January 22, 2005/SMH
Nicole Kidman, Steve Irwin, Cate Blanchett, Ian Thorpe, Jennifer Hawkins and Russell Crowe.
David Dale nominates the country's genuine idols - the top 50 who, for better or worse, really matter to the world.
... To determine if an Australian mattered, we had to be confident the world would be different without them.
Of course, "different without them" is not the same as "worse without them". Having an impact on the world does not necessarily mean improving it. Some of our choices aren't universally perceived as angels - or even as Jimmy Stewarts. In person, they might seem arrogant, driven, ruthless, obsessive or strange. To matter, you need strength of personality, so you shouldn't expect to be voted Miss Congeniality.
And what does "Australian" mean? We could hardly be narrow with that definition, since most inhabitants of this country come from Somewhere Else, or aspire to go there. We decided an Australian could be anybody who spent their formative years here or chose to settle here. Citizenship was not essential. But being alive was.
The list that emerged when we applied those definitions shows how international Australians have retained their talent to amuse, provoke and energise. There are plenty of larrikins among our 50, along with a few stickybeaks, show-offs, tricksters, bullies and do-gooders.
Here are 50 names for you to debate. Please remember: this is not a list of national heroes, living treasures or great Australians (though some on it deserve to be in all three categories). It's just a bunch of Aussies who - for better or worse - have made the world a different place.
First, let's zip through a few of the runners-up, the almost-made-its, the Australians who matter, but not quite enough to reach the final 50. They'll form the reserve team for next year if some of the mainstreamers drop out of contention: Helen Caldicott; Harry Seidler; Tim Flannery; Peter Carey; Justin Morley and David Friend (who took Puppetry of the Penis around the world); and Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner and Rob Sitch (who sold the satirical guidebooks Molvania and Phaic Tan to America).
Now for the main game.
They challenge us to think in new ways
, executive director, Institute for International Law and Justice at New York University. Born in Melbourne, 1972; lives in New York.
Trained in law at Melbourne and Oxford universities, he worked with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Yugoslavia and now advises the United Nations on helping countries make the transition from dictatorship to democracy. The title of Chesterman's best-known book reveals his priorities: Just War or Just Peace? Humanitarian Intervention and International Law.
, professor of natural philosophy, Macquarie University. Born in London, 1946; lives in Sydney.
His efforts to reconcile science and faith have been translated around the globe, notably in The Mind of God, God and the New Physics, The Edge of Infinity, The Cosmic Blueprint, Are We Alone? and How to Build a Time Machine.
, author and teacher. Born in Melbourne, 1939; lives in England.
She launched modern feminism with The Female Eunuch in 1968, and a bunch of other theories about human relationships since then.
Her efforts to engage the conscience of her countrymen, whom Greer described as "too relaxed to give a damn", caused John Howard to call her "elitist" and "condescending". Her genius for constant surprise showed up again this month with an appearance on Britain's Celebrity Big Brother.
, journalist. Born in Sydney, 1939; lives in London.
In print and on film he exposes the machinations of multinationals and the hypocrisy of governments. Some of Pilger's fans wish he could combine his investigative skills with the sense of humour of Michael Moore.
, professor of bioethics at the Centre for Human Values, Princeton University. Born in Melbourne, 1946; lives in New Jersey.
His application of philosophy to modern life, expressed in such books as Practical Ethics, Rethinking Life and Death, Animal Rights and Human Obligations and The President of Good and Evil, leads him to support abortion, animal liberation and euthanasia - positions which alienate many of the people much of the time.
They seek and share new knowledge
, professor of pediatrics, University of Tennessee. Born in Brisbane, 1940; lives in Memphis.
Originally trained as a vet, Doherty began studying how the human body's immune system reacts to viruses and cancers and won a Nobel prize for medicine in 1996 for "discoveries concerning the specificity of the cell-mediated immune defence".
, medical researcher, University of Western Australia. Born in Kalgoorlie, 1951; lives in Perth.
