Finalists in the Victorian Australian of the Year Awards 2013 include a children’s advocate, musician for peace, employment activist, anti-poverty campaigner, scout leader and land justice activist.
The Victorian award finalists are:
VICTORIAN AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
Victoria Anderson – Children’s advocate (East Melbourne)
Ian Holten – Plastic surgeon (Leopold)
Harold Mitchell AC – Businessman and philanthropist (South Melbourne)
Dr Ahmad Sarmast – Musician for peace (Narre Warren)
VICTORIAN SENIOR AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
Graham Atkinson – Land justice activist (Heidelberg Heights)
Dorothy Hamilton – Music teacher (Glen Iris)
Marilyn King – Employment activist (West Footscray)
Emeritus Professor T John Martin AO – Medical scientist (Kew)
VICTORIAN YOUNG AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
Hayley Bolding, 30 – Anti-poverty campaigner (Lakes Entrance)
Simon Griffiths, 30 – Social philanthropist (Fitzroy)
Kumari Middleton, 27 – Youth campaigner (Richmond)
Dr Linny Phuong, 30 – Community doctor (Armadale)
VICTORIAN LOCAL HERO FINALISTS
Pam Adams – Community volunteer (Wodonga)
Christine Reade – Community volunteer (North Warrandyte)
Dr Rita Seethaler – Musician (Taggerty)
Andrew Taylor – Scout leader (Fitzroy)
The Victorian Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Local Hero Awards will be announced at a special event in Melbourne on Thursday 22 November 2012, at the Arts Centre Melbourne.
The Victorian award recipients will join recipients from the other States and Territories as finalists for the national awards, which will be announced on 25 January 2013 in Canberra.
Program Director for the National Australia Day Council, Tam Johnston, said the Victorian finalists reflected the qualities admired by the public who nominated them for this year's awards.
"The Victorian finalists show a wide cross section of committed Australians making differences in their local community, Australia wide and throughout the world," said Ms Johnston.
The Commonwealth Bank has been the Major Sponsor of the Australian of the Year Awards for more than 30 years. Chief Executive Officer Ian Narev congratulated the Victorian finalists.
“On behalf of the Commonwealth Bank, I congratulate all 132 State and Territory finalists in the 2013 Australian of the Year Awards. To emerge as a finalist from the thousands of nominated Australians is a great achievement. I wish you all the best of luck in the next stage of the program.” said Mr Narev.
For more information on the Australian of the Year Awards visit www.australianoftheyear.org.au
Finalist bios attached with this media release or downloadable from www.australianoftheyear.org.au
Media contact: Zannie Abbott, Media Opps 0418 274 291
VICTORIAN FINALISTS - BIOGRAPHIES
VICTORIAN FINALISTS - AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR
Victoria Anderson – Children’s advocate
Since the age of 14, Tori Anderson has seen injustice and inequality as personal challenges that must be tackled and overcome. While still at university she joined the national youth leadership organisation Association Internationale des Étudiants en Sciences Économiques et Commerciales (AISEC) and went on to found and become national president of AISEC in Pakistan. Confronted with oppression and poverty, Tori’s passion for the rights of women and children was ignited. This determination to drive change took her to Afghanistan to support gender diversity, to India where she developed micro-credit schemes for women and to Canada and the United States. Her experiences prompted her to establish Children United – a not for profit organisation that campaigns against the sexual exploitation of children. Moving to Bangkok, Tori began a global awareness campaign which included funding and producing the documentary Corridors of Children exposing the rampant child sex-trade industry operating across South East Asia. Now living in Melbourne, Tori continues to operate Children United and also supports families and children receiving treatment in hospital. At only 31 Tori upholds the rights of the most vulnerable and powerless.
Ian Holten – Plastic surgeon
Internationally recognised plastic surgeon Ian Holten devotes his professional skills to transforming the lives of those who would otherwise continue to endure terrible injury and disability. As well as developing innovative surgical techniques he helped establish a plastic surgery program, Interplast, which provides free reconstructive surgery for patients who would otherwise not be able to afford access to such services. For nearly 30 years, Interplast has worked in 25 countries and implemented over 500 surgical and allied health medical program activities across the Asia Pacific region. It has supported over 70 surgeons and nurses to continue part of their training in Australia, sent over 600 volunteers on medical programs, provided over 32,000 consultations and performed over 21,000 life-changing operations. Every year Ian and his colleagues travel to developing countries including the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, China and Vietnam for three months to operate on local people and train local doctors. With a secure, ongoing funding base, Interplast now has the capacity to fund the travel and equipment needed by Ian and his team for their life-changing work.
