Meet the ACT's 2021 Australian of the year nominees

Former chief medical officer to the federal government Professor Brendan Murphy has been nominated for Australian of the Year. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au
Former chief medical officer to the federal government Professor Brendan Murphy has been nominated for Australian of the Year. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Professor Brendan Murphy was thrust into the spotlight this year as the calm, expert voice driving Australia's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The former chief medical officer, who has taken on the role of secretary of the Department of Health, has been nominated for ACT Australian of the Year in recognition for his excellent leadership which saved tens of thousands of Australian lives.

Professor Murphy is one of 15 people nominated across four award categories.

Also in line for the ACT Australian of the Year award are two Indigenous women, Caroline Hughes and Patricia Turner AM.

Ms Hughes is a true champion of Aboriginal culture who has grown the capacity of the Yurauna Centre and supported countless individuals to gain skills and employment.

Ms Turner has improved Indigenous health outcomes through her role as chief executive of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

The 15 people nominated for the ACT's 2021 Australian of the Year Awards.

The 15 people nominated for the ACT's 2021 Australian of the Year Awards.

Rounding out the nominees in this category is Brigadier Alison Creagh AM CSC (Ret'd) who served in the army for 30 years and now focuses on supporting veterans, defence industry and promoting cybersecurity.

Educator Kerry Allen has been nominated for ACT Senior Australian of the Year for her dedication to teachers and students, changing the way music is taught in schools.

She is joined by Indigenous health advocate Patricia Anderson, Dr David Headon, who was nominated for his role in sharing important stories about culture and history and Bev Orr, who was recognised for her contribution to child protection.

Rural Fire Service NSW volunteer Nathan Barnden risked his own life to enter a burning house and save an entire family during the 2020 summer bushfires. His dedication to the community through the Jellat NSW brigade has earned him a nomination for ACT Young Australian of the Year.

Tara McClelland's work as an advocate for youth and Sarah O'Neill's volunteer work have also been nominated in the Young Australian category.

Amanda Dolejsi's face is nearly as recognisable as Professor Murphy's. She is the ACT's only fully certified Auslan interpreter and the woman who has been on our television screens interpreting messages during the bushfires and COVID-19 crisis.

She's nominated for ACT Local Hero, along with Lids4Kids founder Timothy Miller, domestic violence advocate Chiaka Moneke and Bravehearts fundraiser Jess Peil.

They are incredibly inspiring - and the ACT community can be very proud of them.

National Australia Day Council chief executive Karlie Brand

The ACT award recipients will be announced by Chief Minister Andrew Barr in a ceremony at the National Gallery of Australia at 6pm on November 2. The ceremony will also be livestreamed by The Canberra Times.

The ACT award recipients will then join the other state and territory recipients as national finalists for the national awards announcement on 25 January 2021.

National Australia Day Council chief executive Karlie Brand said the ACT nominees shared a common focus on how their actions could help others.

"Whether it's through advocacy, volunteering, leadership roles or mentoring, the ACT award nominees are all playing a significant role in making a difference in the world," said Ms Brand.

"They are incredibly inspiring - and the ACT community can be very proud of them."

The 2021 ACT award nominees are:

Australian of the Year

ACT's 2021 Australian of the Year nominees: clockwise from top left, Brigadier Alison Creagh AM CSC (Ret'd), Caroline Hughes, Patricia Turner AM and Professor Brendan Murphy.

ACT's 2021 Australian of the Year nominees: clockwise from top left, Brigadier Alison Creagh AM CSC (Ret'd), Caroline Hughes, Patricia Turner AM and Professor Brendan Murphy.

Brigadier Alison Creagh AM CSC (Ret'd) - Outstanding Defence Ambassador

Caroline Hughes - Champion of Aboriginal culture

Professor Brendan Murphy - Former Chief Medical Officer to the Federal Government

Patricia Turner AM - Advocate for Aboriginal health

Senior Australian of the Year

ACT's 2021 Senior Australian of the Year nominees: Clockwise from top left, Kerry Allen, Patricia Anderson, Bev Orr and Dr David Headon.

ACT's 2021 Senior Australian of the Year nominees: Clockwise from top left, Kerry Allen, Patricia Anderson, Bev Orr and Dr David Headon.

Kerry Allen - Educator and mentor

Patricia Anderson AO - Writer and advocate for the health of Australia's First Peoples

Dr David Headon - Historian, writer, TV presenter, cultural expert

Bev Orr OAM - Foster carer and community worker

Young Australian of the Year

ACT's 2021 Young Australian of the Year nominees: Clockwise from top left, Nathan Barnden, Tara McClelland and Sarah O'Neill.

ACT's 2021 Young Australian of the Year nominees: Clockwise from top left, Nathan Barnden, Tara McClelland and Sarah O'Neill.