While investigating the cause of stomach ulcers with pathologist Robin Warren in the mid-1980s, Marshall defeated sceptics by swallowing a culture of the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, giving himself gastritis, then curing it with antibiotics. Their discoveries have transformed the way most ulcers are tested and treated.
, president of the Royal Society. Born in Sydney, 1936; lives in London.
After studying theoretical physics at Sydney University and mathematical biology at Oxford, he became chief scientific adviser to the British Government. May's international awards have been for "pioneering research in theoretical analysis of the dynamics of populations, communities and ecosystems", with impact on AIDS, biodiversity and global warming.
, gynaecologist. Born in Sydney, 1927; lives in Sydney.
Allegations that he took ethical shortcuts in his later research do not diminish McBride's discovery in the 1960s that the morning sickness drug thalidomide caused deformities in babies.
, adviser to the World Health Organisation on eradicating childhood diseases. Born in Vienna, 1931; lives in Melbourne.
After 30 years' directing medical research at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, Nossal summarised his work by saying: "Well, I spent my life studying the white cells of little rats and mice, trying to figure out how those white cells make the precious antibody molecules that keep you free of disease. That's about it." He now chairs the $A1.4 billion Bill and Melinda Gates Program for immunising children in poor nations.
, emeritus professor of microbiology at the University of Hong Kong. Born in Mt Isa, 1941; lives in Hong Kong.
His research is credited with averting an influenza pandemic in 1997. He was a strong advocate of the urgent destruction of poultry to stop the spread of the deadly new respiratory virus. "We can't prove it, of course, but an untold number of lives was probably saved," Shortridge says. "In a way, in Hong Kong we are a sentinel post."
, Peter Karmel professor of science and the mind at the Australian National University. Born in Philadelphia, 1942; lives in Canberra and Sydney.
Snyder's research on how light travels along optical fibres is central to modern telecommunications technology. He also founded the Centre for the Mind at the ANU to investigate the talents of autistic savants and the potential of the human brain.
, chief executive, Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, Perth. Born in Sydney, 1946; lives in Perth.
Stanley's investigations into the causes and prevention of birth defects and neurological disorders led her to become a lobbyist on behalf of underprivileged children. "As an epidemiologist - someone who studies the patterns and causes of disease in our community - I know that many of our most effective health solutions are not in the realms of high-tech equipment or newly formulated drugs, but at the community level."
THE RECORD SETTERS
They push others to go further
, surfer. Born in Sydney, 1972; lives in Hawaii.
Winning the women's world surfing championships six times makes her the most successful Australian surfer in history. She describes herself as "the most competitive human being on the planet". Beachley has set up a foundation to help other girls compete in sport.
, wheelchair racer. Born in Perth, 1974; lives in Sydney.
World wheelchair racing great, winning gold or silver at five Olympic or Paralympic games and the Boston Marathon four times, Sauvage says her motto is: "You never know what you can achieve until you try."
, swimmer. Born in Sydney, 1982; lives in Sydney.
Thorpe holds the world records in 200-, 400- and 800-metre freestyle and is a role model for metrosexuality.
, cricketer. Born in Melbourne, 1969; lives in Melbourne.
His personal habits may not set the best example, but every boy in India knows Warne's skill with spin has given him more Test wickets than any bowler in history.
They save lives and ways of life
, international projects director for the John Fawcett Foundation. Born in Perth, 1932; lives in Bali.
A former ceramics teacher, Fawcett went to Bali to recover from a back injury and began building clinics to treat children with diseases of the eyes, palate and chest. More than 20,000 patients a year are helped by his foundation, chaired by another Australian, Graeme Robertson (who runs Indonesia's biggest coal producer and would be on this list if it were 100).
, president of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders). Born in Sydney, 1971; travels to crisis spots around the world.
As a medical student, Gillies helped victims of the attempted genocide in Burundi and Tanzania, then worked as a field doctor in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Liberia. He says he's lucky: "I could go home to Australia next week and I have family and friends who would support me. These people have lost their families and their ability to cope."
