Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush was on Wednesday named the 2012
Australian of the Year, the highest award bestowed in his native
country, in recognition of a lifetime of achievement in the arts.
Rush, 60, beat a former military chief and a host of other
well-known Australians to the award, which was presented to him
in Canberra on Wednesday evening by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
He won an Academy Award for his compelling portrayal of troubled
pianist David Helfgott in the 1996 film "Shine", an achievement
which saw him eventually take the coveted 'Triple Crown' of
acting: an Oscar, Tony and Emmy.
"Shine" turned the late-blooming Rush from theatre mainstay to
Hollywood star, opening the door to roles including "The King's
Speech", which earned him his fourth Oscar nomination, for Best
Supporting Actor and a BAFTA nod.
The craggy, versatile Australian also earned critical acclaim in
"The Life and Death of Peter Sellers", "Quills" and "Elizabeth",
as well as hamming it up in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series
and "Finding Nemo".
He said the award was a tribute to the growth of Australia's arts
scene from "a relative wasteland into a unique species of native
tree that only the soil of this rich country can cultivate."
"We are the plucky country," he said.
"I know that hard-wired into every Australian from every
background we love acting the goat, taking the mickey, cracking a
joke, spinning a yarn."