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Thursday / June 13.
HomeminewsHonours for Two Men Impacted by Blindness

Honours for Two Men Impacted by Blindness

Two great Australians impacted by blindness – Professor Ron McCallum and Simon McKeon – have been recognised in the Australia Day honours list.

Prof. McCallum, the deputy Chair of Vision Australia who has been blind since infancy, was awarded 2011 Senior Australian of the Year, while Mr. McKeon, a director of World Vision and Executive Chairman of Macquarie Bank’s Melbourne Office, is the Australian of the Year.

Professor McCallum

Professor Ron McCallum has long been fierce advocate of equal rights for people with disabilities, and plans to use his role as Senior Australian of the Year to encourage Australians to think more about minority groups and people with disabilities.

“We are not just some form of sub species, we have to be included as part of the human family… we all have a right to a place and a profession,” he said.

Mr. McKeon was the founding chairman of MS Research, a position he held until recently, and has been a director of World Vision for 15 years.

Prof. Callum AO was the first completely blind person to be appointed a full professorship in any field at any university in Australia or New Zealand.

In this capacity, he has inspired many students, including Mr. Cameron Roles. Mr. Roles, who is also blind become a lecturer at the Australian National University College of Law in Canberra.

“I was inspired to become a university lecturer because of Ron’s remarkable career. He is an outstanding and charismatic lecturer and he’s always happy to give advice and encouragement,” Mr. Roles said.

Prof. Mc Callum has served on the Committee of Experts, which overseas the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, since 2008 and last year was unanimously elected as 2010 Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He is Chair of Radio for the Print Handicapped of New South Wales and was previously the Chair of the Disabilities Council of NSW.

Australian of the Year

It is rare to see a high powered business person anointed Australian of the Year, but Mr. Simon McKeon, executive chairman of Macquarie Bank’s Melbourne office, has taken the 2011 honour.

Mr. McKeon, who performs his Macquarie Bank role on a part-time basis, is also Chairman of CSIRO and Business for Millennium Development, an organisation that encourages businesses to engage with the developing world. He spends much of his spare time supporting a range of causes and organisations including the Global Poverty Project and Red Dust Role Models, which works with remote Indigenous communities. He also volunteers as a counsellor for heroin addicts.

A multiple sclerosis sufferer for the past 10 years, Mr. McKeon has suffered paralysis and blindness, episodes which he has reportedly said “gave him the inspiration to keep fighting for what mattered”.

Mr. McKeon was the founding chairman of MS Research, a position he held until recently, and has been a director of World Vision for 15 years.

He’s called on big business to give more to charity and for Australians to “turn their minds to the plight of Aborigines”.

“I think there are many ways in which corporates these days can share their expertise, their people, their facilities and, of course, a bit of money as well … Of course they can give more,” he said.