From community heroes to passionate advocates and Indigenous leaders, finalists from across the country have gathered in Canberra for this year’s Australian of the Year awards.
The 32 finalists across four categories have converged on the national capital for a series of events leading up to Wednesday night’s awards ceremony.
Among them will be a breakfast to honour the work of Indigenous finalists, as well as a lunch at the National Gallery of Australia.
The group of finalists will also meet with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at the Lodge for a morning tea, the same event in 2022 where images were captured of former winner Grace Tame side-eyeing Scott Morrison.
This year’s Australian of the Year finalists include human rights activist Craig Foster, migrant leader John Kamara, Indigenous musician William Barton, insect farming pioneer Olympia Yarger, documentary maker Taryn Brumfitt, Land Council chair Samuel Bush-Blanasi, paediatrician Angraj Khillan and end-of-life care advocate Samar Aoun.
This year’s awards also marks the 20th anniversary of the inclusion of the Local Hero award, which recognises the work of community leaders across the country.
Among them is Victorian finalist Belinda Hill, who is the founder of Mums of the Hills, an organisation that helps connect mothers in the Yarra and Dandenong ranges region.
“We founded it to make sure that there is proper connection for mums throughout their entire journey as a mother, either being pregnant, right through to being grandparents,” she told AAP.
“We also provide opportunities to respond, to prepare and recover from natural disasters.”
Local Hero nominee from WA James Murphy started up the Town Team Movement as a way to help inspire people to improve their communities.
Since it was set up, the movement now has more than 110 teams helping to foster connections within local areas, such as street festivals, working bees and food co-ops.
“People are becoming a lot more cognisant of the importance of being connected with with others,” he said.
“Any sort of local network that you can tap into in your local community is of benefit to a better life overall.”
The Northern Territory’s Young Australian of the Year finalist Jahadi Vigona has been recognised for his role as an Indigenous community leader.
Among his many endeavours, the Tiwi Islands man helps to run mental health education program within schools in the NT.
“It makes me really proud actually, just to know that there’s so many like-minded people like myself who are wanting to help the world around them and make an impact and change it for the better,” he said.
“I also advocate for young people to have opportunities, to make sure that they look after their health and making sure that those opportunities have been supported in the NT.”
(Australian Associated Press)