The 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians for 2008

160_F_44577037_5a8fGAvJyfZevCvKXCfVijWiFWLlOCsKFrom a 20 year-old to an 80 year-old, a diverse group of Australians from across the nation were last night named as the year’s 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians at the second annual Same Same 25 awards.

Nicknamed the “Gaylies”, the list includes well known names like 20 year-old Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham, singer Sam Sparro, MTV host Ruby Rose and actress Portia de Rossi, as well as unsung heroes like Alice Springs policewoman Melinda Edwards, GetUp! Director Meredith Turnbull and 80 year-old activist John Challis.

According to co-founder Tim Duggan, the list was created to bring together a group of the most inspirational, aspirational and influential gays and lesbians in Australia, shining a spotlight on people and issues that should be talked about and debated, while creating the next generation of gay and lesbian role models.

“The Same Same 25 is a very important list,” he said. “The sheer range of the people who have shaped 2008 is a real testament to the year we’ve had. From inspirational feats at the Olympics to equality before the law, no matter what their age or occupation, the 25 Australians on this list have all influenced the wider community in a big way.”

The Same Same 25 was announced at a red carpet cocktail event at the Cell Block Theatre at the National Art School in Darlinghurst last night, attended by many of the 25. A heartfelt speech from the youngest member of the Same Same 25, gold medalist Matthew Mitcham was followed by one from the oldest member, 80 year-old John Challis, who spoke of the changes he has seen in his lifetime.

Only four names re-appear on the Same Same 25 list for the second year in a row – Justice Michael Kirby,
politicians Penny Wong and Bob Brown and author David Marr.

“Australia is at a stage where gay and lesbian people have a huge amount of influence across a number of
different fields,” said Duggan. “Whether in sport, entertainment or politics, recognition for the men and women on the Same Same 25 list helps to not only applaud these individuals for their contribution to Australia in 2008, but to show the rest of society how strong, vibrant and unique our gay and lesbian community really is.”

The 25 Most Influential Gay & Lesbian Australians for 2008 are (in alphabetical order):

Andrew Purchas (NSW). Founder of the Sydney Convicts Rugby team, who won the Bingham Cup, commonly known as the ‘gay rugby world cup’ in 2006 and 2008. Andrew has had a significant impact on the perception of gay men in sport and has been on the board of the AIDS Council of NSW for the past three years.

Bill Bowtell (NSW). One of Australia’s pre-eminent experts in HIV/AIDS. Bill was an architect of Australia’s successful and well-regarded response to the disease. From working to Prime Minister Keating in the 90s to currently being Director of the HIV/AIDS Project at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, he is at the forefront of one the biggest health issues facing the world today.

Bob Brown (TAS). One of only four people to appear on the list for the second Consecutive year, Bob is not only the leader of The Greens, but also a strong campaigner for same-sex equality. He was instrumental in campaigning for the removal of discriminatory legislation in Parliament this year.

Brett Sheehy (VIC). The current Artistic Director of the Melbourne International Arts Festival, Sheehy has spent the past decade defining Australia’s artistic landscape. From 2000 to 2005 he broadened the appeal of Sydney Festival before moving onto Adelaide Festival where he set new records for box office and attendance.

Christine Manfield (NSW). A highly regarded Australian chef, author, food writer, food manufacturer, presenter, teacher and gastronomic traveler, Manfield has set new standards of culinary innovation both with her Sydney restaurant Universal and her line of cookbooks.

David Marr (NSW). Journalist and author, Marr re-appears on the list for 2008 for his instrumental coverage of the Henson case, examining the role of art in our society. As a feature writer for the Sydney Morning Herald, he continues to combine influence with intelligence.

Felicity Marlowe (VIC). As a spokesperson for the Victorian Rainbow Families Council she has vocally campaigned in support of the ART (reproductive technologies) bill, which recently passed through the Lower House. Her work in this area will have a huge impact on future generations.

Fran Kelly (NSW). As a respected radio presenter, current affairs journalist and political correspondent, Fran Kelly literally has the ear of Australia’s most influential people from the Prime Minister down every morning as the host of ABC Radio National’s agenda-setting Breakfast program.

Giz Watson (WA). Giz’s interest in ecology, peace and social justice has taken this former builder from grassroots activism to the halls of Western Australian Parliament. As a current member of the Western Australian Greens she is an extremely vocal advocate for women, the environment and gay rights. In 1992 she became one of only three women to be registered as a builder in WA.