Harold Mitchell AC – Businessman and philanthropist
Businessman and philanthropist Harold Mitchell has used his wealth to support many causes close to his heart. The founder of Mitchell & Partners and Executive Chairman of Aegis Media Australia and New Zealand, has seen his company evolve into Australia’s largest media and communications group, with a growing presence in New Zealand and beyond. Harold was not born into money and is no stranger to life’s challenges, overcoming alcoholism and obesity. Since 2000, his Foundation has distributed more than $7 million to projects related to health and the arts. He is a past Chairman of the National Gallery Australia, past President of the Melbourne International Festival of Arts, and a former Board Member of the Opera Australia Council. Harold’s current Chairmanships include CARE Australia, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, ThoroughVision, the Melbourne Rebels, Art Exhibitions Australia and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health. He is also Non-Executive Director of Crown Limited, Board Member of New York Philharmonic and Vice President of Tennis Australia. His philanthropy also extends to providing considerable humanitarian aid in Timor-Leste and Indigenous communities.
Dr Ahmad Sarmast – Musician for peace
Dr Ahmad Sarmast, a musician and refugee who fled civil war in Afghanistan to come to Australia, uses music as a unifying force to break down social, political, religious and ethnic barriers in his war-torn homeland. Against the odds and showing tremendous courage, Ahmad has established a national institute of music in Kabul to promote peace and build democracy. Every day he encounters the physical dangers of working in a conflict zone, including being trapped by crossfire, as well as entrenched prejudice. Understanding that the establishment of a civil society in Afghanistan is essential for democracy, Ahamad’s music school empowers Afghan children, regardless of class, ethnicity or gender, through education, literacy and the music itself. It also nurtures inter-cultural connections between Afghan musicians and students and their counterparts in Australia and around the world. A former asylum seeker speaking no English, Ahmad is now an Australian citizen and a potent advocate for peace and human rights. His work through the institute of music makes a significant contribution to Australia’s commitment to peace and democracy in Afghanistan.
VICTORIAN - FINALISTS - SENIOR AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR
Graham Atkinson – Land justice activist
Aboriginal elder and passionate activist for his people, Graham Atkinson was the driving force behind groundbreaking legislation aimed at streamlining the process for settlement of native title claims in Victoria. As co-chair of the Victorian Traditional Owner Land Justice Group, Graham spent four years brokering agreement between Traditional Owners and the state government on the new legislation. The historic Act means Traditional Owner groups, if they choose, can now negotiate directly with the state government, bypassing the Commonwealth and significantly reducing costs. It is regarded as leading the nation in its collaborative and consultative approach to settling native title claims in a fair and just way. Graham describes it as a genuinely collaborative approach that helps to address past unfinished business. With the new Act in place, he is currently negotiating with the government for formal recognition and enhanced rights for around 2,500 Traditional Owners of land in Central Victoria. He views the legislation as paving the way for Aboriginal Australians to maintain their spiritual connections to their land at the same time preserving the nation’s cultural heritage.
Dorothy Hamilton – Music teacher
Blind since birth 86 years ago, Dorothy Hamilton has brought the wonderful gift of music to hundreds of blind students teaching them to read and write Braille music. She is a gifted music transcriber whose labour of love for the past 35 years has been to translate printed music into Braille. As technology advanced, Dorothy developed her own method to enable blind music transcribers to use computers for Braille music notation. She also contributed to the international revision of the Braille music code. Mother of four and grandmother of seven, Dorothy was the first blind woman in the southern hemisphere to graduate with a Bachelor of Music degree. She was the first blind teacher to teach in a sighted school and is an ongoing force in developing the skills of music teachers to help blind children learn the Braille music code. She has also trained two young blind musicians to carry on her work. Not that she has any intention to slow down or relinquish her role as teacher, transcriber and champion of blind musicians any time soon.
Marilyn King – Employment activist
When her husband Howard lost his job through a company re-structure, Marilyn King realised there were hundreds like him – skilled people in their fifties and sixties who wanted to work but couldn’t find a job. To support them she established W.O.W! (Willing Older Workers Incorporated) and is now a passionate advocate and activist for mature aged unemployed people in her local area. She runs a weekly free food program to help ease the strain on their budgets, negotiates on their behalf with government agencies, banks and finance companies and organises social events. Recently she successfully lobbied the Federal Government to increase assistance to help older unemployed people find a job. Marilyn understands that many people over 50 struggle with the whole process of looking for work and find the going tough both financially and emotionally. She is always ready with a positive ear and advice in support of unemployed older people, especially the all too common knockbacks and disappointments. Many say that thanks to Marilyn and W.O.W! they feel less isolated and alone.
