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Toyota's 'Boy From the Bush' is Australian of the Year

January 25th, 2008

Toyota Australia today congratulated country music legend Lee Kernaghan OAM on being named Australian of the Year.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made the announcement during a ceremony at Parliament House in Canberra.

Toyota Australia's senior executive director sales and marketing David Buttner said Kernaghan was a worthy Australian of the Year.

"Lee is a truly decent bloke who represents the spirit and values of contemporary Australia," Mr Buttner said.

"His passion for music and his country are matched by his commitment to helping others, especially in rural communities.

"Toyota is proud to have Lee as an ambassador."

Kernaghan, 43, was named Queenslander of the Year in November by Premier Anna Bligh.

He is only the fifth musician to be named Australian of the Year.

The Australian of the Year citation described him as a towering figure in Australian country music and a fine ambassador for his craft.

He gave his first public performance when he was five, formed his first band at age 12 and released his first commercial single in 1983.

His "Pass the Hat Around" tours have raised more than $1 million for communities in need over the past 10 years.

His participation in the "Spirit of the Bush" tours raises spirits as well as money for farming families doing it tough in the drought.

Kernaghan heads for Tamworth tomorrow to perform at the Country Music Awards where he has been nominated for six Golden Guitars.

A three-time ARIA winner, he already has 24 Golden Guitars to his credit, second only to Slim Dusty.

Mr Buttner congratulated the other Australian of the Year finalists: pioneering choreographer Stephen Page (NSW), champion golfer and benefactor Stuart Appleby (VIC), film-maker Scott Hicks (SA), indigenous arts leader Mark Bin Bakar (WA), world-record sailor Ken Gourlay (TAS), social justice advocate Lin Hatfield Dodds (ACT) and researcher and paediatrician Professor Jonathan Carapetis (NT).

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