Alumni News Articles

Tasmanian Australian of the Year Award recipients announced

26 November 2007

A circumnavigator who raised funds for children with eyesight disorders; a visionary ceramic artist who has created a new material; a youth mentor dedicated to helping children of all needs through to young adulthood; and an Imam who is dedicated to promoting synergy between different faiths were tonight named as the Tasmanian recipients in the Australian of the Year Awards 2008.

The Premier of Tasmania, The Hon Paul Lennon MHA, presented the recipients with their awards at a ceremony at Meadowbank Estate and congratulated all the finalists for their inspiring achievements.

The Tasmanian award recipients are:

Tasmania 's Australian of the Year 2008 is world record sailor Ken Gourlay.

Ken Gourlay dreamt of being the first Tasmanian and the fastest Australian to sail alone, non-stop and unassisted, around the world. With more than 70,000 nautical miles of sailing already behind him, including several Sydney Hobart races and line honours in a Melbourne to Launceston race, Ken set out in his 42 ft yacht Spirit Silver Edition in November 2006 on his solo quest of circumnavigation. He returned to Launceston in the record time of less than 180 days, just pipping the previous best time set in 2001, and officially became only the sixth Australian to do the journey under the stringent rules which apply to these feats of courage and perseverance. This makes him the fastest, and oldest, Australian to circumnavigate the globe. Along the way, he raised more than $100,000 for medical research into eyesight disorders and diseases in children. Ken truly does live his dreams to the full.

Tasmania 's Senior Australian of the Year 2008 is leading ceramic artist Les Blakebrough.

In a career spanning five decades Les Blakebrough has become one of Australia's most acclaimed and influential ceramic artists. The list of the solo and joint exhibitions of his works across Australian cities and regions also confirms him as prolific. His body of work has ranged from earthy, functional wares to more recent delicate forms. The beauty of the form of these later works is emphasised by the translucency and fragility of his trademarked Southern Ice Porcelain. Chasing his vision over five years, Les developed a very beautiful material that is quite special, very translucent, very white, and very easy to work with. He has made an extraordinary contribution to visual art, craft, and design in Australia as a practitioner, teacher, mentor, and visionary advocate.

Tasmania 's Young Australian of the Year 2008 is youth mentor Robyn McKinnon.

Twenty-three year old Robyn McKinnon has a remarkable record of youth support and counselling in schools and is also a trained sexual assault crisis worker. Robyn has been a youth mentoring program coordinator for Northern Tasmania Development, an award winning entity owned by eight local councils which identifies and facilitates worthy community initiatives. She has set up projects that provide an early morning meal at school for children in need and an after school mentoring program for young rural girls that focuses on building self esteem and healthy lifestyles and which has trained 40 community members as mentors. Robyn is dedicated to raising awareness of child sexual abuse and developing support programs that help young people make the transition to adulthood. Robyn has been member of the Tasmanian Youth Consultative Committee, one of three Tasmanians on the 2007 National Youth Roundtable, a member of the Launceston Women's Shelter management committee and is the 2007 Tasmanian Young Achiever of the Year in the Spirit of Tasmania category.

Tasmania 's Local Hero of the Year 2008 is Muslim community leader Imam Sabri Samson.

Imam Sabri Samson came to Australia from Malaysia as an 18 year old to study at the University of Tasmania and stayed on. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science and a Diploma of Teaching he taught science and electronics in Hobart for almost 20 years before retiring from the education system five years ago. But he hasn't given up being a teacher and mentor in the community as Imam of Hobart Mosque and Executive Member of the Islamic Council of Tasmania, roles he has been performing since 1984. As spokesman for Tasmania's Muslim community he carries positive stories to the media and promotes synergy between the different faiths. Imam Samson lectures and presents information sessions at the Mosque and more widely in the community - for example, in schools, Scouts, inter-faith forums, service clubs, and the police academy - and is involved in Harmony Day, achieving social cohesion in a multi-faith society.

"Tasmanians can be very proud of the award recipients, who come from diverse areas of achievement and contribution," said Tam Johnston, National Manager of the Australian of the Year Awards.

"Like all our award recipients this year, they have been truly inspirational in their own fields and in the broader community."

All Tasmanian award recipients now become national finalists in the Australian of the Year Awards to be announced in Canberra on 25 January 2008.