A biomolecular scientist whose work has been called 'more impressive than the moon landing' has been named the 2017 Australian of the Year.
Queensland biomolecular professor Alan Mackay-Sim has been named the 2017 Australian of the Year.
The Griffith University professor has spent his career looking at the regenerative properties of stem cells and how they can be used to repair damaged spinal cords.
"I'm so proud and shocked and horrified to be the 2017 Australian of the Year," he said in his acceptance speech. "It's an unbelievable honour and in accepting it, I want to deeply thank and acknowledge all my friends and colleagues and students, the teams of people who have worked with me.
"Their late nights, their hard work, their great ideas have led me to stand here in front of you and I dedicate this to them."
The Emeritus Professor's clinical trials in 2002 played a key role in the world's first successful restoration of mobility in a quadriplegic man in 2014.
A world first, the technique used cells from the nose to treat spinal cord injury, the research offered hope to thousands of Australians with the condition.
Professor Mackay-Sim was hopeful the win will raise awareness of the issue, and of scientific research in general.
"I'm hoping 2017 will be a wonderful opportunity to talk about the importance of research on spinal cord and rare brain diseases," he said. "About the therapeutic futures of stem cells and cell transplantation, which were undreamed of 20 years ago.
"About how we must, as Australians, prioritise our spending so that we can afford not only to look after the disabled and the diseased in our community, but to look at future radical treatments that will reduce future health costs."
Professor Mackay-Sim has also served as the director of the National Centre for Adult Stem Cell Research for a decade, and championed the use of stem cells to try and better understand brain disorders such as schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease.
Meanwhile, community fundraising champion Vicki Jellie from Warrnambool, Victoria has been named Australia's Local Hero of 2017.
After her husband Peter died of cancer, Mrs Jellie found his plans for a local cancer fundraiser.
His dream to bring radiotherapy services to the South West of Victoria became Vicki’s passion. It was here she initiated “Peter's Project” – a community group dedicated to fighting for improved cancer services.
"We can all make a difference, no matter how small or large it is," she said. "No matter where we live in this great country, in a tiny country town or in a city, don't be afraid to step forward and talk about what you believe in and what your dream is.
"Lead by example, with optimism and courage and implement something new."
She arrived on Bathurst Island in 1953 and has worked tirelessly with the indigenous community.
As well as being principal of the local primary school, she runs regular prayer meetings and over the years has set up several community clubs - from mothers' groups to Little Athletics.
"I invite all Australians to support people such as the Tiwi to be visible as Australians to all Australians," she said. "I pray that all people in our wonderful country, Australia, regardless of language, culture, skin colour or religious belief, may stand tall as proud Australians."