A slain son, a cancer diagnosis: life stories laid bare

The report card of a son killed on his way home from school, a triathlon suit worn a month before an incurable brain cancer diagnosis, children's shoes scrimped and saved for amidst widespread poverty.

Australia's most exemplary citizens will lay bare their life stories in a moving exhibition ahead of the 2024 Australia of the Year ceremony .

The National Museum of Australia will display a set of objects that symbolise each state and territories' nominees before touring the exhibition nationally. 

National Australia Day Council executive Mark Fraser said the artefacts could inspire Australians during challenging times.

"(They) give us a sense of hope that our brightest days are ahead," he said.

WA's Australian of the Year nominee Mechelle Turvey
Ms Turvey called for calm amid national anger over the death of her son Cassius.

"They remind us of what can grow out of small seeds of action."

WA's hopeful, Mechelle Turvey, was catapulted to the national stage when her 15-year-old son and Noongar Yamatji boy Cassius died after he was allegedly chased down and attacked while walking with friends in October 2022.

His death sparked rallies and vigils across the nation, some of which Ms Turvey led as she called for calm, non-violence and support for victims of crime and their families.

Her artefact is Cassius's year three report card.

It describes his positivity, leadership and willingness to help others, and provides a glimpse into the kind of person he would become. 

NSW nominees Georgina Long and Richard Scolyer have submitted a triathlon medal and suit.

The two professors are long-time friends, colleagues and triathlon buddies whose research into melanoma has saved thousands by turning a fatal cancer into a curable disease.

Triathlon suit and medal of Georgina Long and Richard Scolyer
Professor Scolyer was diagnosed with brain cancer just after competing in a triathlon in Spain.

But in 2023, Professor Scolyer had a seizure and was diagnosed with incurable brain cancer just a month after competing on the World Triathlon Multisport Championship in Spain.

Professor Long has since outlined a world-first treatment plan that aims to provide hope during a time of immense grief.

Janine Mohamed, a Narranga Kaurna woman and Victoria's nominee, has spent her life advocating for culturally safe healthcare for First Nations communities.

Her contribution is a pair of shoes she wore as a child.

Raised by her grandmother at a mission in South Australia, she grew up surrounded by poverty due to the lack of opportunities for Indigenous Australians.

Ms Mohamed's family spent significant time and effort to save up for these shoes, and since then she has never forgotten their value.

South Australian contender and environment scientist Tim Jarvis has lent a compass, which he used to guide him through a recreation of Ernest Shackleton's 1915 journey across the Southern Ocean and Antarctica.

A unicorn, a brick and a motorcycle helmet are among other artefacts deeply connected to nominees' stories and will remain on display at the National Museum of Australia until February 11.

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