Professor John Newnham

24 February 2020

It was the 60th anniversary of the Australian of the Year Awards, which acknowledges the achievements and contributions of eminent Australians in four categories each year. Prime Minister Scott Morrison was on hand to present the awards and said this year’s nominees “embody a good and generous and courageous group of people”.

When acknowledging the work of Professor Newnham, recognised as a world authority in preventing pre-term birth – the single greatest cause of death and disability in children up to five years old – the Prime Minister said, “you’ve explored new ideas, broken new ground and inspired. You’ve lived out the best of Australia’s values”. Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Richard Colbeck said, “Professor Newnham has been described as an intellectual leader of modern obstetrics who has changed the practice of medicine and the lives of women and infants. His ongoing achievements serve as an example to all Australians”.

When asked about what it meant to be Senior Australian of the Year, Professor Newnham told RANZCOG, “To be an Australian, is to be anything you want, but we are joined together by certain responsibilities, values and principals.”

In his acceptance speech, before a roomful of notable Australians, Professor Newnham said that, “As a young medical student I became fascinated by life before birth, and how little was known about the events before birth and how they may impact on our health and our disease throughout the rest of our lives, I believe I have found an undiscovered continent, and I have spent the rest of my life exploring it."

In an in-depth interview with RANZCOG that will feature in the June issue of O&G Magazine, Professor Newnham discusses his career and his surprise and delight at becoming Senior Australian of the Year. It is a tour that takes us to the outskirts of Canberra, to the National Arboretum, through to the morning after the announcement where winners were whisked away to the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery. With little sleep and surrounded by reporters there was only minimal time to reflect upon the realisation that he is in fact Senior Australian of the Year. 



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