ACT Australian of the Year Awards recipients announced

Posted 21 November 2012 2:03pm
ACT Australian of the Year 2013 - Dr Tom Calma AO
ACT Senior Australian of the Year 2013 - Dr Jim Peacock AC
ACT Young Australian of the Year 2013 - Julie McKay
ACT Local Hero 2013 - Francis Owusu
 
Social justice campaigner Dr Tom Calma AO has been awarded ACT Australian of the Year 2013 for his work as an inspirational advocate for human rights and social justice having dedicated his life to improving the lives of Indigenous Australians.
 
For more than four decades he has championed the importance of empowerment – a passion which runs through his work in education, training, employment, health, justice reinvestment and development.
Tom was formerly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and Race Discrimination Commissioner. He works to create opportunities for Indigenous voices to be heard and to build partnerships to improve their health, well-being and economic independence.
 
His landmark report calling for the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to be closed within a generation laid the groundwork for the Close the Gap campaign.
As Race Discrimination Commissioner and today, Tom works to advance Australia as an inclusive society including many roles in the community relating to social inclusion, reconciliation, mental health and higher education.
 
Dr Jim Peacock AC has been awarded ACT Senior Australian of the Year 2013 for his work as an agricultural scientist.
 
As the head of the CSIRO Plant Industry division for 26 years, Dr Jim Peacock has been at the frontline of food and agricultural breakthroughs including the development of insect resistant cotton in Australia.
 
He has long championed the great benefits of industry partnered science, establishing the CSIRO as one of the leading plant research institutes in the world.
 
His achievements in gene technology include the development of a low GI, high fibre variety of barley and, more recently, advances in plant hybrid vigour with significant implications for global food security.
Australia’s Chief Scientist from 2006 to 2008, Jim is regarded as a committed, energetic and inspirational leader in the science world. He is also dedicated to instilling the excitement and the potential of science in young Australians. One novel approach was to pair more than 1,500 of Australia’s leading scientists with primary and high school teachers.
 
Jim was also a driving force behind the establishment of the Discovery Centre in Canberra to showcase CSIRO research, connect industry and science and to give thousands of children the opportunity to have a ‘hands-on’ science experience.
 
ACT Young Australian of the Year 2013 is 29 year old women’s advocate Julie McKay.
 
From a small office in Canberra, Julie McKay is part of a global United Nations campaign to improve the lives of the millions of women who every day struggle against poverty, violence and discrimination.
As Executive Director of UN Women Australia, Julie combines her passion for social justice with her leadership and management skills to expand the organisation’s reach and strengthen its links with government and business.
 
In 2010 she was the Australian Institute of Management’s Young Manager of the Year and the following year she was the Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year in the ACT. She recently completed a Global Executive MBA at the University of Sydney.
 
A remarkable role model for young women, Julie takes on the critical challenges for women today including improving their economic independence, encouraging more women to be role models and leaders and reducing violence against women both in Australia and the world.
 
Her experience in the corporate and not for profit sectors and her postgraduate studies in management and public policy make her an outstanding advocate for women.
 
Dancer and mentor, Francis Owusu has been awarded ACT Local Hero 2013 for his use of dance to stimulate others to build their confidence and self-belief, as it did for him.
 
A child of Ghanaian parents, Francis grew up in Victoria where he endured racism born of ignorance which almost propelled him towards a life of crime.
 
Moving to Canberra he turned his life around through dance, going on to study finance banking at university by day and exploding on stage by night as a member of the band 925.
 
During his career he has worked with major recording artists Marcia Hines, Jon Stevens and Guy Sebastian.
 
Driven by a determination to share his good fortune, he organised after-school dance classes for children. And so began Kulture Break, its name reflecting Francis’ passion to transform a culture of negativity into a culture of pride and achievement.
 
Over the past decade Francis and Kulture Break have performed with thousands of children in schools, community centres and jails, inspiring and motivating them. For Francis, Kulture Break is a reflection of his belief that life is not characterised by what you have received but what you can give.
 
The ACT award recipients will join recipients from the other States and Territories as finalists for the national awards announced on 25 January 2013 in Canberra.
 
National Australia Day Council CEO, Mr Graham West, said the ACT award recipients are all extraordinary people doing vital work in our community.
 
“The ACT award recipients come from varied backgrounds and areas of expertise but they have all been awarded for their dedication to making the world a better place," said Mr West.
 
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 acknowledge the ACT award recipients. You are now national finalists in the Australian of the Year Awards and should be very proud of your achievement.
 
“While you have each been inspiring in your own way, you all share one common quality – you continue to selflessly improve the lives of others. Congratulations to you all and enjoy your time in Canberra in January” said Mr Narev.
 
The Award ceremony also honoured the life of Rhonda Obad OAM - a finalist in the 2013 ACT Senior Australian of the Year category, who sadly died on Tuesday 20th November 2012 at the age of 64. Rhonda dedicated her life to helping others and established the Bridge Back to Life Foundation to help young homeless men.