Victorian Australian of the Year Award Recipients Announced
Victorian Australian of the Year 2014 - John Caldwell
Victorian Senior Australian of the Year 2014 - Dr Christine Durham
Victorian Young Australian of the Year 2014 - Daniel Flynn
Victorian Local Hero 2014 - Tim Conolan
His Excellency, the Honourable Alex Chernov, Governor of Victoria has congratulated the 2014 Victorian Australian of the Year Award recipients at a special awards ceremony at the Arts Centre Melbourne this evening.
A passionate anti-bullying advocate John Caldwell, 36 years old from Melbourne, has been named Victorian Australian of the Year 2014.
John Caldwell was raised in caravan parks by parents whose lives were an endless cycle of dysfunction and despair. John was bullied at school for being gay, abused by foster parents and was present when his father committed suicide.
John rose above his nightmarish childhood to become the Chief Executive Officer of Retail World Resourcing, a group of recruitment agencies with 16 offices globally.
Today, John commits many hours each week to his role as Corporate Ambassador for Angels Goal Australian Anti-Bullying Organisation.
Building on his anti-bullying advocacy work, John has been signed by a talent agency for a reality TV show pilot that will showcase his life and the plight of Angels Goal to the USA market, sharing his compelling story of how he overcame bullying and tragedy and creating global awareness.
John has also donated the entire profits of his autobiography, Full Throttle, towards Angels Goal projects, and has funded the charity’s public relations campaigns.
Dr Christine Durham, 69 years old of Eltham, has been awarded Victorian Senior Australian of the Year 2014 for her work as a teacher and disability advocate.
The life of gifted teacher Dr Christine Durham was turned upside down after she sustained a severe brain injury in a horrific car accident. Christine was determined to return to teaching – a decision that took enormous courage and perseverance.
She employed her experience of acquiring a brain injury to inspire her students to think, and her pioneering approach and book, Chasing Ideas, led her to gain an international reputation as a professional learning presenter.
Christine’s autobiography, Doing Up Buttons, is a deeply personal yet practical account of acquired brain injury, and has had a profound effect not only on those who share her experience, but also on professionals working in health care.
At age 67, Christine completed a Doctor of Philosophy at RMIT University, examining ways to empower people with acquired brain injury.
Christine is currently completing a book and learning resource from her PhD findings, which will have a significant impact on both the medical and caring staff and patients themselves.
Victorian Young Australian of the Year 2014, is 25 year old social entrepreneur from Blackburn, Daniel Flynn.
At the age of 19, Daniel Flynn discovered the alarming fact that while 900 million people around the world did not have access to safe drinking water, Australians spent $600 million on bottled water each year. As a result, Daniel founded Thankyou Water – a social enterprise that sells bottled water products to fund safe water projects in developing nations.
Daniel harnessed the energy of a team of friends, who worked with him on the project while juggling university degrees and part-time jobs. Despite many setbacks, just five years later, Thankyou Water evolved into Thankyou Group, expanding its product range to include food and body care products in order to fund food and hygiene projects.
With its products now available in 4,000 outlets, including major supermarkets, to date Thankyou Group has contributed to more than 100 water projects across nine countries and has helped over 56,000 people to gain safe water access.
Daniel’s motto is "Impossibility is only someone’s opinion, not a fact”.
Tim Conolan, 44 years old has been awarded Victorian Local Hero 2014 for his work establishing TLC for kids in 1998. Since establishing TLC for kids Tim Conolan has assisted more than four million sick children and their families.
After a fearless entry into the world of entrepreneurship at age 20, Tim was asked to attend a cancer support group camp as a motivational speaker. It was there that he met some seriously ill children who were to change the course of his life.
Wanting to make a difference, Tim established TLC for kids with his long-term partner, Ana. With passion and an infectious positivity, Tim has spearheaded the charity’s remarkable growth.
Tim was instrumental in developing the TLC’s national Distraction Box program which benefits more than half a million children every year in 400 Australian hospitals. Distraction Boxes include therapeutic toys and items used by healthcare professionals to guide children through frightening and painful procedures, with preliminary research suggesting they reduce procedure time and hospital waiting lists.
Tim’s mission is to ensure every child in every hospital in Australia has the emotional and practical support they need.
The Victorian 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 Victorian award recipients were great Australians who work hard to make positive changes to individual’s lives.
“The Victorian award recipients are all amazing individuals who have seen people in need and made it their mission to use their talents to help,” said Mr Lasek.
“It is their drive and determination to make the world a better place that we are delighted to celebrate.”
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 Victorian award recipients.
“The Commonwealth Bank is proud to recognise the Victorian award recipients. Congratulations on becoming national finalists in the Australian of the Year Awards - you should be very proud of your achievement,” said Mr Narev.
“Your continuous work to make the world a better place for all is something that we are delighted to be able to celebrate and acknowledge.”
For more information on the Australian of the Year Awards visit www.australianoftheyear.org.au/honour-roll.
Media contact: Zannie Abbott 0418 274 291 or Nicole Browne on 0414 673 762