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The White Hat Guide to

100 Important Living Australians

100 Important Living Australians

The White Hat Guide to

100 Important Living Australians

There are many thousands of important living Australians so restricting a list to just 100 is a difficult task and one for which there are no right answers. Anyone who even comes into consideration for such a list has achieved far more than the average person. We offer our list as a discussion point and a starting point for you to go away and compile your own.

White Hat's 100 Important Living Australians

When White Hat set out to compile a list of 100 Important Living Australians we already had a starting point with our list of 200 Significant Australians (both living and dead).  About 80 of those were still living so we completed the list with another 20 (the additions are preceded by an * in the list below). In general we used the same criteria for choosing our list of 200 Significant Australians. As with our 200 Significant Australians we weren't concerned with looking for famous Australians - there are many important Australians who aren't famous and plenty of famous Australians who aren't important.

National Trust's Australia's Living National Treasures

In 1997 the National Trust held a competition to choose 100 Living National Treasures (see details here). The list was chosen by popular vote. Unfortunately, National Treasures die, and the list was topped up by popular vote in 2007 and 2013. Also unfortunately, not all National Treasures live up to the national perception of them, so there are a few on the list who people might now regret voting for. The National Trust list was based on a popular vote and sometimes the majority doesn't always make the wisest choice. Still, that's what democracy is about.

We thought it would form a useful contrast to include the National Trust list with the White Hat list. As we have stated above, there are no 'right' answers - only differing opinions. We don't claim our opinions to be any wiser than the crowdsourced ones of the National Trust but simply put them out there for your consideration.

Some comments on the two different lists

  • The National Trust list contains no philosophers, mathematicians, architects or engineers.
  • The National Trust list contains Hazel Hawke (then alive) but not Bob Hawke
  • White Hat's list contains six Nobel Prize winners, one Pritzker Prise winner (the architectural equivalent), two Fields Medal winners (the mathematical equivalent) and one Lasker DeBakey (which has a standing equivalent to the Nobel Prize in the medical community). By contrast, the National Trust's list contains just one Nobel Prize winner - international recognition and honours don't seem to rate highly with the Australian public.
  • The National Trust list contains numbers of TV and radio presenters but does not contain any of our world-renowned mathematicians.

The National Trust's
100 National Living Treasures

White Hat's
100 Important Living Australians

Pioneers & explorers - National Trust


Pioneers & explorers - White Hat

  • Sydney Kirkby (explorer & surveyor) who has probably explored and mapped more territory than any other living Australian

Inventors & engineers - National Trust


Inventors & engineers - White Hat

  • *Andy Thomas (engineer, astronaut)

Science & medicine - National Trust

  • Professor Peter Doherty AC - physicist, Nobel Prize winner
  • Dr Catherine Hamlin - physician
  • Dr Basil Hetzel AC - medical researcher, public health advocate
  • Sir Gustav Nossal AC CBE - scientist
  • Professor Fiona Stanley - Physician
  • Dr John Yu AC - medical doctor
  • Dr Harry Butler - naturalist, conservationist
  • Professor Ian Frazer - immunologist
  • Science & medicine - White Hat

    Mathematics - National Trust


    Mathematics - White Hat

    • Dr Terence Tao (mathematician) who is recognised as a mathematical genius and in 2006 received the Fields Medal (the mathematical equivalent of the Nobel Prize).
    • Akshay Venkatesh (mathematician) who in 2018 received the Fields Medal in recognition for his groundbreaking work.
    • Geordie Williamson (mathematician)

    Legal - National Trust

  • Julian Burnside – Queen's Counsel, refugee rights advocate, author
  • His Excellency the Hon Sir William Deane AC KBE - former High Court judge and Governor General of Australia
  • The Hon Justice Marcus Einfeld AO QC - lawyer, social activist
  • The Hon Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG - lawyer, judge, social commentator
  • Legal - White Hat

    • The Hon Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG - (jurist, judge)


    Business & philanthropy - National Trust

  • Dick Smith AO - businessman, social commentator
  • Gabi Hollows - social activist, philanthropist
  • Janet Holmes a Court AO - business leader, philanthropist
  • Clive Palmer** - businessman
  • Business & philanthropy - White Hat

    • *Janet Holmes a Court (businesswoman, philanthropist)

    • *Frank Lowy (businessman) whose company is the world's most successful public mall owner.

    • *Alan Moss (banker) who has been a pioneer and world leader of private infrastructure development

    • Rupert Murdoch (businessman) and one of the most influential people in the world.

