Alumni News Articles

Tasmania's Australian of the Year Award recipients announced

17 November 2010

Tasmania’s Australian of the Year 2011 - Deborah De Williams
Tasmania’s Senior Australian of the Year 2011 - Mary Parsissons
Tasmania’s Young Australian of the Year 2011 - Kirsty Albion
Tasmania’s Local Hero 2011 - Senior Constable Ian Edwards
Breast cancer fundraiser Deborah De Williams of Launceston has been named Tasmania’s Australian of the Year 2011. Deborah was recognised for her extraordinary efforts to raise funds for breast cancer research and awareness of the disease as well as providing inspiration for women suffering from breast cancer. 

As the first woman to run a complete, non-continuous lap around Australia, Deborah embarked on her massive 20,000 kilometre journey in 2009 with her border collie, Maggie, at her side. Together they ran from Hobart to Darwin via the east coast and raised $100,000 for the NBCF. Incredibly, Deborah completed the last 800 kilometres with two broken feet. In 2010, once her feet had healed, she began the second leg of her journey, running from Hobart to Darwin via the west coast, raising a further $82,000.

A breast cancer survivor herself, Deborah believes the early detection of her cancer helped increase her chances of survival, so with every step she is determined to raise awareness. She was also the first woman to walk around Australia, raising funds for Kids Help Line and broke five world records in the process. Her journey has given hope to women going through breast cancer, inspired survivors that there is life after cancer, and honoured the women who lost their lives to the disease.

Deborah is currently in Julia Creek in north western Queensland, with approx 6,000km to go and hopes to finish in Hobart in April 2011.

Glenorchy’s Mary Parsissons was awarded Tasmania’s Senior Australian of the Year 2011 in recognition of more than 25 years in counselling services with Lifeline.

After 48 years working as a midwife and child health nurse Mary retired in 2008. However, having nursed and counselled a number of women through postnatal depression and working in a low socio-economic area with one of the highest rates of cot death in Australia, Mary turned her skills to counselling.  From training with Lifeline 25 years ago, she began a commitment to helping others which has seen her become a mentor, a role model and a saviour to many.  From her start as a volunteer on the phones, through joining the Board of Lifeline Tasmania, she rose to become President for six years and then served on the national Board for 14 years.  Mary was the Australian representative for Lifeline International for nine years, providing training and advice to a number of Pacific countries during her tenure to help them establish their own telephone counselling services. Mary is currently working to set up an organisation called Emotional Support Alliance, which is a collaboration between a number of international telephone counselling services, allowing them to support and learn from each other.

Tasmania’s Young Australian of the Year 2011 is 22 year old climate change campaigner Kirsty Albion of Lauderdale.

Kirsty’s passion for environmental protection is inspiring young people to have a say on climate change. She believes the world’s youth and poorest communities stand to lose the most from climate change, yet are the least represented in the United Nations climate negotiations. Kirsty aims to change this by giving Pacific Islanders a voice through establishing strong networks and training.  She travelled to Fiji to learn how climate change affects people in the Pacific, and inspired the young people there to set up an equivalent of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) and raised funds to take 11 Pacific Islanders as delegates to the Copenhagen conference in 2009. She has since become AYCC’s National Volunteer Coordinator, supporting hundreds of volunteers across the country and running conferences in Adelaide, Geelong and Canberra. She is a regular speaker in schools and co-ordinated Victorian and Tasmanian youth to have their say about climate change through an online forum.

Tasmania’s Local Hero 2011 is Senior Constable Ian Edwards from Somerset, in recognition of his efforts to successfully create trust between troubled children, their parents and the police and transform the Burnie community of Shorewell Park.

Prior to 2008, the Shorewell Park community faced many challenges – a large number of residents in long term unemployment, low school attendance was common in children of all ages and there was a high rate of anti-social behaviour. Although only a small community of 900 families, the area was struggling. After being encouraged by a local MP to think about what he might do to help the children of the area and as a member of the Tasmania Police Early Intervention & Youth Action Unit, Senior Constable Ian Edwards set up Kommunity Kids. The program offers structured games, sporting activities and art and craft, creating a safe and accepting environment that today attracts up to 200 children, with 50 on a regular basis. The activities allow the children to form positive friendships and to develop constructive relationships with authorities. Kommunity Kids receives no official funding, so Ian and his fellow police officers dig into their own pockets to keep the program alive but it has turned the community around.

The Tasmanian award recipients will now join recipients from all other States and Territories as finalists for the national awards to be announced on 25 January 2011 in Canberra. 

Tam Johnston, Program Director for the National Australia Day Council, said the Tasmanian award recipients represented some of the very best qualities shared by the Tasmanian community.

“Tasmania can be very proud of their award recipients again this year,” said Ms Johnston.

“They are actively making a difference at many levels, from local communities to global issues.”

Ralph Norris, CEO Commonwealth Bank, offered his congratulations to the Tasmanian award recipients. The Commonwealth Bank has been the major sponsor of the Australian of the Year Awards for more than thirty years.

“On behalf of the Commonwealth Bank, I would like to congratulate the Tasmanian award recipients. Their hard work and achievements are an inspiration to the Australian community,” said Mr Norris.

 To find out more about the Tasmanian Award recipients, please click here.

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