Jem Masters (NSW). This unsung hero has been the driving force behind Mardi Gras medical, a volunteer team who work tirelessly to ensure the safety and well-being of tens of thousands of people at Australia’s largest gay event every year.

John Challis (NSW). The oldest member of this year’s Same Same 25, this 80 year old activist has been the most vocal campaigner for equality in Australian superannuation law. Challis and his partner of 40 years are all too aware that the clock is ticking and has said that at his age they cannot afford to be patient, The proposed changes to proposed changes to superannuation laws that would allow same-sex couples and their children equal access to superannuation benefits.

Ken Campagnolo (VIC). By standing up for himself in the face of adversity Ken has found himself at the centre of a media storm in 2008. Taking his wrongful dismissal case to the anti-discrimination board, this former Bonnie Doon football coach put the issue of homophobia in sport on the national agenda, despite verbal attacks from the likes of former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett.

Matthew Mitcham (NSW). Since winning gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Matthew has gone on to inspire millions of people around the world with his natural charisma and pride in his sexuality. He’s recently been named GQ Sportsman of the Year and Fairfax Sport Performer of the Year, and as a down to earth young role model, his influence is undisputed.

Melinda Edwards (NT). As a police officer, Edwards has had a huge impact on the relationship between Police and gay and lesbian communities. She established the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit in 2001 before moving on to the Northern Territory where she has taken on a leadership and mentoring role within NT police.

Michael Kirby (NSW). As Justice of the High Court of Australia, there are few who would dispute the influence of one of the highest judicial representatives in the country, including those who voted him as the Same Same 25 People’s Choice from last year’s list. Justice Kirby has been a vocal opponent of the discrimination against same-sex couples and is an important ally to every gay and lesbian in Australia.

Meredith Turnbull (NSW). As the Executive Officer of Twenty10, an organistion for GLBT youth who are having problems at home or have recently become homeless, Turnbull has directly affected the lives of countless young people and been a passionate ambassador for social justice and disadvantaged youth. She’s recently been appointed Director of Get Up! Australia’s largest online political advocacy group.

Nerelda Jacobs (WA). Jacobs is the first Aboriginal, and first openly gay newsreader in Western Australia. She became a single mother at the age of 18 and has managed to juggle her commitments to her family with a successful media career, this year becoming the lead news anchor for Ten News in Perth.

Paul Martin (QLD). With over 15 years experience as a counseling psychologist, Paul Martin is a well respected force within mental health in Queensland. In addition to the influence he has over his numerous clients, his work as a public speaker has seen him address a variety of issues, including the dangers of the ex-gay movement and the importance of keeping families together.

Penny Sharpe (NSW). One of the key advocates for same sex parenting rights in NSW, Sharpe helped push for recent law reform after years of stalemate. The first out lesbian in the NSW Parliament, she has been a Member of the NSW Legislative Council since October 2005 and is currently the Parliamentary Secretary for Mining and Energy.

Penny Wong (SA). Wong has been a member of the Labor Party representing South Australia in the Senate since 2002 and was the first openly lesbian and first Asian-born female member of the senate. In 2007 she was appointed the Minister for Climate Change and Water and is one of only four people to appear in the Same Same 25 for the second year.

Portia de Rossi (NSW). As a high profile actress and the wife of US comedian Ellen Degeneres, Portia de Rossi has become a household name. Her recent wedding and the media storm surrounding gay marriage rights in California have thrust the issue of gay equality into mainstream headlines.

Ruby Rose (NSW). Since landing the role as a host on MTV, Ruby Rose has been an outspoken, proud lesbian in the public eye. As an active member of the community, Rose has become a welcome and fresh role model to lesbians worldwide.

Sam Sparro (USA). Sydney born Sparrow burst onto the music scene this year with his self-titled debut album. Nominated for a Grammy and five ARIAs, this performer, songwriter and producer has never shied away from his sexuality and has gone on to become a shining light in the music world.

Siri May (NSW). May has been working in lesbian health for the past decade. She co-founded the young women’s project at the AIDS Council of New South Wales in 2005 and has most recently launched the Lesbian Health Strategy, the first project of its kind in Australia.

Tony Sheldon (NSW). For more than 700 performances, Sheldon has played the key role of Bernadette in the stage production of Priscilla The Musical. When the show opens on the West End in London next year Sheldon will be the only lead cast member from the Australian production to appear in it.

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