, executive director of Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, Ethiopia. Born in Sydney, 1924; lives in Addis Ababa.
Hamlin has spent the past 44 years performing and teaching surgery that has helped 24,000 African women injured while giving birth.
, founder of the aid agency Mahboba's Promise. Born in Kabul, 1965; lives in Sydney.
After escaping Afghanistan as a refugee, Rawi returns regularly to build orphanages, schools and hospitals that feed, clothe and educate women and children.
, retiring later this year after a decade as president of the World Bank. Born in Sydney, 1933; lives in New York.
In 10 years running the World Bank, Wolfensohn made an enemy of George Bush and a priority of reducing debt in poor countries.
They keep economies ticking over
, recently-retired chief executive of Philip Morris International. Born in Sydney, 1937; lives in New York.
Nicknamed "the Crocodile Dundee of the tobacco industry" because of his combative approach to opponents of smoking, he helped broker the compensation deal whereby the industry was supposed to pay $US200 billion ($265 billion) to its American victims. He said in 1998: "I'm unclear in my own mind whether anyone dies of cigarette smoking-related diseases."
, recently-retired chief executive of Coca-Cola. Born in Cessnock, 1943; lives in Atlanta.
A former maths teacher, he became boss of the world's biggest soft-drink company in 2000, then cut a fifth of its workforce and decentralised its operations to regional centres around the world. "People don't buy drinks globally," he has said. "You can't pander to similarities between people; you have to find the differences."
, chief executive of British Airways and board member of News Corporation. Born in Perth, 1950; lives in London.
An engineer, university lecturer and former boss of Ansett and Cathay Pacific airlines, he has restructured BA's workforce, sold out of BA's $1.1 billion stake in Qantas, and now says: "I am an Aussie and, like most Aussies, ultimately I want to come home."
, executive chairman, Westfield Holdings. Born in former Czechoslovakia, 1930; lives in Sydney.
When you walk into a shopping centre in Australia, New Zealand, the United States or Britain, the chances are Lowy owns it.
, chairman and chief executive of News Corporation. Born in Melbourne, 1931; lives in New York.
Murdoch controls print and electronic media on most continents. Film scholar David Thomson observed that Murdoch "seems unabashedly cheerful and moderately happy despite every superstition in the culture that wealth and ownership make a psychic wound".
, chairman of Consolidated Press Holdings. Born in Sydney, 1937; lives in Sydney.
Australia's richest man revolutionised the way world cricket was packaged, bought casinos in Asia, the United States and Britain and is investing $300 million in Indian telecommunications companies. "There is a lot more that young Indian entrepreneurs can do if they are given the money. They have the idea, and I would just like to help them realise it."
They give the world an impression of itself
, writer. Born in Sydney, 1938; lives in New York.
So what if he annoys and is annoyed by Australians? Through Time magazine and such books as Culture of Complaint, American Visions, Nothing if Not Critical and The Shock of the New, Hughes has become the most influential art critic in the English language and one of the most influential social commentators in America.
, writer. Born in Sydney, 1939; lives in London.
His success as a British talk-show host proves you don't need looks when you have Aussie wit.
, writer. Born in Sydney, 1935; lives in Sydney.
He won Britain's Booker Prize for Schindler's Ark, which allowed Steven Spielberg to make the Holocaust movie Schindler's List and win an Oscar.
Jill Ker Conway
, writer. Born in Hillston, NSW, 1934; lives in Boston.
Famous for autobiographical books starting with The Road from Coorain, and for her imaginative running of Smith College, America's largest university for women, Ker Conway became chairman of Lend Lease and presided over the two worst years in the company's financial history.
, professor of applied linguistics, University of Hong Kong. Born in Broken Hill, 1952; lives in Hong Kong.
Teaching in Thailand, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong and Cambodia, Nunan developed theories that have been hugely influential in the spread of English through Asia. Teachers and students in Japan, South Korea and China buy more than a million copies of his textbooks every year.
