Qld doctor, orangutan saviours honoured

Aaron Bunch
·2-min read

A quadriplegic doctor is Queensland's nomination for Australian of the Year, while a pair of conservationist brothers have been awarded the state's highest honour for young people.

Advocate for doctors with disabilities Dinesh Palipana OAM was announced on Tuesday as the Queensland 2021 Australian of the Year at the Brisbane award ceremony.

The 36-year-old was the state's first quadriplegic medical graduate, and is now a senior resident doctor at Gold Coast University Hospital. He was also recently admitted as a lawyer and is co-founder of Doctors With Disabilities Australia.

A member of multiple committees for disability advocacy, Dr Palipana's work with the Australian Medical Association has led to new national inclusivity policies for the health sector.

Dr Palipana has contributed significantly to advances in treating spinal cord injury and restoring function to people with paralysis.

His impact has been recognised with numerous awards, including Junior Doctor of the Year and the Order of Australia medal.

Brothers Daniel and William Clarke were jointly named the 2021 Queensland Young Australian(s) of the Year.

The siblings are passionate conservationists for critically endangered orangutan populations in Borneo and Sumatra.

Since 2008, the pair have highlighted the species' plight and raised more than $900,000 to help protect the animals.

Those funds have been used to build new enclosures and buy new veterinary equipment at orangutan care centres.

The brothers have also secured more than 50,000 hectares of habitat and adopted more than 100 orangutans.

Daniel and William's literary work on orangutan conservation has been incorporated into the NSW education department's curriculum.

The pair have spoken to more than 60,000 students in at least 80 schools across Australia, also regularly speaking on sustainability and the environment at business events.

Their conservation efforts have been recognised by former US president Barack Obama and famous primatologist Dame Jane Goodall.

Advocate for Torres Strait communities and climate change, Aunty McRose Elu, was awarded the 2021 Queensland Senior Australian of the Year.

Natasha Johnston, founder of the Drought Angels service that helps farming families, was named the 2021 Queensland Local Hero.

"This recognition also encourages us after a challenging year that a brighter future is always achievable with hard work, devotion and compassion," Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

The four Queenslanders will join recipients from other states and territories on Australia Day eve next year when the 2021 national award winners are announced.