Australian of the Year set to be announced

Sue and Lloyd Clarke set up Small Steps 4 Hannah to educate the community about domestic violence.
Sue and Lloyd Clarke set up Small Steps 4 Hannah to educate the community about domestic violence.

Sue and Lloyd Clarke admit they were shocked upon hearing they were a finalist as Australian of the Year.

But the Queensland couple said their daughter Hannah, whose murder led them to become campaigners against domestic violence, would have been even more surprised by the honour.

"She probably would be shocked too, because it's not us," Ms Clarke told AAP.

"We'd rather be in the background, but we've been given this platform and we have to use it."

Following the murder of their daughter and three grandchildren, the Clarkes set up Small Steps 4 Hannah, an organisation committed to educating Australians on the dangers of coercive control and domestic violence.

The couple said while Hannah's murder shone a national spotlight on domestic violence, the platform of being a nominee for the award has allowed them to spread the message even further.

"We'd like to be able to keep the conversation going," Ms Clarke said

"You don't have to be just bystanders any more, we need to halt this insidious disease," Mr Clarke said.

They are one of eight finalists from the across the country for the award, which will be presented on Tuesday night at the National Arboretum in Canberra.

However, not all finalists will be there for the prestigious awards, with the ACT's nominee basketballer Patty Mills being overseas in the US playing in the NBA.

Meanwhile, border closures have led to Western Australia's nominee, cyber safety educator Paul Litherland, not being able to attend.

While vaccine research has been front and centre during the pandemic, South Australian nominee Professor Helen Marshall is being honoured for her work in studying meningococcal B vaccines.

Professor Marshall was the lead investigator as part of the largest study of its kind into meningococcal vaccines and said the role of vaccine research has been brought further into the spotlight.

"People are more understanding of the points of research now because all of those decisions about vaccines need to be backed over with evidence," she said.

"We know vaccines work, but what we need to do is really get to those children who are in disadvantage, that don't necessarily have equal access."

NSW waste research scientist Professor Veena Sahajwalla was recognised for her pioneering work into how waste can be turned into green materials and other products.

She said while Australians were already passionate about recycling and environmental causes, the platform of the awards has allowed that message to reach even more people across the country.

"It gives me a lot of hope for what what we could potentially be innovating in the world of recycling," she said.

"It's really producing all kinds of important solutions but really bringing about a whole shift in our mindset towards how we see waste and recycling."

Other finalists for the award include wheelchair tennis champion Dylan Alcott, Northern Territory's director of the Aboriginal Justice Unit Leanne Liddle, as well as Tasmanian documentary maker and charity founder Craig Leeson.

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Australian Associated Press