    • Dick Smith (businessman, adventurer, philanthropist)

    Economists - National Trust


    Economists - White Hat


    Politicians - National Trust

  • Senator Dr Bob Brown - politician, Greens activist
  • The Hon John Howard - politician, Prime Minister of Australia
  • The Hon Barry Jones AO - politician
  • Peter Garrett AM MP - politician, singer, social activist
  • Jennie George - ACTU trade union leader
  • John Hatton AO
  • The Hon Paul Keating - former Prime Minister of Australia
  • Cheryl Kernot - politician
  • The Hon Tom Uren AO - politician
  • Politicians - White Hat


    Social activists - National Trust

  • Dr Faith Bandler AM, academic, activist and advocate for Indigenous Australians and South Sea Islander people
  • Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC
  • Dr Michael James 'Mick' Dodson AM - Indigenous Australian leader
  • Pat Dodson - Indigenous Australian activist/leader
  • Ted Egan - musician, activist, administrator
  • Mr Walter Mikac
  • Dr Jack Mundey AO - trade union leader
  • Dr Lowitja O'Donoghue AC CBE AM - Indigenous Australian leader
  • Dr Pat O'Shane AM - Magistrate, Indigenous Australian leader
  • Mary Paton
  • Noel Pearson - Indigenous Australian leader
  • Mavis Taylor
  • Margaret Whitlam AO - social activist, wife of Gough Whitlam
  • Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM - Indigenous Australian leader
  • Other social achievers - White Hat

    • *Dame Beryl Beaurepaire

    • David Bussau (businessman, social achiever) who has arguably helped more people out of poverty around the world than any other Australian.

    • Pat Dodson (Aboriginal advocate)

    • John Embling (community worker)

    • Jack Mundey (unionist, environmentalist) whose activities saved many heritage buildings in Sydney.

    • Lowitja ('Lois') O'Donoghue (Aboriginal achiever)

    • Mary Paton

    • Noel Pearson (Aboriginal leader)

    Philosophy - National Trust


    Philosophy - White Hat

    • Peter Singer (philosopher, ethicist, activist) whose work has created both world renown and controversy..

    • Jack Smart (philosopher)


    Historians - National Trust

  • Professor Geoffrey Blainey AO - historian
  • Professor Henry A. Reynolds - historian
  • Historians - White Hat


    Art - National Trust

  • [Dr Margaret Olley AO - died 2011]
  • Art - White Hat

    Literary - National Trust

  • Elizabeth Jolley AO - Author
  • David Malouf AO - author
  • Dr Germaine Greer - writer, social activist
  • Thomas Keneally AO - writer
  • David Williamson AO - playwright
  • Tim Winton - author
  • Literary - White Hat

    • Geoffrey Atherden (scriptwriter) telling stories of Australians in our own time to Australians in our own time with wit and intelligence.

    • Peter Carey (author)

    • John M, Coetzee (author, Nobel Prize winner) - now an Australian citizen

    • Germaine Greer (feminist, writer) whose writings and lectures have a world audience.

    • Kevin Hart (poet, philosopher)

    • Clive James (writer, broadcaster)

    • Tom Keneally (writer)

    • David Malouf (writer)

    • Les Murray (poet) regarded as one of the finest living poets writing in English.

    • Peter Porter (poet)

    • David Williamson (playwright)


    Academic - National Trust

  • Professor Dame Leonie Kramer AC DBE - academic, businesswoman
  • Academic - White Hat

    • Professor Dame Leonie Kramer AC DBE - academic, businesswoman

    Media & journalism - National Trust

  • Phillip Adams (journalist)
  • Margaret Fulton OAM - writer, food expert
  • Caroline Jones AO - television personality, social commentator
  • Dr Karl Kruszelnicki - media presenter
  • Michael Leunig - cartoonist, social commentator
  • Robyn Williams AM - broadcaster
  • Media & Journalism - White Hat

    • Ita Buttrose (journalist, publisher)

    • Pat Oliphant (cartoonist) - as the most franchised political cartoonist in America has has had a significant effect on social political thinking in that country

    • Bruce Petty (cartoonist)

    Dance - National Trust

  • Graeme Murphy AM
  • Dance - White Hat

    • Graeme Murphy (dancer, choreographer)

    Theatre & film - National Trust

  • John Bell AM OBE
  • Russell Crowe - actor
  • Judy Davis - actress
  • Barry Humphries AO - entertainer
  • Garry McDonald AO - actor
  • Nicole Kidman AC - actress
  • Olivia Newton-John - actor
  • Theatre & film - White Hat


    Music & opera - National Trust

  • Richard Tognetti - violinist and conductor
  • Roger Woodward AC OBE - musician

    Music & opera - White Hat


    Architecture - National Trust


    Architecture - White Hat


    Sport - National Trust

  • Ken Rosewall - tennis player
  • Gai Waterhouse - horse trainer
  • John Newcombe AO OBE - tennis player, television commentator
  • Greg Norman AM - golf player, businessman
  • Raelene Boyle MBE - Olympic runner, media
  • Betty Cuthbert AM MBE - Olympic runner
  • Herb Elliott AC MBE - Olympic runner
  • Dawn Fraser AO MBE - Olympic swimmer
  • Cathy Freeman OAM - Indigenous Australian sportsperson, Olympic runner
  • Evonne Goolagong Cawley AO MBE - Indigenous Australian tennis player
  • Shane Gould MBE - Olympic swimmer
  • John Landy, AC, MBE - former Governor of Victoria, olympic athlete
  • Rod Laver - tennis player, businessman
  • Kieren Perkins OAM - Olympic swimmer, television commentator
  • Pat Rafter - tennis player
  • Steve Waugh - cricketer
  • Sport - White Hat


