Alumni News Articles

Tasmania's Australian of the Year award recipients announced

26 November 2008

Peter Cundall AM, Ronnie Burns, Sam Cawthorn, John Layton Hodgetts OAM

7:30PM HOBART: A gardening icon, a King of pop, a street kid survivor and exceptional band leader have tonight been named as the Tasmanian recipients in the Australian of the Year Awards 2009.

The Premier of Tasmania, David Bartlett MP presented the recipients with their awards in a ceremony this evening and congratulated all finalists on having earned such a prestigious honour from their fellow Tasmanians.

The Tasmanian award recipients are:

The Tasmanian Australian of the Year 2009 is gardening expert Peter Cundall AM.
Peter Cundall has been gardening since he was a small child and has a love of the environment. Born in Manchester, he taught himself paving techniques mainly using second-hand materials wheeled from derelict buildings in an old pram. He also learned pruning techniques, propagation and heated greenhouse management, and helped feed his family with the development of a highly productive vegetable garden. After leaving the Australian Army in 1956, he began his own business designing and constructing gardens in Tasmania. In 1967, he began one of the world's first gardening talkback programs on a Launceston radio station and two years later he began a career in television with a program which after several name and format changes became Gardening Australia, one of the longest running, most iconic shows in Australia. Peter has also played a major role in creating the Organic Gardening and Farming Society and has written extensively on gardening, including producing the first gardening book printed on washable plastic paper for outdoor use, Year Round Gardening. He remains actively involved with environmental, peace and child protection movements. Peter is a well-known and much-loved figure in Australian gardening who is respected for his sincere and open-hearted manner.

The Tasmanian Senior Australian of the Year 2009 is respite centre founder Ronnie Burns.
Ronnie Burns is a well-known singer and former 'King of Pop.' For decades he touched people with his music but he gave up the world of showbiz to dedicate his life to saving children. Supported by his wife Maggie, he created the Appin Hall Children's Foundation Respite Centre which provides refuge for terminally ill, disadvantaged, abused and destitute children, and their carers. Ronnie is involved in every aspect of the centre from sourcing potential sponsorship to hands-on building of the new and ever-expanding facilities to accommodate more children. His vision is to eventually have a village that will house 200 children and six permanent staff members. In the meantime for the children already staying at Appin Hall he stages music nights, takes them to visit local attractions and, most importantly, acts as a role model and trusted friend to these children who have experienced much trauma in their lives. Ronnie is known as a man with a huge heart who is generous and selfless with his time. He works tirelessly in his quest to create a safe and nurturing environment and a future for what he sees as the most precious thing on this planet - our children.

The Tasmanian Young Australian of the Year 2009 is motivator Sam Cawthorn.
Sam grew up in Tasmania as a country farm boy in a family of 11 children. After leaving college, Sam found his passion, helping and motivating people. This was done through his music school he established teaching both singing and dancing. Sam then established himself as a Regional Industry Careers Adviser working within the local Tasmanian community with young people & industry, identifying skill shortages and providing solutions and strategies for youth entering the workforce. Sam's personal life journey changed dramatically 2 years ago when he was involved in a major car accident. Sam had his right arm amputated and lives with a permanent disability in his right leg. It is the story of Sam's remarkable resilience, his mental strength as well as his physical recovery that has amazed and inspired so many people throughout the world. Through overcoming such a tragedy Sam launched his business called 'Be Motivated'. Sam has now spoken to over 50,000 people throughout Australia and overseas. Sam's message to others is simple. He challenges people to be themselves, believe in themselves, find purpose and focus, nurture their creativity, develop resilient and protective behaviours, conquer obstacles such as fear, set and attain personal goals.

The Tasmanian Local Hero of the Year 2009 is bandleader John Layton Hodgetts OAM.
From an early age Layton Hodgetts developed a passion for music and after moving to New Norfolk, a small town in Tasmania's Derwent Valley, he discovered that there was little to do for those not interested in sport.  So in 1993, Layton developed the Derwent Valley Community Band. The following year a cultural exchange saw the band go to Japan and perform as part of Band Expo. The band was soon invited to play at events across Tasmania and then in 1997 to attend the Calgary Stampede in Canada, this time as a marching band, an arena in which they had no experience. After many hours of practice under Layton's tutelage they achieved an amazing score of 95 per cent for their performance. Since then the band has toured to Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, France and Scandinavia, and performed at the ceremony to open China's participation for the Olympics and the royal wedding parades for Princess Mary and Prince Frederic in Denmark. Layton is now a judge for bands throughout the world and was awarded a gold medal for conducting at the 2008 European Championships. He is an inspiration to his community for his determination and passion to create something that they can contribute to and be proud of.

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