Dick Smith ~ Born in Roseville, New South Wales, Dick Smith dropped out of tertiary studies to work for an electronics firm. In 1968 he opened a small car radio installation store in suburban Sydney, which grew to become the highly successful retail chain Dick Smith Electronics. Smith sold the company in the early 1980s in order to pursue his interests in aviation, publishing and philanthropy. In 1983 he completed the first solo helicopter flight around world. In 1985 he published the first issue of Australian Geographic. In his philanthropic work Smith was a strong supporter of the Reverend Ted Noffs’ Life Education Centres, donating the first mobile classroom in 1981. During his Australian of the Year Tour of Honour Smith campaigned strongly against cigarette advertising that was aimed at children. Smith was nominated for the award by Labor MP John Brown, who wrote that Smith’s talents derived from ‘an unfettered need to explore and understand.’
English-born John Farnham immigrated to Australia with his family as a ten-year-old. He was an apprentice plumber and part-time musician before signing a recording contract with EMI in 1967. Performing as teen pop idol ‘Johnny Farnham,’ his early hit singles included ‘Sadie the Cleaning Lady’ and ‘Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.’ After considerable early success his career slowed in the late 1970s. He subsequently teamed with manager Glenn Wheatley and revived his career as an adult contemporary singer. He replaced Glenn Shorrock as lead singer in the Little River Band in 1982, but his greatest success came in a renewed solo career launched by the hit single ‘You’re the Voice’ (1986). The song topped the charts in Australia and several European countries, while the associated album, Whispering Jack, sold over one million copies. Farnham was named Australian of the Year ‘for his outstanding contribution to the Australian music industry over twenty years.’
Born into a Sydney yachting family, Kay Cottee developed a childhood ambition to sail around the world. In her twenties she became a proficient boat builder and managed a yacht charter business on Sydney’s northern beaches. She subsequently built the First Lady, in which she became the first woman to circumnavigate the world non-stop and unassisted. On her epic 189-day journey Cottee set seven world records, returning to a rapturous reception from tens of thousands of spectators on Sydney Harbour in June 1988. Cottee’s Australian of the Year award recognised her inspirational feat, but also honoured her extensive efforts in raising over $1,000,000 for the Life Education Centres of Reverend Ted Noffs. Cottee observed, ‘I think national pride is growing and the land of the great knockers is fading out. A lot of people didn’t take me seriously when I started my journey, but everyone joined in as I got further along the way.’
Cottee, K., 1988. Kay Cottee: All at Sea and Land and First Lady ten years on, Random House Australia Pty Ltd, Sydney, NSW.
Australian of the Year http://www.australianoftheyear.org.au/recipients