The nation’s first recognised Indigenous medical doctor, Helen Milroy, has been named Western Australia’s 2020 Australian of the Year.

A descendant of the Palyku people from WA’s Pilbara region, Professor Milroy became a doctor in 1983 and is one of Australia’s foremost child and adolescent psychiatrists.

That expertise led to her serving as a commissioner with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse from 2013 to 2017.

She currently serves as commissioner with the National Mental Health Commission and lectures in psychiatry at the University of Western Australia.

A pioneer in Aboriginal and child mental health research, Professor Milroy was also appointed in 2018 as the AFL’s first Indigenous commissioner.

“It’s been a privilege as a doctor and as a child psychiatrist to go on those journeys with so many people in their lives,” she said in a UWA profile last month.

“I think I have a natural inclination to wanting to find out more, to find out what makes people tick and to actually help them get back on track, particularly kids.”


The 61-year-old has served on numerous mental health advisory committees and boards, supporting colleagues in applying cultural models of care.

In 2018, she received the Australian Indigenous Doctor of the Year Award.

Professor Milroy will be among the finalists in Canberra in January for the naming of the Australian of the Year.

Prominent Noongar elder Richard Walley was named WA’s Senior Australian of the Year at the ceremony in Perth on Thursday.

Dr Walley, 67, was recognised for “reinvigorating” Welcome to Country ceremonies and advising organisations on reconciliation through cultural awareness.

Grace Forrest, the 27-year-old eldest daughter of billionaire mining magnate Andrew Forrest, was named WA’s Young Australian of the Year for her work with Walk Free, an organisation dedicated to eradicating modern slavery.


Plastic-free campaigner Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, 50, took out the Local Hero award.


  • WA Australian of the Year – Helen Milroy
  • WA Senior of the Year – Richard Walley
  • WA Young Australian of the Year – Grace Forrest
  • WA Local Hero – Rebecca Prince-Ruiz



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