Meet the 2017 Australian of the Year

By Danielle Pope

Meet the 2017 Australian of the Year
Professor Alan Mackay-Sim honoured for his work in helping people walk again

In the inaugural awards ceremony held at Parliament House, Professor Alan Mackay-Sim was named as the recipient of the 2017 Australian of the Year Award. The biomolecular scientist and Queensland resident received the award in recognition of his research on spinal cord injuries.

Professor Mackay-Sim’s research on stem cells was integral in restoring the mobility of a quadriplegic man in 2014. He is also the director of the National Centre for Adult Stem Cell Research and is considered a global authority on the human sense of smell and the biology of nasal cells.

In accepting the award, Professor Mackay-Sim used his acceptance speech to push for greater investment in young scientists and highlight the importance for researchers to have a longer view beyond, “the political horizon”.

He also discussed the importance of research on spinal cord injuries and rare brain diseases, as reported in the ABC, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could treat spinal cord injury and reduce the suffering and increase the productivity of all of those people with spinal cord injuries?” he said.

Professor Mackay-Sim said receiving the award was a great “shock and honour”, and he acknowledged the high calibre of the other award finalists, “I’m sure the only difference between us is my moustache,” he joked.

Also awarded on the night were Vicki Jellie (Australia’s Local Hero), Sister Anne Gardiner AM (Senior Australian of the Year) and Paul Vasileff (Young Australian of the Year).

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