AAP Sydney Morning Herald November 25, 2010
Indigenous advocate and author Larissa Behrendt has been named NSW Australian of the Year at an awards ceremony in Sydney.
The 41-year old academic was given the award on Thursday night "in recognition of her passionate and articulate advocacy for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders."
A Eualeyai and Kamillaroi woman, Professor Behrendt decided to become a lawyer at age 11 after her indigenous father found his mother's government `removal' certificate.
It showed the date authorities took her from her family at a NSW sheep station.
Prof Behrendt practised in Legal Aid before winning a scholarship in 1993 to complete a doctorate in law at Harvard University where she focused on Aboriginal ideas of sovereignty.
After a stint at the United Nations, she returned to Australia in 1999 and was appointed a professor of Law and Indigenous Studies at the University of Technology (UTS).
She is the author of several books on indigenous legal issues as well as two novels.
Her first novel, Home, was inspired by the treatment of the indigenous stolen generations and won the 2002 David Uniapon Award and a 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize.
Her second book, Legacy, a fictionalised account of her relationship with her father, was recently released.
Other finalists for the prestigious prize included football legend Hazem El-Masri, musician Richard Tognetti and theatre director Neil Armfield.
Disability campaigner Professor Ron McCallum was honoured with the NSW Senior Australian of the Year award.
Prof McCallum, formerly a dean of Law at Sydney University, is the first totally blind person to have been appointed to a full professorship at an Australian university.
Vaucluse resident Donald Ritchie was given the NSW Local Hero award for his efforts at dissuading possible suicides at Sydney's infamous cliff point The Gap.
The 84-year-old had saved over 160 lives by inviting distressed people to his home for a chat over a cup of tea, the award's organisers said.
The ceremony was held at the Taronga Centre in Mosman, in Sydney's north.
The award recipients will be finalists in the Australian of the Year Awards to be announced in Canberra in January.
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2009 Juanita Nielson Memorial Lecture - June 2009 - Stop the Intervention
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