Inspiring Australians gather as they vie for top honour

Community leaders, educators, volunteers and medical researchers are among finalists descending on Canberra for the Australian of the Year awards.

The winners of the four categories of the prestigious national gong will be announced on Thursday, with the state and territory recipients of the award vying for the top honour.

National Australia Day Council chief executive Mark Fraser said the 34 finalists were nominated by the public, who were inspired by their achievements or contributions to society.

“Whether they have spent a lifetime helping others, are forging new pathways, breaking down barriers, bringing people together, challenging us to do better or demonstrating the potential we all have to achieve greatness, the national nominees are all showing us what it is to be exemplary citizens,” he said on Wednesday.

The categories are the 2024 Australian of the Year, 2024 Senior Australian of the Year, 2024 Young Australian of the Year and 2024 Australia’s Local Hero.

Joanne Farrell, the founder of the not-for-profit program Build Like A Girl, is among those in the running to be named the Australian of the Year.

She supports girls and women working in trades in the ACT by helping them find entry-level training and mentoring them to secure work in the construction industry.

Georgina Long and Richard Scolyer from NSW have been nominated for the same award for their work on melanoma treatment.

The professors have saved thousands of lives using their pioneering immunotherapy treatment, which activates a patient’s immune system.

They advanced the world’s understanding of brain cancer last year when they used a similar approach to treat Prof Scolyer’s incurable grade four brain cancer.

Northern Territory teacher, linguist and community leader Yalmay YunupiNGu is in the running for the Senior Australian of the Year category.

Ms YunupiNGu worked for four decades in north-east Arnhem Land at Yirrkala Bilingual School before retiring in March 2023.

Often called the mother of the school, Ms YunupiNGu forged a bilingual teaching approach to help students strengthen their Indigenous Yolngu language and culture.

South Australian Rachael Zaltron, who founded Backpacks 4 SA Kids, was nominated for the Australia’s Local Hero award.

Ms Zaltron has been collecting donations and putting them into backpacks to help more than 86,000 vulnerable and neglected children for more than a decade.

The backpacks include age-appropriate emergency clothing and other necessary supplies for children up to 16 years of age who are taken into care or need to quickly leave their homes due to family violence or are experiencing homelessness.

The awards ceremony will be broadcast on ABC TV from 7.30pm AEDT.


(Australian Associated Press)


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