Sir Gustav Nossal AC CBE FAA FRS

Australian of the Year 2000

Many Australians were born far from here in other countries, on other continents. So being Australian cannot be defined by any physical quality. It’s not skin colour or facial features. It’s not language or religion. It’s a spirit – hard to define, but impossible to resist. It is the spirit that captured the heart and fired the imagination of seven year old Gustav Nossal when he arrived in the Lucky Country, wide-eyed and hopeful, in 1939.

Here, he studied hard, became an Australian citizen and through hard work and determination, reached the pinnacle of his career. Along the way he has improved the lives of countless people and made a remarkable contribution not only to science and technology, but to his country as well.

His world-renowned work helped build the foundations of modern immunology – an exacting field of science that he helped define for more than 30 years. His confirmation of Burnet’s theory of antibody formation was a turning point in the medical profession’s understanding of the immune system.

In 1977 he was knighted for his ground-breaking work. Between 1986 and 1989 he was President of the International Union of Immunological Societies. In 1989 he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia.

Sir Gustav has been in the front lines in the global battle against disease through his direct involvement with the World Health Organisation since 1967.

Closer to home ‘Sir Gus’ has helped shape the scientific affairs of Australia for three decades. As President of the Australian Academy of Science he has provided government with valuable input to policy making. As a public commentator about scientific and medical issues he has inspired continued popular and political interest in science and its application for the betterment of our lives and our country. His engaging lectures, radio and television appearances continue to attract bright young minds to the new frontiers of science.

Retirement has not slowed the pace of life for this energetic Australian. He is Chairman of the Strategic Advisory Council for the Bill and Melinda Gates Children’s Vaccine Program, USA, which was developed to help ensure that children in developing countries are immunised against major killer diseases. He has been instrumental in getting the initial funds of $100 million raised to $US1.04 billion to be spent over the next 5 years. This means that millions more lives can be saved from diseases that are so easily prevented.

Sir Gustav is also involved in many other organisations that allow him to reach people in many areas of the community. These include Chairman of the Centenary of Federation Victoria Committee, Deputy Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation and Deputy Chairman of the Advisory Council of The Global Foundation – the purpose of which is to promote Australia’s international interests. In addition to these commitments Sir Gustav is also heavily involved in charitable work and is patron of a number of organisations.

60 years ago young Gus Nossal, a wide-eyed migrant boy, first set foot on Australian soil. A lifetime later, Sir Gustav Nossal is an outstanding example of the spirit embodied in the Australian of the Year Award which he received in 2000.

Source: National Australia Day Council © Copyright NADC

Theme: Culture, language and identity – Migration and refugees – Reconciliation