Yesterday I attended the annual Teaching and Learning awards ceremony for the SBS Faculty (a division within the university that includes the schools of psychology, journalism, etc.). Several deserving colleagues won awards for best lecturer, best tutor, and a citation for outstanding contributions to student learning (despite the name of the ceremony, there doesn't seem to be an award for the best learner). I believe that later in the week the university will announce the university-level teaching and learning awards. Presumably, these university award winners compete for 27 national learning and teaching awards, including the Prime Minister's Award for Australian University Teacher of the Year. Earlier in the semester there was an equivalent round of awards for Research. Recipients of these university awards typically learn of their good fortune prior to the awards ceremony, but are not allowed to let others know that they have won. Thus, there is a great deal of excitement surrounding the "big reveal" of these awards, which are highly valued when it is time for a promotion. This got me to thinking about what other Australian awards I might try for...
The Australian Swimmer of the Year Awards were held last night in Sydney. Among the winners was Grant Hackett, who won the "prestigious" Swimmers' Swimmer Award, and Stephanie Rice, who won Swimmer of the Year. Other major awards included the People's Choice Award, Coach of the Year, Discovery Swimmer of the Year, Open Water Swimmer of the Year, Swimmer of the Year with a Disability, and Open Water Coach of the Year. These awards were preceded a month ago by the Australian Football League awards (including the AFL Rising Star, the All-Australian team, the Coleman Medal, Goal of the Year, Mark of the Year, and Norm Smith Medal) and Dally M Awards for the National Rugby League (including the Daily M Medal, Rookie of the Year, Top Tryscorer of the Year, Top Pointscorer of the Year, and Toyota Cup Player of the Year). And, of course, there are awards for cricket (e.g., the Allan Border Medal for outstanding cricketer of the year, the Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year), the Netball Australia Annual Awards, and awards for sailing. If someone misses out on one of those awards, there's always a chance that he or she could win one of the 2008 Australian Sport Awards, which includes awards for Sport Executive of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, and National Team of the Year.
If sport isn't your thing, there are plenty of awards in the arts, literature, and entertainment. There are the Logies (television), the ARIAs (music), the Helpmann Awards (theatre), the Archibald Prize (portrait art), the Margarey Medal for Biography ("awarded to the female person who has published the work judged to be the best biographical writing on an Australian subject"), the Aurealis Awards for Excellence in Australian Speculative Fiction, the Miles Franklin Literary Award (the most prestigious Australian literary award), the Max Afford Playwrights' Awards, and the Thelma Afford Theatre, Stage, TV or Film Costume Design Award.
In science, engineering, and medicine, there are the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes (e.g., Ethics Research, Science Teaching, Environmental Journalism, Sleek Geeks Science Prize), the Green Chemistry Challenge Awards, the Life Fellowship of The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, and the Australian Engineering Excellence Awards. Of course, there are also the Australian Business Awards (e.g., Best Eco-Friendly Product, Marketing Excellent, Best Value) and the Real Estate Institute of Australia National Awards of Excellence. There are also the Walkley Awards in Journalism and the Australian Commercial Radio Awards (e.g., Best Salesperson, Best Newcomer Off-Air, Best Newcomer On-Air, and Best Station Produced Commercial).
Most of the awards that I have mentioned are given at ceremonies involving lavish dinners at fancy venues. The awards in sport are often televised. Newspaper and magazines feature photos of the nominees (and their glamorous partners) strolling down the red carpet, much like the Academy Awards. This doesn't happen for the awards in academia, however. It's probably because, as a group, we're just not that photogenic.
The grandest of all awards in Australia, however, has to be the Australian of the Year award. The federal government actually gives out awards on Australia Day in January each year to the few, but highly-deserving. I don't quite understand all the rules, but I believe that winners at the federal level have usually won at the state level earlier (e.g., Queenslander of the Year). And, just like all the other awards here, there are several subcategories as well. There's the Young Australian of the Year, Senior Australian, and Australia's Local Hero. In fact, Chris Lilley created and starred in an Australian mockumentary about the competition titled "We Can Be Heroes: Finding the Australian of the Year." It follows five Australians (all played by Lilley) who have been nominated for the award. Phil Olevitti, a cop from Brisbane, is probably my favourite character, as he is so obsessed about winning the award (on the basis of his saving nine children when their jumping castle crashed into a power line) that he ends up lying to his family when he doesn't make it to the finals, but tries to sneak into the final ceremonies anyway.
Give me a few years. I might not win any of these awards, but, like Phil from Brisbane, that won't stop me from trying to crash the party anyway.