Law Professor Larissa Behrendt has been named the 2011 New South Wales Australian of the Year, while Professor Ron McCallum took out the NSW Senior Australian of the Year award.
A Eualeyai and Kamillaroi woman, Professor Behrendt was recognised for her passionate and articulate advocacy for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
At just 11 years of age, Behrendt decided to become a lawyer after her Indigenous father found his mother's government 'removal' certificate, which showed the date that authorities took her from her family at a NSW sheep station.
Motivated by the mistreatment of the stolen generations, the author and professor of law and indigenous studies at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) wrote her first novel "Home", for which she won the 2002 David Uniapon Award and a 2005 Commonwealth Writer's Prize. She authored several other books on Indigenous legal issues and her second novel "Legacy" which was recently released.
Behrendt is also the land commissioner at the Land and Environment Court, alternate chair of the Serious Offenders Review Board, a member of the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia and a founding member of the Australian Academy of Law.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda congratulated Behrendt on her award.
"To have Larissa Behrendt named as NSW Australian of the Year is a well deserved high profile recognition of her commitment and continued focus on protecting the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples," Gooda said.
Professor McCallum took out the senior award in recognition of his ongoing campaign for equal rights for people with disabilities.
McCallum is the first totally blind person to have been appointed to a full professorship at an Australian university and was the foundation professor in industrial law at the University of Sydney, where he also served as dean of law for five years.
He was also recently appointed to the Federal Government's National People with Disabilities and Carers Council.