State of Origin legend Johnathan Thurston has been recognised for his work championing indigenous education.

Australian personalities 2017: The names on everyone's lips

News Corp Australia

IT WAS a big year with plenty of big characters - from politicians courting controversy to entertainment legends putting issues on the agenda. Love them or loathe them, these high-profile identities had the nation talking.

League legend kicks goals off the field

HE MIGHT be best known for his State of Origin prowess but Johnathan Thurston's work off the field also scored him accolades in 2017.

The North Queensland Cowboys captain received the Queensland Australian of the Year award and the Australian Human Rights Medal for his work as an indigenous mentor supporting youth education.

The honours followed a shoulder injury blow that ruled him out of the Origin decider and the NRL grand final.

Thurston put his future with family ahead of sporting goals, saying: "While I would love to be there for game three, I would prefer to be able to pick my kids up a thousand times over."


TV star puts gender pay gap in spotlight

HIGH-profile media personality Lisa Wilkinson made the gender pay gap a hot topic with her sensational resignation as long-time host of Channel Nine's The Today Show.

The breakfast TV star had everyone talking about her shock departure after she rejected the broadcaster's pay offer that was reportedly up to $200,000 short of co-host Karl Stefanovic's salary.

Her bold move resonated with millions of women around Australia and sparked a huge debate over what should be done to close the gender pay gap. Wilkinson, who was praised as a role model for young women, took up a new job with rival Network Ten.


Lisa Wilkinson has sparked debate about the gender pay gap issue.
Lisa Wilkinson has sparked debate about the gender pay gap issue. Tony Gough

Hanson shocks with stunt in Senate

PAULINE Hanson has never shied away from controversy and 2017 was no exception, with a provocative Senate burqa stunt sparking outrage in Parliament and around the country.

The One Nation senator defended her decision to wear the religious garment, saying it was designed to reveal security threats to Parliament and renew her call for a burqa ban.

The divisive politician hit headlines again when she christened her party's 'Battler Bus' with a bottle of cheap bubbly during the Queensland election.

The vehicle lived up to its name and caused a few chuckles when it broke down on the campaign trail.


One Nation leader Pauline Hanson on the 'Battler Bus'.
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson on the 'Battler Bus'. DAVE HUNT/AAP

Rock legend bares soul in second book

MUSIC legend Jimmy Barnes bared all about his roller-coaster rock 'n' roll life in his second memoir - striking a chord with legions of fans across the country.

The pub rock icon detailed a harrowing tale of family violence and poverty during childhood in his first book.

The second, Working Class Man, delved into his experiences with addiction, mental health struggles and life on the road with Cold Chisel.

The emotional account of the highs and lows of his rock star life and coming back from rock bottom put issues such as alcoholism in the spotlight. Barnes is set to embark on a national tour in support of his record-selling memoir.


Rock legend Jimmy Barnes.
Rock legend Jimmy Barnes. Nikki Davis-Jones

Aussie audience falls for the Bachelorette

IT DIDN'T take long for Australian viewers to fall in love with this year's Bachelorette.

Ex-Bardot star and self-confessed bogan Sophie Monk was welcomed as a refreshing choice for the leading lady of the reality show and had fans in stitches with her candid reactions to an array of would-be suitors.

The Bachelorette's Sophie Monk.
The Bachelorette's Sophie Monk. JOEL CARRETT/AAP

Monk, who said she preferred hanging out in Ugg boots to walking the red carpet, picked millionaire publican Stu Laundy as her beau after initially saying she wanted a down-to-earth Aussie bloke. The rumour mill went into overdrive about their relationship, but Monk, who has since scored a new TV hosting gig, shut down rumours the finale was rigged.

Joyce news sparks sheepish jokes

YOU could say the Federal Government's dual citizenship shambles was baaaad news for Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who found himself caught up in the scandal because of his New Zealand heritage.

The outspoken politician was the butt of an avalanche of sheep-related quips and memes and booted from Parliament but was victorious after he hit the campaign trail for a by-election in his New England seat.

Joyce was also the centre of controversy when mining magnate Gina Rinehart gave him a $40,000 agricultural award.

Following political backlash, he released a statement saying he would not be accepting the money.


Barnaby Joyce regained his former seat in the New England by-election.
Barnaby Joyce regained his former seat in the New England by-election. Tracey Nearmy/AAP

Underdog comes up trumps in bout

BOXING mania took over the country when ultimate underdog Jeff Horn went head to head with world champion Manny Pacquiao in a brutal bout with a fairytale ending.

Horn, who took up the sport as a way of dealing with school bullying, caused a major upset when he defeated the boxing great in a highly publicised 'Battle of Brisbane' clash in July.

After silencing his doubters, the new WBO welterweight champion said the victory was not the best moment of his life - and revealed his wife was pregnant.

The win inspired an outpour of support from fans who declared him the real-life Rocky. Horn retained his title in another wild fight against Gary Corcoran in December.


WBO World Welterweight Champion Jeff Horn  at a press conference after his  fight with UK boxer Gary Corcoran.
WBO World Welterweight Champion Jeff Horn at a press conference after his fight with UK boxer Gary Corcoran. GLENN HUNT/AAP

Star vows to work with female directors

SUPERSTAR Nicole Kidman's career reached new heights in 2017 with roles in hit dramas Big Little Lies and Top of the Lake: China Girl entrenching the film fixture and fashion icon on the Hollywood hot list.

Her Emmys embrace with co-star Alexander Skarsgard also sparked a big media reaction but Kidman defended the kiss as harmless.

The Golden Globe nominee, who called for women to have greater roles in Hollywood, spoke about her pledge to work with female directors in an interview for her Glamour magazine Women of the Year win: "I need to be part of the movement that will, hopefully, change the statistics in my field."


Australian actress Nicole Kidman.
Australian actress Nicole Kidman. Christophe Ena/AP

Tumultuous year in politics for leader

A DUAL-citizenship crisis that rocked Parliament and deep divisions within his party equalled a challenging year in the top job for Malcolm Turnbull.

The Australian Prime Minister faced an unfolding saga of exiting MPs and ongoing speculation about his future as leader during 2017, as well as some Twitter trolls. Turnbull brushed off a social media storm over a photo he posted of him holding his baby granddaughter and a beer while watching the footy.

"You've just got to be yourself," the PM said in response while other politicians including Pauline Hanson jumped to his defence and said the "whingers" who took issue with the image should "get a life".


Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Paul Braven/AAP

Mauboy gets a shot at Eurovision glory

SINGING sensation and The Secret Daughter star Jessica Mauboy ended the year on a high note with news she will finally get her chance to represent Australia at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2018.

The award-winning performer said she felt she had "unfinished business" there after her interval performance of Sea of Flags in 2014 opened the door for Australia to compete officially in later years.

This time, she will be the one vying for Eurovision glory.


Singer Jessica Mauboy.
Singer Jessica Mauboy. PAUL MILLER/AAP

Mauboy, who shot to fame on Australian Idol, made history when she became the first indigenous artist to debut at number one on the ARIA charts. SBS is expected to reveal her Eurovision song early in the new year before she hits the stage in May. -NewsRegional