ACT Australian of the Year Award recipients announced

Posted 4 November 2013 5:30pm

 ACT Australian of the Year 2014 - Associate Professor Zsuzsoka Kecskes 

ACT Senior Australian of the Year 2014 - Graham Walker

ACT Young Australian of the Year 2014 - Huy Nguyen

ACT Local Hero 2014 - Patricia Mowbray OAM

Katy Gallagher, ACT Chief Minister has congratulated the 2014 ACT Australian of the Year Award recipients at a special awards ceremony at the National Arboretum in Canberra this evening.

Neonatal Specialist, Associate Professor Zsuzsoka Kecskes, has been named ACT Australian of the Year 2014. Through the inspiring work of Dr Zsuzsoka Kecskes, babies born prematurely in Canberra are getting a better start in life.

Zsuzsoka, who is 48 years old and lives in Fisher, has pioneered the development of the award-winning Neonatal Intensive Care Unit CAM (NICUCAM) project - a web-based service which enables parents and families to watch their babies when they are unable to be at hospital.  NICUCAM is the first of its kind in Australia.

Clinical Director of Neonatology, Zsuzsoka was already an influential academic and practitioner when she embarked on a four year project to design and develop a world-class neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Canberra’s new Centenary Hospital for Women and Children. 

Zsuzsoka consulted and collaborated with families who had experienced neonatal care at the hospital to develop a family-friendly, baby-focused facility.  Today, the NICU provides critical care and support for hundreds of families each year. 

Zsuzsoka has been recognised for her work into perinatal asphyxia and her research continues to inform best-practice treatment of newborn babies in Australia and around the world.

Graham Walker has been awarded ACT Senior Australian of the Year 2014 for his work as a veterans’ campaigner.

Graham Walker’s 21 years in the Australian Regular Army included active service during the Indonesian Confrontation and the Vietnam War. He was Mentioned in Despatches and awarded the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star.

After retiring from the Australian Army in the early 1980s, Graham shifted his focus to the domestic battleground of returned servicemen and women.  In his work with the Vietnam Veterans Federation of Australia, Graham has assisted thousands of veterans to receive their entitlements, advised governments, authored research and campaigned for the official history of Agent Orange to be rewritten. 

The Curtin resident is passionate about music and the arts and has acted as a military and curatorial advisor on projects ranging from Bryce Courtney novels and David Williamson plays to music video clips, museum exhibitions, theatrical dance productions and the Australian TV mini-series, Vietnam

Now aged 74, Graham’s outstanding contributions have carved out a well respected place in Australian history, and will ensure that the Vietnam veterans’ story is faithfully captured in arts and culture for future generations.

ACT Young Australian of the Year 2014 is 29 year old disability advocate Huy Nguyen from Issacs.

A humanitarian engineer, advocate for people with a disability, entrepreneur, traveller and portrait artist, Huy Nguyen was born in Vietnam and contracted polio when he was 18 months old.  Since then he’s used a wheelchair to get around.

His own physical challenges have given him a unique perspective when approaching real world engineering problems, and he lectures engineering students on the importance of inclusive design. 

Huy is passionate about international development work, has facilitated disability programs in the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste, and is the founder of a social enterprise called Enable Development, which brings together passionate professionals to tackle the challenges of disability in our global community. 

Huy is also the founder of EnableCanberra, an online resource which helps people with access needs to plan their visits to Canberra’s national institutions. 

Huy understands that physical environments can exclude people, and he is determined to play his part in breaking down the barriers to a more inclusive society.

Patricia (Trish) Mowbray OAM, has been awarded ACT Local Hero 2014 for her tireless work as a disability champion.

Few people have the compassion and commitment to adopt one child with special needs, much less four.  But for 53 year old Patricia, her chosen career in disability has become her life’s work. 

After training as a special education teacher, Trish and her husband Glenn learned they could not have children biologically, and decided to offer their love to a child with a disability.  The couple adopted Luke, who was born with Down syndrome, and Trish gave up full time work to care for their new son.  Shortly after, they added to the brood with Peter and Paul, who also have Down syndrome, and Emmalee, who had a medical condition which has since been resolved. 

Along with raising her children, Macquarie resident Trish has worked as a volunteer in various community organisations, and more recently as a disability projects officer.  While she admits life has its challenging moments, Trish says her children have taught her patience, resilience and to focus on the unique gifts that reside within us all.


The ACT award recipients will join recipients from the other States and Territories as finalists for the national awards to be announced on 25 January 2014 in Canberra. 

National Australia Day Council CEO, Jeremy Lasek, said the ACT award recipients reveal the dynamic and varied talents of the residents of the ACT.

“The ACT award recipients come from a variety of backgrounds and work in diverse areas from assisting new born babies to supporting Vietnam veterans and the disabled.  They all work diligently in their chosen field to make the world a better place,” said Mr Lasek.

“The award recipients will do the ACT proud by representing the territory on the national stage in January.” 

The Commonwealth Bank has been the major sponsor of the Australian of the Year Awards for more than 30 years. Chief Executive Officer Ian Narev congratulated the ACT award recipients.

“The Commonwealth Bank is proud to recognise your outstanding achievements. Congratulations on becoming national finalists in the Australian of the Year Awards - you should all be very proud,” said Mr Narev.

“We are pleased to be able to celebrate and acknowledge your ongoing dedication to building a better country for us all.”

Media contact: Zannie Abbott 0418 274 291 or Nicole Browne on 0414 673 762

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