Last year really was the year for women in sport, and soccer superstar Sam Kerr’s Young Australian of the Year Award drives that home.
The 24-year-old Perth Glory striker received the gong at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday on the back of a remarkable 2017, with her goalscoring feats breaking new ground.
She said it wasn’t just young girls looking up to female athletes, but young boys were also idolising women sporting stars.
Listen: Mia Freedman is joined by sport fanatics Michelle Andrews and Gemma Garkut to unpack the rise of women’s sport, and why it’s taken so long. (Post continues.)
“I think women’s sport has taken a huge leap this year and a lot more people are getting behind it,” Kerr said.
“It’s great for not only the athletes involved, but the young kids growing up with great role models now.”
Australian of the Year
Scientist Michelle Yvonne Simmons has been named the 2018 Australian of the Year for her pioneering work in quantum physics.
Professor Simmons, who leads a team developing a silicon quantum computer able to solve problems in minutes rather than thousands of years, is passionate about encouraging girls to pursue a career in science and technology.
"Seeing women in leadership roles and competing internationally is important. It gives them the sense that anything is possible," she said.
Senior Australian of the Year Award
Scientist Graham Farquhar has been named the Senior Australian of the Year for his work improving water-efficient crops and analysing climate change.
The 70-year-old, who last year became the first Australian to receive the prestigious Nobel-equivalent Kyoto Prize, is passionate about photosynthesis.
"It's what makes us grow, live, survive. It's responsible for all life on earth," he told reporters ahead of the award ceremony.
Australia's Local Hero
Innovative Sydney maths teacher Eddie Woo has been named Australia's Local Hero for 2018.
His online "WooTube" channel has more than 100,000 subscribers while his videos have attracted more than eight million views worldwide.
Mr Woo, the head mathematics teacher at Cherrybrook Technology High School in Sydney's northwest, started video tutorials five years ago for a student too sick to attend school.
Collecting the award, he insisted he was no more a hero than anyone else and there was nothing special or extraordinary about his classroom.
Instead, he had simply opened a window through the internet into the hard work and dedication of educators in schools right across the country.
"I stand before you, not as an individual, but as a proud representative of every teacher around the country who labours day after day, year after year, because we know the power of giving a child the priceless gift of an education," he said.
"Every Australian must play our part in honouring our schools and those who work in them. Our children and future generations are dependent on it."
The son of Chinese-Malaysian parents who migrated to Australia to get a better education for their children, Mr Woo decided to pursue a career in teaching to "pay it forward".
Mr Woo became the first teacher to give NSW's Australia Day address on Tuesday, saying he believed mathematics could break down social barriers.