West Australian Professor Bruce Robinson has a vision in his sights... to make a vaccine and new treatments for mesothelioma, the aggressive form of lung cancer related to asbestos.

While he continues to toil away at his new goal, his previous achievements have been recognised on this year's Australia Day Honours list.

Professor Robinson been made a Member of the Order of Australia.

But the humble, hardworking professor says he doesn't deserve all the credit.

"I think it's a wonderful accolade but to be honest I don't live for the accolades," he said.

"All my work is done with fantastic teams of people so any award is about a team of people, it seems a bit clich├ęd but WA has the world's leading asbestos researchers and that's the value of this sort of award that that gets recognised."

As a lung specialist looking after patients with asbestos related cancers, Professor Robinson says his work is often sad but it's motivated him to act.

"We began actually quite a long time ago now, to generate some cell lines and various things we needed to begin really this whole area of research in the world," he said.

"We've done a lot of world firsts; the world first blood test of mesothelioma, the first chemotherapy that worked, the first cell lines in animals and humans, first gene therapy... all sorts of things we've done as world firsts."

It was as a consequence of his work with patients that Professor Robinson has also been honoured for providing support to fathers.

"As I sat there in the clinics, talking to people who were dying of cancer, particularly men obviously, sometimes they would tell me how they regretted their life and if they had it all over again they'd spend more time with their kids," he said.

So he wrote a book about how busy dads can spend time with their kids profitably and it became a best seller.

"That got translated into the whole project, which is making DVDs and getting out to schools and workplaces etc talking to dads about how they can be better dads and of course in the process the affect of that is to reduce things like drug addiction, binge drinking, bad behaviour at school, all of which are strongly linked to father figure input," he said.

Further honours

Professor Ralph Martins is another Perth based health professional to be recognised in this year's Honours List, he's been made an Officer of the Order of Australia.

Professor Martins is on a mission to prevent Alzheimer's disease.

"Today we can look into the brain and we can diagnose Alzheimer's even before you see symptoms of the disease so that's a huge step forward," he said.

"It's very exciting times and for me, it's such a rewarding experience that we have made such a headway into the disease, but I'll only be satisfied when we've stopped the disease in its tracks."

The final West Australian to be honoured, is Acting Senior Sergeant Neville Vernon, who is now a Member of the Order of Australia.

"Overwhelmed, very privileged, just very taken back," he said.

Having been in the force for three decades, he's now officer in charge of the Dampier Peninsular police station, where he polices 58 Aboriginal communities.

Many hats

"I suppose we wear about 20 different hats up here, one day you are a marriage counsellor, the other you are mental health person," he said.

He says self-harm and foetal alcohol syndrome are prevalent in the communities and he tries to identify early warning signs.

"I hate driving past people, just waving at them," he said.

"The biggest thing I enjoy doing up here is getting out of the vehicle, talking to people, sitting under a tree with them and just helping them.

"That way if their son or daughters or siblings have got problems then I'll go and try and help them with that and get help for them from other government and NGOs."

Sergeant Vernon says he works hard to try and gain the respect of indigenous communities.

"When they trust you, they will come and see you and that makes life easier," he said.

"If they come and see me and tell me their problems rather than me have to try and work it out."

He also rewards kids by taking them on excursions to the beach or hosting barbecues for them.

"I've seen young boys grow up here in the last three of four years and they've stayed away from crime and drugs and alcohol and it just makes you feel really good when you can reflect on that, when they didn't like police or ran from police, now they are saying G'Day to you.

"For the past six years I've been working in the Kimberley and I've got that chance to change people's lives and if you can change one person's life and help that person get through their daily struggle it makes it all worthwhile."

 

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