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A glimpse into lives of top Aussies

AAP logoAAP 15/12/2016 Jennifer Rajca

When Kate Swaffer was asked to select her most treasured object for an exhibition, the dementia advocate lamented that her husband and two children would fit the dimensions.

The Australian of the Year nominee from South Australia couldn't live without her next thought - a pearl necklace given to her by a partner who later took his own life - for a year while it sat in the National Museum of Australia.

So she settled on a wooden bird, which hangs in her office.

Ms Swaffer was diagnosed with dementia just before her 50th birthday in 2008 and says the thing most precious to her is her family.

"I can't do what I do without their support because they are my back-up brain," she said.

Indigenous leader Andrea Mason's little trophy from a sports day at North Kalgoorlie Primary School in 1972 was an obvious choice.

"It's a reminder of how my life began and also a reminder to not let things rest, to continue to keep pushing forward," she said.

Refugee and trauma rehabilitation advocate Paris Aristotle chose an organisation plan sketched on a piece of paper by the founder of Foundation House, for survivors of torture, which he now heads.

The "mind map" drawn by John Gibson hangs above his desk.

Queensland's finalist, biomedical scientist Emeritus Professor Alan Mackay-Sim admits visitors to his office are sometimes shocked to see his object - a large fibreglass model of a nose, which he's had for 25 years.

Former rugby league player and youth mentor Alan Tongue picked a bronzed football boot, as well as a wooden cross and white ribbon, representing his work on domestic violence.

Child-soldier turned lawyer Deng Adut selected a collection of speeches by 19th century British lawyer and politician Thomas Erskine.

Businessman Andrew Forrest, the WA nominee, settled for two items - a brick from Indian villagers who had extricated themselves from bonded labour and the 2014 Book of Declerations signed by religious leaders pledging to end slavery.

Tasmanian Speech pathologist Rosalie Martin harked back to her time in Fiji, with the museum displaying a bottle of perfume given to her by a local woman and the two golden cowrie shells.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.

Multicultural Mental Health Australia www.mmha.org.au.

Local Aboriginal Medical Service available from www.vibe.com.au.

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