, editor of The Times newspaper. Born in Echuca, Victoria, 1961; lives in London.
"The Thunderer" may not be what it was in the 19th century, especially now it's turned tabloid, but its editor still wields power in British society.
They stimulate the world's imagination
, actor. Born in Melbourne, 1969; lives in Brighton, England.
She shows we've got class. Leonardo DiCaprio was being complimentary (at least to her) when he called Blanchett "the Meryl Streep of our time".
, actor. Born in New Zealand, 1964; lives in Sydney.
An Oscar for Gladiator and a reputation for aggression get him constant work.
, actor/producer. Born in New York, 1956; lives in Los Angeles.
He was a NIDA-trained action star before he won an Oscar for Braveheart. Since the success of The Passion of the Christ, Gibson and his Australian business partner, Bruce Davey, are the most powerful independent filmmakers in the world.
, producer. Born in Sydney, 1923; lives in Bermuda.
After giving us Sale of the Century, The Restless Years, Prisoner and Neighbours, he built an international empire of dramas and game shows, at one point having 210 programs on air in Europe, Asia, South America and the United States.
, Miss Universe. Born in Newcastle, 1984; travels the world.
In six months she won't matter a bit, but right now, Hawkins shows the world an image of wholesomeness we hope is typically Aussie.
. Born in Perth, 1930; lives in London.
Before Kylie's buttocks and Elle's breasts, Rolf's extra leg carried our image to the northern hemisphere.
Paul Hogan, comedian. Born in Lightning Ridge, 1939; lives in Los Angeles.
We've gone off him, but Over There, he's still the only Aussie everyone's heard of.
, comedian. Born in Melbourne, 1934; lives in London.
From suburban satirist in the '50s to the toast of Broadway in the noughties; who'd have thought an old dame would have so much blood in her?
, crocodile taunter. Born in Melbourne, 1962; lives in Queensland.
Feeding a crocodile with a baby on his arm made the world wonder if he could really be as dumb as he acts, and made us nostalgic for Dundee.
, actor. Born in Sydney, 1968; lives in Los Angeles.
He got a Tony award for his Broadway portrayal of an Australian less influential than himself, then continuing roles as amnesic lycanthropes in Van Helsing and the X-Men series and, most recently, a contract with Disney to make musical films that may earn him the title "the Fred Astaire of the 21st century".
, actor. Born in Hawaii, 1967; lives in Los Angeles.
It was tempting to leave her out, just for mischief, but an Oscar, a United Nations ambassadorship and the ability to earn $19 million a movie make her essential.
, actor. Born in Adelaide, 1959; lives in Los Angeles.
It's not his New York stage awards that put him in this list. It's the fact that Hollywood would be lost without a trace of him to play the poifect Italian-American cop or crook.
, singer. Born in Melbourne, 1968; lives in London. Dance clubs would be dead without her.
, actor. Born in Toowoomba, Queensland, 1951; lives in Sydney.
An Oscar for Shine is a good start, but millions of children around the world are waiting to see how Captain Barbosa reappears in Pirates of the Caribbean 2.
, retired soprano. Born in Sydney, 1926; lives in Switzerland.
Enough with the pop artists: her adventures singing Lucia di Lammermoor in Paris, Alcina in Venice and The Tales of Hoffmann in New York showed Australia's mastery of high art.
, director. Born in Sydney, 1944; lives in Sydney.
He has the eye every other director envies, as displayed in Picnic At Hanging Rock, Gallipoli, Witness, Dead Poets Society, The Truman Show and Master and Commander. Starting small on the far side of the world, Weir remains an inspiration to future filmmakers.
Agree? Disagree? Know of some other Australians who matter more to the world? You can email David Dale, the author of our global relevance list, at [email protected] and offer your thoughts. Please provide your name, address and a daytime phone number. Spectrum plans to use the response from readers in a follow-up article in a few weeks.