    Religious - National Trust

  • The Rev Father Frank Brennan AO - social commentator
  • The Rev Tim Costello - social activist / commentator
  • The Rev Bill Crews AM - social activist
  • The Most Rev Peter Hollingworth AO OBE - former Governor General of Australia
  • Religious - White Hat

    • *The Rev Father Frank Brennan AO - social commentator


    Popular & light entertainment - National Trust

  • Ernie Dingo AM - Indigenous Australian television personality
  • John Farnham AO - entertainer
  • Rolf Harris AM OBE - entertainer
  • Jimmy Little OAM - Indigenous Australian singer
  • Kylie Minogue (singer, actress)
  • Anthony Warlow - singer
  • Popular & light entertainment - White Hat


    The following persons were on the original National Trust or White Hat lists but are since deceased:

    • Betty Archdale MBE - cricketer, educator
    • Sir Jack Brabham (racing driver)
    • Bart Cummings AM - horse trainer
    • Nancy Bird Walton (aviator)
    • Arthur Boyd AC OBE - artist
    • Sir Donald Bradman AC - cricketer
    • Ruth Cracknell AM - actress
    • Sir Arthur Roden Cutler VC, AK, KCMG, KStJ, KCVO, CBE - World War II hero, Governor of New South Wales
    • The Hon Don Dunstan AC - politician, Premier of South Australia, social commentator
    • Slim Dusty AO MBE - singer / entertainer, Golden Guitar winner
    • The Hon Malcolm Fraser  AC CH - former Prime Minister of Australia
    • Hazel Hawke AO - social activist, former wife of Bob Hawke, former Prime Minister of Australia
    • Donald Horne AO - academic, writer, author of The Lucky Country
    • Robert Hughes AO - art critic
    • Ian Kiernan AO OAM - businessman, social activist
    • Ted Mack - politician, social commentator
    • Edward (Ted) Matthews
    • Dr Colleen McCullough - author, writer
    • Judith Wright McKinney - poet
    • Les Murray AO - poet
    • Sir Mark Oliphant AC - physicist, former Governor of South Australia
    • Charles Perkins AO - Indigenous Australian leader
    • Peter Sculthorpe - composer
    • Mum (Shirl) Smith AM MBE - Aboriginal Australian activist
    • Dame Joan Sutherland OM AC DBE - opera singer
    • The Rev Sir Alan Walker Kt OBE DD - social commentator / activist
    • Morris West AO - author
    • The Hon Gough Whitlam AC QC - politician, former Prime Minister of Australia
    • R. M. Williams AO CMG - businessman

    Some forthcoming events related to 100 Important Living Australians:

    Celebrating Mozart


     The Australian Chamber Orchestra with Richard Tognetti (director, violin solo) is joined by  Croatian-born Dejan Lazić (piano) to celbrate Mozart sand one of his formative influences, Joseph Haydn.

    The program is bookended by two great symphonies in the “Sturm und Drang” style: Mozart’s Symphony No.25 and the work that directly influenced it, Haydn’s Symphony No.39 ‘Tempesta di mare’. A number of White Hat classical music newsletter subscribers have told us that hearing one of these two symphonies was what sparked their interest and love of classical music.

    Mozart’s Violin Concerto No.3 is one of Richard Tognetti’s calling cards while Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.14 is considered the first of his mature concertos. In this program we hear it alongside Dejan’s original arrangement of the Allegretto grazioso from Mozart’s Piano Sonata K.333.

    • Haydn Symphony No.39 in G minor ‘Tempesta di mare’
    • Mozart Rondo Concertante (arr. Dejan Lazić) - Australian Premiere
    • Mozart Piano Concerto No.14 in E-flat major
    • Mozart Violin Concerto No.3 in G major
    • Mozart Symphony No.25 in G minor

    Sydney - City Recital Hall - Thu 12 Sep, 7pm; Tue 17 Sep, 8pm
    Sydney - Sydney Opera House - Sun 15 Sep, 3pm
    Wollongong - Wollongong Town Hall - Thu 5 Sep, 7:30pm
    Canberra - Llewellyn Hall - Sat 7 Sep, 8pm
    Melbourne - Hamer Hall - Sun 8 Sep, 2:30pm; Mon 9 Sep, 7:30pm

    This concert will be broadcast on ABC Classic on 15 September 2019.

    Our rating - 4 Hats

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