Emeritus Professor T John Martin AO – Medical scientist
Professor Jack Martin is one of Australia’s most esteemed medical scientists and the founder of skeletal research in Australia. Possibly his greatest contribution has been advancing the understanding of calcium regulating hormones and the development of modern concepts of bone cell biology. His research has had a major impact on the understanding and treatment of diseases including osteoporosis and bone tumours and the spread of cancers to the bone. Formerly Director of St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research Jack continues to work in medical research and mentors a new generation of scientists. In an intellectually challenging field he is seen in Australia and around the world as a current leader in the area of bone disease and cancer who continues to give his time and expertise to inspire others with his love of science. Compassionate, generous and with a rigorously inquiring mind Jack continues to make a positive contribution to science by inspiring younger researchers and scientists to fulfil their potential and imbuing them with a sense of purpose and integrity.
VICTORIAN - FINALISTS - YOUNG AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR
Hayley Bolding, 30 – Anti-poverty campaigner
Hayley Bolding was just 23 and working as an intern with a non-profit organisation in the Indian city of Mumbai, when she saw an urgent need for capacity building across similar organisations. She founded Atma – which means ‘soul in Hindi’ – to support local groups in their efforts to give children a better chance at life through education. Her work began in a local café where Hayley worked on her laptop, raising funds and establishing partnerships. Since then the foundation’s work has supported thousands of children and young adults through school, health and nutrition programs, education programs for night school students, and a kindergarten and skills centre in Dharavi – the city’s biggest slum. Hayley’s business acumen has expanded Atma which has partnered with 15 organisations that impact the lives of over 11,000 students. With Atma’s support, one such one partner organisation, Muktangan, grew from operating one school to seven. Six years on, Hayley is a well-respected leader in her field in India, while also working tirelessly to mentor others and, at the same time, raise awareness in Australia.
Simon Griffiths, 30 – Social philanthropist
Economist and engineer Simon Griffiths turned down a lucrative corporate job to pursue a new breed of social business which he calls ‘consumer driven philanthropy’. It involves offering consumers the choice of buying goods where the profits are used to improve the lives of people in the developing world. His innovative approach effectively gives consumers the opportunity to put their money where their mouth is. For example his Who Gives a Crap venture sells environmentally friendly toilet paper with half the proceeds going to sanitation projects overseas. Simon is now working towards opening a not for profit bar in the Melbourne CBD offering exotic beer and wine sourced from the developing world with profits funding development projects in the particular drink’s country of origin. He uses mainstream and social media to ramp up his campaigns and has enlisted several high profile partners to help him market his products and communicate his philosophy. Simon believes that by offering ethical alternatives to the way Australians traditionally consume, carry out business and engage in charity and philanthropy, they can be enticed to change their buying habits.
Kumari Middleton, 27 – Youth campaigner
Born in Sri Lanka and adopted by an Australian family as a small child, Kumari Middleton understands how important it is to feel welcome, valued and included. Kumari’s original career path was headed towards professional dance but when she contracted Legionnaire’s disease in 2007 that dream was over. Undaunted she co-founded Mayibuye, an organisation which uses performing arts to facilitate educational opportunities for young people who are vulnerable to negative peer pressures and at risk behaviour. Mayibuye runs 20 projects across South Africa, Cambodia and Australia including afterschool programs, youth camps, school workshops, international volunteering tours, holiday programs and conferences. Kumari recently co-founded another organisation Vicdor Living Centres to support people recovering from alcohol and drug abuse. She sits on Women with Disabilities Victoria's Board of Directors and the Young Social Pioneers Advisory Board. As a lead tenant for the Melbourne City Mission, Kumari lives with vulnerable young people who are moving from care to independent living. To these young people and to everyone who knows her, Kumari is a dedicated mentor and outstanding role model.
