The most highly regarded contemporary Australian writer is Patrick White (1912–90), author of The Eye of the Storm and other works of fiction and winner of the 1973 Nobel Prize for literature. Other well-known novelists are Henry Handel Richardson (Henrietta Richardson Robertson, 1870–1946), Miles Franklin (1879–1954), Christina Stead (1902–83), and Thomas Michael Keneally (b.1935). Henry Lawson (1867–1922) was a leading short-story writer and creator of popular ballads. Germaine Greer (b.1939) is a writer on feminism. A prominent Australian-born publisher of newspapers and magazines, in the United Kingdom and the United States as well as Australia, is Keith Rupert Murdoch (b.1931).
Three renowned scholars of Australian origin are Sir Gilbert Murray, O.M. (1866–1957), classicist and translator of ancient Greek plays; Samuel Alexander, O.M. (1859–1938), influential scientific philosopher; and Eric Partridge (1894–1979), authority on English slang. An outstanding bacteriologist was Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet, O.M. (1899–1985), director of the Melbourne Hospital and co-winner of the 1960 Nobel Prize for medicine. Elizabeth Kenny (1886–1952) made important contributions to the care and treatment of infantile paralysis victims. Sir John Carew Eccles (1903–1997) shared the 1963 Nobel Prize for medicine for his work on ionic mechanisms of the nerve cell membrane. John Warcup Cornforth (b.1917) shared the 1975 Nobel Prize for chemistry for his work on organic molecules.
Among Australia's most prominent film directors are Fred Schepisi (b.1939), Bruce Beresford (b.1940), George Miller (b.1943), Peter Weir (b.1944), and Gillian Armstrong (b.1950); film stars have included Australian-born Errol Flynn (1909–50), Paul Hogan (b.1940), and US-born Mel Gibson (b.1956). Leading Australian-born figures of the theater include the actors Dame Judith Anderson (1898–1992) and Cyril Ritchard (1898–1977) and the ballet dancer, choreographer, and stage actor and director Sir Robert Murray Helpmann (1909–86). Musicians of Australian birth include the operatic singers Dame Nellie Melba (1861–1931), John Brownlee (1901–69), Marjorie Lawrence (1907–79), and Dame Joan Sutherland (b.1926) and the composers Percy Grainger (1882–1961), Arthur Benjamin (1893–1960), Peggy Glanville-Hicks (1912–1990), and Peter Joshua Sculthorpe (b.1929). Popular singers include Helen Reddy (b.1941) and Olivia Newton-John (b.UK, 1948). Alfred Hill (1870–1960) is regarded as the founder of the art of musical composition in Australia. Albert Namatjira (1902–59), an Aranda aboriginal, achieved renown as a painter, as has Sir Sidney Robert Nolan (b.1917). The aviator Sir Charles Edward Kingsford-Smith (1897–1935) pioneered flights across the Pacific Ocean. A popular figure of folklore was the outlaw Ned (Edward) Kelly (1855?–80).
In recent decades, the tennis world was dominated by such Australian players as Frank Sedgman (b.1927), Lewis Hoad (1934–94), Kenneth Rosewall (b.1934), Rod (George) Laver (b.1938), John David Newcombe (b.1944), and Evonne Goolagong Cawley (b.1951). Sir Donald George Bradman (b.1908) was one of the outstanding cricket players of modern times. Record-breaking long-distance runners include John Landy (b.1930) and Herb Elliott (b.1938). Jon Konrads (b.1942) and his sister Ilsa (b.1944) have held many world swimming records, as did Dawn Fraser (b.1937), the first woman to swim 100 meters in less than a minute, and Murray Rose (b.1939).
The principal modern Australian statesman is Sir Robert Gordon Menzies (1894–1978), who served as prime minister from 1939 to 1941 and again from 1949 to 1966. Subsequent prime ministers have included Edward Gough Whitlam (b.1916), who held office from 1972 to 1975; John Malcolm Fraser (b.1930), who succeeded Whitlam late in 1975; and Robert James Lee Hawke (b.1929), who served from 1983–91.