Nathan Barnden - Rural Fire Service NSW Volunteer

Tara McClelland - Advocate for the rights of young people

Sarah O'Neill - Volunteer youth worker

Local Hero

ACT's Local Hero nominees: clockwise from top left, Amanda Dolejsi, Timothy Miller, Jessica Peil and Chiaka Moneke.

ACT's Local Hero nominees: clockwise from top left, Amanda Dolejsi, Timothy Miller, Jessica Peil and Chiaka Moneke.

Amanda Dolejsi - ACT's only certified Auslan interpreter

Timothy Miller - Founder of Lids4Kids

Chiaka Moneke - Support and advocate for victims of domestic violence

Jessica Peil - Community volunteer

Get to know the ACT's nominees

The following biographies and photographs of the 2021 Australian of the Year nominees from the ACT have been supplied by the organisers of the annual awards, the National Australia Day Council.

Australian of the Year

Brigadier Alison Creagh AM CSC (Ret'd). Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Brigadier Alison Creagh AM CSC (Ret'd). Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Brigadier Alison Creagh AM CSC (Ret'd, aged 57): Outstanding Defence Ambassador

Brigadier Alison Creagh AM CSC (Ret'd) is an outstanding Defence Ambassador for the Australian Capital Territory. Alison retired from the Australian Regular Army in March 205, following 30 years of dedicated service. As an officer in the Royal Australian Corps of Signals, she planned and supported numerous operations in Australia and overseas, including deployments to Cambodia, East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan. Driven by her passion for rowing, Alison established the Australian Defence Force Rowing Association in 2010 and led the King's Cup Project in 2019, providing support to the ADF team. Alison's main focus is supporting veterans, defence industry and promoting cybersecurity through a number of board positions - including ACT's Defence Industry Advisory Board, Chair of the Board of Governors for The Road Home and member of the AustCyber Canberra Node Industry Advisory Group. She is also strategic adviser for several organisations.

Caroline Hughes. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Caroline Hughes. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Caroline Hughes (aged 55): Champion of Aboriginal culture

Caroline Hughes is a proud Ngunnawal woman who is dedicated to uniting people from all nations and walks of life.

A true champion of Aboriginal Culture, Caroline's efforts have enhanced and grown the capacity of the Yurauna Centre to meet the needs of the community - while ensuring that preserving cultural heritage remains the essence of the Centre's work. Caroline understands the power of education to unlock opportunities and help others achieve their dreams. She goes above and beyond her role as a professional educator, supporting countless individuals in gaining the qualifications they need to succeed in their employment goals. Under her leadership, the ACT has achieved the best national outcomes in the training sector for First Nations peoples. As a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body, Caroline generously gives much of her time to improving the lives of others and provides a shining example of what can be achieved in the community.

Professor Brendan Murphy. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Professor Brendan Murphy. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Professor Brendan Murphy (aged 65): Former Chief Medical Officer to the Federal Government

Professor Brendan Murphy is the former Government Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and current Secretary of the Department of Health. Brendan provided expert advice to the Federal Government to close the international borders before the spread of COVID-19 - a decision which saved tens of thousands of Australian lives. Thanks to his calm leadership, Australia was able to prevent the COVID-19 virus taking hold in the community during the first wave of the global pandemic. In his role as CMO, Brendan, as Chair of the Australian Health Principal Protection Committee (AHPPC) provided clear consensus guidance to all Australian Governments around shutting down Australian business and community activities. AHPPC, under his leadership, was responsible for introducing physical distancing measures - and overseeing their implementation in Australia before WHO advice and in advance of other developed countries. A respected medical expert, Brendan chairs many national committees, and represents Australia at the World Health Assembly.

Patricia Turner AM. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Patricia Turner AM. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Patricia Turner AM (aged 68): Advocate for Aboriginal health

An Arrernte and Gurdanji woman, Patricia Turner AM has successfully negotiated with all levels of government to ensure that the concerns of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are given respectful consideration.

As CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), and the Lead Convener of the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community-Controlled Peak organisations, Pat has an invaluable record of improving Aboriginal health outcomes. Pat's leadership at NACCHO is creating real, meaningful and lasting change that will strengthen and support community-based Aboriginal health services. She is the driving force behind a partnership between the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and the Coalition of Peak to facilitate shared decision making. One of the key outcomes from this partnership is a new national network funding agreement on Closing the Gap, which will help keep Aboriginal health in the hands of Indigenous communities. For her outstanding contribution to public service, Pat has been awarded the Order of Australia.

Senior Australian of the Year

Kerry Allen. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Kerry Allen. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Kerry Allen (Aged 74): Educator and mentor

Kerry Allen has been a leading educator in Canberra for over 50 years, transforming the lives of children and teachers. In her years of directing and teaching at primary schools, Kerry recognised the need for specialised training for music teachers. She co-founded Orff Music Institute and was an early President of the Kodaly Institute, working to empower educators and change the way that music is taught in schools through innovative, dynamic and enthusiastic approaches. Kerry volunteered in both organisations alongside her full-time teaching positions, inspiring countless children and their families, while providing mentorship and support for music teachers through regular workshops.