Dr Linny Phuong, 30 – Community doctor
As a young doctor training to be a paediatrician, Dr Linny Phuong saw a need for culturally appropriate, health information for refugees and new migrants. She knew that in traditional communities when people collected water at rivers, water pumps and wells, that’s where they would take the time to talk. So adapting that model, Linny set up her Water Well project – a community health program where people could meet and talk informally. Working with other young doctors, the Brotherhood of St Laurence and community groups, Linny’s Water Well hosts interactive health information sessions in places where new arrivals would feel secure and welcome. The sessions are informal and relaxed with the emphasis on supporting people to take responsibility for their own health and the health of their families. The benefits are two-fold. Migrant and refugee communities have improved access to health education and young doctors gain a better understanding of the needs of culturally diverse communities. As well as her voluntary work, Linny is a Neonatal Registrar at the Royal Women’s Hospital and is completing a Masters in Public Health and a Diploma in Child Health.
VICTORIAN - FINALISTS - AUSTRALIA'S LOCAL HERO
Pam Adams – Community volunteer
Pam Adams volunteers eight hours a day, five days a week at the Albury Wodonga Foodshare Centre. The Centre collects food from local supermarkets and producers before sorting and distributing to emergency relief agencies. Pam coordinates the volunteers and supervises the sorting, repackaging and storage and then spends her evenings making preserves, jams and sauces so that nothing is wasted. Not one to let a plot of land lie idle, she has started a community vegetable garden in the grounds of St Stephens Uniting Church which now spills on to the nature strip. As well, Pam is a convenor with the Red Cross Telecross service which each week involves talking to elderly people who live around the district from Talangatta to Tocumwal. After 12 years with the service, Pam still looks forward to these conversations, knowing she is helping people maintain their independence and continue to live in their own homes. Pam’s dedication is well known and, in talking about her, a colleague claims that ‘everybody needs a Pam.’ After 33 years of loyal service to her community Pam Adams keeps giving cheerfully and unassumingly.
Christine Reade – Community volunteer
Chris Reade started the Lasting Memories Mosaic group after the Black Saturday bushfires had torn through the small Victorian community of St Andrews on 7 February 2009. From the terrible loss of life and the wreckage of devastated homes, she has established a place where women can gather to create something beautiful from the broken and burnt remnants of cherished possessions. One woman who had lost everything described how Chris helped her create a mosaic using pieces of broken china from her husband’s great aunt and her wedding china. Now, she says, she has something to pass down to her own children. After completing their individual mosaics, the group created a mosaic for the community that tells their story of Black Saturday and celebrates the strength and resilience of people and nature. Even as they strive to rebuild their lives the ‘mosaic ladies’ continue to meet and are planning other community projects. They are inspired by Chris’s generosity and kindness and say she embodies the true Australian spirit of fair go – ‘someone who was a complete stranger who lifted us up when we had been knocked down.’
Dr Rita Seethaler – Musician
After Dr Rita Seethaler lived through the Black Saturday bushfires she witnessed a devastated community ‘in a pitch black pit’. She wanted to help and her response was certainly unorthodox. A long-time performer of Caribbean tin drum music, she believed the drums could bring people together. She began by offering Trinidadian steel band workshops to communities around Marysville. They were so popular and therapeutic that the band, Pans on Fire, was formed. Soon after two more bands emerged – a band for beginners called Hot Pans – and Jammin, a band for mums and kids. Rita, who played in steel bands across Switzerland for 20 years, now runs the bands voluntarily and she arranged for most of the instruments for the group to be made by a Swiss friend using 44-gallon drums. Each week the band members practice at Taggerty playing everything from Caribbean music to pop and classics. They are now in constant demand and play all around Victoria. Rita is elated that in a small way the music they make is helping to ease the hurt of the fires.
Andrew Taylor – Scout leader
Andrew Taylor has been involved in leadership roles in the Scouting movement for more than 40 years including six years as District Commissioner. After moving to Fitzroy three years ago, he established the 1st Fitzroy Scout Group, with a youth-based leadership group, after consulting with schools, police and other local organisations. Drawing on his four decades with Scouts Australia Andrew encourages the local Scouts to dream big, establishing strong links across the local community. Andrew has also directed and produced Camberwell Showtime for nearly 30 years. This annual theatrical production, written, produced and performed by Scouts and Guides is the largest youth and performing arts activity in the City of Boroondara. Andrew says that scouting teaches important life skills and values and believes that by nurturing a sense of independence and purpose in young people, their lives can be improved immeasurably. Over the years he has mentored and supported more than 2,000 young people and has fostered a number of teenagers. Those who know him say his dedication has set many young people on a better path in life.