a difference,” Ms Brand said.
The nominees for NSW Senior Australian of the Year, NSW Young Australian of the Year and NSW Local Hero were also announced on Thursday afternoon.
2019 NSW AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR
Kurt Fearnley AO - Athlete and advocate (Newcastle)
Mark Hughes - Brain cancer awareness advocate (Newcastle)
Joanne McCarthy - Investigative journalist (Bateau Bay)
Professor Salah Sukkarieh - Robotics researcher (Kogarah)
2019 NSW SENIOR AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR
Barbara Baikie - Advocate for women (Wallaroo)
Heather Lee OAM - Athlete (Richmond)
Professor Gordon Parker AO - Psychiatrist and creative writer (Northwood)
2019 NSW YOUNG AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR
Angelina Arora - Scientist, inventor and philanthropist (Glen Alpine)
Gidon Goodman - Health activist (Dover Heights)
Nicole Seebacher - Cancer researcher (Pennant Hills)
Jarrod Wheatley - Social entrepreneur (Surry Hills)
2019 NSW LOCAL HERO
John Dyball - Retired teacher (Vincentia)
Mary Jo McVeigh - Child-protection advocate (Concord)
Sophie Smith - Fundraiser and founder of Running for Premature Babies Foundation (Coogee)
George Tonna - Founder of NSW Physical Disability Rugby League Association (Ingleburn)