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Australian Honours

Australian of the Year Awards

2017 Victorian Australian of the Year Awards recipients announced

The 2017 Victorian Australian of the Year Award recipients were announced at a ceremony hosted by the Honourable Linda Dessau AM, Governor of Victoria and Mr Anthony Howard QC at Government House in Melbourne on Wednesday 16 November 2016.

The Victorian Award recipients will join recipients from the other States and Territories as finalists for the national Awards to be announced on 25 January 2017 in Canberra.

2017 Victorian Australian of the Year – Paris Aristotle AM

A tireless advocate for refugees and asylum seekers, Paris Aristotle has made an enormous contribution by helping countless people rebuild their lives in Australia after surviving torture and trauma in their countries of origin. In 1988, Paris began building the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture, also known as Foundation House. Now leading a team of more than 200 staff, he has helped refugees recover from unspeakable trauma, through a range of mental health, health, advocacy, educational and community services. Paris has worked closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the field of refugee resettlement and has been instrumental in building a national network of torture and trauma services. For almost three decades he has advised both sides of politics on refugee and asylum seeker policy, and multicultural affairs. Currently the Chair of two federal government councils, Paris has demonstrated patience, personal integrity and practical skill as he navigates what is often an ethical and political minefield.


  • Waleed Aly – Broadcaster and academic
  • Neale Daniher AM – Motor Neurone Disease campaigner
  • Maryanne Diamond AO – Accessibility activist

2017 Victorian Senior Australian of the Year – Lois Peeler AM

A member of the Sapphires, Lois Peeler is also a political activist, passionate educator and principal at Australia’s only Aboriginal girls’ boarding school. Lois has worked in a range of roles in Indigenous affairs and currently chairs the Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee. At Worawa Aboriginal College in Victoria’s Healesville, Lois welcomes students from some of Australia’s most remote regions, many of whom have been exposed to trauma and dysfunction in their young lives. Lois oversees a holistic approach to education that brings together Aboriginal knowledge, values and pedagogy and Western academic leadership. A powerful role model for her students, staff and community, Lois instils pride and confidence in her students, and helps them gain a deep appreciation of their culture, encouraging the celebration of Aboriginal ways of knowing, doing and being. More than a principal, Lois is also an Elder of the Yorta Yorta people, with the abiding responsibility of nurturing Aboriginal culture, history and identity in an education framework.


  • Trisha Dunning AM – Diabetes specialist
  • Sabihe McDonald – Interpreter and community volunteer
  • Professor Hugh Taylor AC – Ophthalmologist

2017 Victorian Young Australian of the Year – Jason Ball

When he came out in 2012, Australian Rules player Jason Ball was surprised by the splash his announcement made, as he was a country player at the time. With no openly gay players at the elite AFL level coming out in the male-dominated team sport, Jason’s story captured the media’s attention and the public’s imagination. While Jason was met with overwhelming support, his personal story shone a light on the prevalence of homophobia in sport. Since then, Jason has marched in Pride March Victoria alongside his teammates from the Yarra Glen Football Club. He kick-started the Pride Cup – an event that celebrates diversity and inclusion in sport and which was the inspiration for the AFL’s Pride Game between St Kilda and Sydney. He’s trained AFL draftees on inclusive language, and has represented beyondblue and the Safe Schools Coalition Australia, speaking at schools, sporting clubs and conferences about mental health and inclusion. With tremendous courage and conviction, Jason has elevated the conversation about homophobia in sport.


  • Tarang Chawla – Anti-domestic violence advocate
  • Dr Jessica Dean – Mental and sexual health crusader
  • Grant Monks – Kidney health ambassador

2017 Victorian Local Hero – Vicki Jellie

After her husband Peter died of cancer in 2008, Vicki Jellie found his plans for a local cancer fundraising event. His dream had been to bring radiotherapy services to the South West of Victoria. During treatment, Peter spent weeks away from home in Warrnambool, travelling to Melbourne for radiotherapy treatment. Peter’s dream became Vicki’s passion. In 2009, Vicki brought together local leaders to initiate Peter’s Project – a community group dedicated to fighting for better cancer services. Despite being told that a cancer centre in Warrnambool would “never happen”, Vicki relentlessly lobbied governments, rallying the community and raising funds. In May 2014, Vicki announced that the dream had been achieved: $5 million raised by the local community, $25 million to be funded by state and federal governments. In July 2016, the new South West Regional Cancer Centre opened, offering radiotherapy treatment for regional patients. Vicki’s persistence has proven that ‘nothing is impossible’ and will continue to support “all the Peters” who are facing their own cancer battles.


  • Chrissie Foster – Child sexual abuse advocate
  • Simon Lewis – Lifesaver
  • Scott and Chris May – Young veteran supporters

Australia Day Victoria would like to congratulate all the recipients and finalists and pay tribute to the outstanding contribution they make to our state.

Past Australian of the Year Award Recipients

Please note: * Indicates that the Victorian Finalist was awarded the National Australian of the Year award in that category.

David Morrison AO – Australian of the Year
Professor Gordian Fulde – Senior Australian of the Year
Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett – Young Australian of the Year
Dr Catherine Keenan – Local Hero

Rosie Batty *- Australian of the Year
Professor Sam Berkovic AC – Senior Australian of the Year
Thomas King – Young Australian of the Year
Louise Davidson – Local Hero

John Caldwell – Australian of the Year
Dr Christine Durham – Senior Australian of the Year
Daniel Flynn – Young Australian of the Year
Tim Conolan* –  Local Hero

Find out more information about the Honour roll – Past Award Finalist and Recipients.

Australian Honours