Alumni News Articles

A year in the life of Francis Owusu, ACT Local Hero 2013

23 December 2013

A year in the life of Francis Owusu, ACT Local Hero 2013

We recently heard from Francis Owusu about his experience being awarded the ACT Local Hero for 2013. Francis established Kulture Break in 2002, a Canberra based charity which engages young people in a safe, active and productive environment using the fine arts as a form of expression that empowers and transforms individuals. Here is what Francis had to say.

Before the awards

Before my involvement in the Australian of the Year Awards in 2013 I knew very little about them. I did know about the Australian of the Year and Young Australian of the Year but nothing about the two categories Senior Australian of the Year and Australia’s Local Hero. I also knew how prestigious and special these awards were and it was a great honour to receive such a title. Looking back I remember the likes of Cathy Freeman and seeing Jessica Watson on TV receiving their awards and thinking wow, look at their accomplishments. I never ever imagined myself as a potential nominee.

My nomination  

My nomination in the 2013 awards came as a big surprise when I one day received a phone call from the National Australia Day Council informing me that I had been chosen as a finalist in the Local Hero category. I had no idea how that came about or who had decided to nominate me in the first place. Being heavily involved in the community I thought such a thing was not possible without me having at least an inkling, but it was. When I received the confirmation in the mail with a list of all the nominated finalists in each of the four categories, I was blown away by the calibre of the nominees. For me, just to have my name included with such wonderful and inspirational people was enough and I didn't have any further expectations. What amused me was how my wife, Suzi, who loves to tell me everything, knew of this all along but managed to keep this a secret from me. 

The day of the ACT Australian of the Year Awards Presentation

In the lead up to the ACT presentation I remember not having any clue as to what to expect other than the fact that the event was to be held at the Hyatt, I should dress smart and I could invite some guests. So I did just that. I showed up, dressed smart and brought with me my wife, Yvonne (the lady who nominated me) and close friends Michael and Fredd, along with their wives. As the ceremony began the anticipation and excitement built as we watched a video of previous award recipients from each category before the finalists were read out. 

When the Chief Minister Katie Gallagher called out my name as the winner I remember jumping straight up in shock and looking around saying, "What!" And because I really didn't have any expectations of winning I hadn’t even prepared an acceptance speech. 

After receiving the award a few people came up to me and said, “Sure you knew.” I replied by telling them I had absolutely no idea and was still in complete shock because I never ever saw that what I did in my life, my passion, was in any way an extra-ordinary life! It took a while for it to sink in that I was now a finalist for Australian of the Year Awards 2013 national announcement to be held on January 25th in Canberra.

The National Announcement of the Australian of the Year Awards

On January 24th I joined what I call ‘Australia Day Camp’ and remember meeting thirty two of the most amazing people from all around the country. Listening to what they were doing in their communities was quite remarkable and I spent most of the two days lead-up talking and getting to know many of them. For me some of the highlights of the awards process were meeting the other finalists, meeting the Governor General at her residence and meeting (the then) Prime Minister Julia Gillard and having morning tea at the lodge. I guess I could also add sharing my picture and story on the front page of the Canberra Times with my best friend and now superstar, Timomatic. Lastly, having a story centred on my life and work by the Commonwealth Bank "Can stories" project and seeing that aired nationally on Channel Ten, the concert and of course the ceremony itself shown across the country were memorable highlights.

Following the awards 

Since the awards I have continued in my passion of using the arts to make a difference to our local community through empowering young people. Having the title of ACT Local hero has added extra credibility and also opportunity to share my story and work with different audiences. 

Why it's worth getting involved

I can't express enough how honoured I was to be nominated as part of the Local Hero category for 2013 and the effort and lengths the National Australia Day Council members go to in making this a special, most spectacular and memorable experience. I would encourage anybody who knows of someone who is making a difference by what they do to nominate them as the process is so worthwhile.

Looking to the future I would like to help in some way to support and broaden the awareness and value of these awards to the general public. Finally to Yvonne Wallace, thanks for nominating me, and to the National Australia Day Council, thank you for making me feel special and allowing me to experience the best of the Australian of the Year Awards up close and personal.

 

Nominations for the Australian of the Year Awards 2015 are now open. You might know of someone who should be recognised for the work that they do and you can nominate them online - you just never know it could be your nomination behind the next Australian of the Year.