Alumni News Articles

Gilchrist calls on Canberra to nominate inspiring citizens

3 August 2009

National Australia Day Council Chairman Adam Gilchrist is calling on the people of Canberra and the ACT to get their nominations in for the Australian of the Year Awards 2010.

“Time is running out. Nominations close on Monday 31 August so it’s important to get your nominations in fast for those people in the ACT who are doing great things,” said Gilchrist.

“The people of Canberra are always so enthusiastic and supportive of the national announcement each January, we want to make sure we’ve got the very best of this community nominated in the awards.

“Think about who inspires you and who you’d like to see standing on that stage in front of Parliament House as the ACT finalists next January 25.

“Fill out a nomination form online at or pick one up from any branch of the Commonwealth Bank before the end of August.”

Gilchrist met with Canberra local Pierre Johannessen, who has been nominated in the Young Australian of the Year category for his work in developing Big Bang Ballers, a non-profit organisation which uses basketball to tackle youth poverty and social disadvantage.

Big Bang Ballers began while Johannessen was living in Bangladesh for a year as an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development.  He found the children in Dhaka were desperate to play basketball but had no courts, equipment or organisation to make it happen.  He and some other international volunteers created courts in areas of extreme poverty and brought the children together to play. 

Since returning to Canberra, Johanessen has been working to bring Big Bang Ballers to the disadvantaged and at risk youth of Australia, launching the program in July and planning to build seven courts in the ACT to host games and inspire young people to take control of their lives.

“We use basketball as a way to break down social barriers and improve the level of activity and interaction for homeless and at-risk youth,” said Johannessen.

“In the ACT alone, there are 1400 permanently homeless people sleeping on the streets every night and 30-35% of those people are under 25 – the statistics for young homeless people are the same across Australia.
“Most people who are disadvantaged socially or economically don’t have the capacity to hope or dream or see that their goals can be achieved because they don’t have a point of reference for that.

“When you’re stuck in the poverty cycle, to see you are able to do things beyond what you thought you could do has a massively positive impact on your self-esteem and you start to harness your own potential – that’s at the heart of what Big Bang Ballers is about.”

Johannessen was nominated by his friend and fellow basketball enthusiast Dean Brown who is a volunteer for the program.

There are four award categories in which you can nominate a great Australian:

  • Australian of the Year - open to all Australians who deserve recognition for their extraordinary achievements, contributions to the community and nation and who are inspirational role models to all Australians;
  • Senior Australian of the Year - recognises those Australians aged 60 years and over who continue to achieve and contribute to the community;
  • Young Australian of the Year - recognises those extraordinary young Australians aged
    16 - 30 years;
  • Australia’s Local Hero - recognises Australians who make a real difference in their local communities and whose outstanding contributions enrich the lives of those around them.

Nominate now online at or pick up a nomination form at branches of the Awards program’s major sponsor, the Commonwealth Bank or call 1300 655 193 for more information. 

Nominations close Monday 31 August 2009.

State & Territory award recipients in each category will be announced in November.  These State & Territory award recipients then become the finalists for the national level awards which will be announced on the eve of Australia Day, 25 January 2010.

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