2020 WA Australian of the Year Award recipients announced

  • 13 November 2019

2020 WA Australian of the Year Award recipients announced

2020 WA Australian of the Year – Annie Fogarty AM

2020 WA Senior Australian of the Year – Professor John Newnham AM

2020 WA Young Australian of the Year – Yarlalu Thomas

2020 WA Local Hero – Suzy Urbaniak

The 2020 WA Australian of the Year Awards have been announced in a ceremony at Government House in Perth on 7 November 2019.

The four WA 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.

Auspire CEO Morgen Lewis congratulated the award recipients from Western Australia, noting their amazing contributions to our country.

“The WA 2020 Australians of the Year are great examples of people using their skills and experience to help others and create real world change for good,” said Ms Lewis.


The 2020 WA Australian of the Year is education social venturer Annie Fogarty AM.

With her husband Brett, Annie Fogarty AM founded the Fogarty Foundation in 2000 to help advance education, support young people to reach their full potential and to build stronger communities. Under Annie’s leadership, the foundation identifies areas of need, supports partner organisations with philanthropic funds, connections and knowledge, and develops initiatives that deliver educational opportunities, inspire community leadership and enrich lives. The foundation enhances excellence and high-quality instruction in schools by investing in education programs, teachers and school leaders. Through the foundation, Annie has developed the Fogarty EDvance program, which improves the educational outcomes of children who attend schools in lower socio-economic communities. The foundation’s scholarship program for tertiary students provides financial support, a leadership program, enrichment opportunities, and supportive networks to help develop future leaders. Annie is also involved with several boards and committees to help foster innovation and creativity in young people, and is committed to ensuring excellent education and learning for all.


Professor John Newnham AM, a world-leading authority in modern obstetrics, is the 2020 WA Senior Australian of the Year.

Professor John Newnham AM is recognised as one of the world’s leading authorities in the prevention of preterm birth – the single greatest cause of death and disability in children up to five years of age. A Professor of Obstetrics, John has been instrumental in making Western Australia an international hotspot for research and clinical excellence in pregnancy and life before birth. In 1989, he founded and led the pioneering Raine Study, the world’s first and most enduring pregnancy-focused lifetime cohort project. John developed a program for preventing preterm birth – a pioneering initiative which resulted in an 8 per cent reduction in premature births across WA. After a successful national roll-out in 2018, he founded the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance – the world’s first ever national program of its kind. John has been described by the world’s leading scientific journal as ‘an intellectual leader of modern obstetrics who has changed the practice of medicine and the lives of women and infants’.


The 2020 WA Young Australian of the Year is Yarlalu Thomas, a medical student and Precision Public Health Fellow in genetic and rare diseases.

Yarlalu Thomas is a Nyangumarta Pitjikarli man, originally from Warralong, southeast of Port Hedland. The first in his community to complete a high-school certificate, he enrolled in a Bachelor of Medical Science and Doctor of Medicine (MD) at the University of Sydney. Between his bachelor’s degree and MD, Yarlalu was awarded the inaugural Roy Hill Community Foundation Fellowship. The 21-year-old now works with the WA Register of Developmental Anomalies, Genetic Services WA and Cliniface, to transform genetic health care services for remote Indigenous people. Yarlalu also works with Pilbara Faces, which aims to understand 3D facial variation of ATSI peoples to provide more accessible, quicker and non-invasive diagnosis for children with rare and genetic diseases. Yarlalu also launched the UNESCO-endorsed Life Languages project to translate medical terminology into ATSI languages, and indigenous languages internationally. He combines the newest scientific and medical knowledge with old and ancient wisdom. Yarlalu mentors and tutors Aboriginal boarding students, helping them adjust to their new lifestyle.


Science educator Suzy Urbaniak is the 2020 WA Local Hero.

Suzy Urbaniak wants young people to understand how to apply science to the real world. The former Newcrest geoscientist, WA science teacher and mentor developed and leads her own earth sciences program, the Centre of Resources Excellence (CoRE). An innovative science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) program, CoRE brings together education, industry, community and government to create meaningful careers in the resources industry. The CoRE program builds on 53-year-old Suzy’s years of practical geology and education experience, which includes more than 74 national and international field trips. Suzy contributes to the ongoing development of the national earth sciences curriculum and supports the Young Persons’ Plan for the Planet Program, a joint initiative of Questacon UN Information Centre and other organisations, to promote sustainable development. Her work as an educator was recognised with the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools in 2016. She was inducted into the WA Women’s Hall of Fame in 2018.


For more information on the Australian of the Year Awards visit

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