She choreographed and directed musical performances that enabled Canberra youth to showcase their talents. As a University lecturer and tutor, Kerry continued to mentor students entering the world of education and contributed significantly to this field of knowledge. Upon retirement, she has dedicated her life to teaching children with particular difficulties, helping them re-engage with the schooling system.

Patricia Anderson. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Patricia Anderson. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Patricia Anderson AO (aged 76): Writer and advocate for the health of Australia's First Peoples

Patricia Anderson AO is an Alyawarre woman who has built a national and international reputation as a powerful advocate for the health of Australia's First Peoples. With an extensive career spanning community development, policy formation, and research ethics, Pat has dedicated her life to creating and nurturing understanding and compassion between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. A widely-published writer, Pat has served as Chair on multiple organisations, including the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory, and the Prime Minister's Referendum Council. She is the inaugural patron of the Women's Safety Services of Central Australia and has presented to the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous People. Pat's achievements have been recognised with numerous honours, including the HRC's Human Rights Medal, a Westpac 100 Women of Influence Award, and a NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award. She has received an honorary doctorate and an Order of Australia for her leadership in promoting improved health and educational outcomes.

Dr David Headon. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Dr David Headon. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Dr David Headon (aged 70): Historian, writer, TV presenter and cultural expert

Historian, author, television presenter, researcher and cultural expert, Dr David Headon has dedicated his life to sharing important stories about Australia and the ACT. Over decades of work in academia, the public service, media and education in Australia and overseas, David exemplifies best practice in researching, writing and communicating to a broad audience. David is a regular commentator on cultural, political and social issues in the Canberra media, and has shared Australia's culture and history to audiences worldwide. He has published many books, curated major exhibitions in Canberra and London, and created a compelling series of ABC programs on the making and shaping of our nation's capital. David has also held leadership roles at important cultural institutions, including Director of the Centre for Australian Cultural Studies, Cultural Advisor to the National Capital Authority, and History and Heritage Advisor for the Centenary of Canberra. In 2001, he was recognised with a Centenary Medal by the Australian Government. He is currently a Foundation Fellow at the Australian Studies Institute, ANU.

Bev Orr. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Bev Orr. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Bev Orr OAM (aged 67): Foster carer and community worker

For over 30 years, Beverley Orr OAM has made a significant contribution to child protection. She has been a foster carer of more than 300 children and provided support and counselling to countless others in her work as a therapeutic counsellor. Beverley is a passionate advocate for marginalised and vulnerable children, working to improve their quality of life and outcomes through her involvement with the Australian Foster Care Association, Families Australia, and the National Plan for the Protection of Australia's Children. Beverley has been a Girl Guide Leader for approximately 30 years, holding leadership roles at local, regional and national levels. Her involvement with the YMCA saw her become the youngest person to be awarded life membership of the YMCA Sailing Club at age 28.

Beverley has been recognised at state and national levels for her community sector work. She was awarded ACT Woman of the Year twice and received an Order of Australia Medal in 2009.

Young Australian of the Year

Nathan Barnden. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Nathan Barnden. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Nathan Barnden (aged 26): Rural Fire Service NSW Volunteer

Nathan Barnden provides outstanding community support through his role with the NSW Rural Fire Service. Despite living over two and half hours away in Canberra, Nathan is an active member of the Jellat NSW brigade. During the 2020 summer bushfires, he sacrificed work shifts to protect the Bega Valley community from the blaze. Nathan risked his own life to enter a burning house and save an entire family, providing comfort as he saw them to safety and checking in on them a few days later. His incredible act of bravery was reported in various newspaper articles, where the family openly stated that Nathan had saved their lives. Nathan has taken on many leadership roles in the Young Members of RFS, presenting at events and seminars. He is passionate about improving training and resources to enhance the experience for young volunteers. He also drove an initiative to implement warning signs on major roads, increasing awareness and fire safety across the ACT.

Tara McClelland. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Tara McClelland. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Tara McClelland (aged 24): Advocate for the rights of young people

Tara McClelland works tirelessly to support and advocate for the rights and wellbeing of ACT's young people.

In her professional role as Youth Worker with the Salvation Army, Tara works with 16-25 year olds experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, homelessness, helping to expand their skills while in crisis accommodation. She is particularly passionate about advocating for young people's mental health issues, which is the focus of her strength-based empowerment practice. Tara also dedicates her free time to volunteer work with the Youth Reference Group at Headspace Canberra, where she helps apply for funding, organises events to support mental wellbeing, and holds school information sessions. Tara is on the Canberra Youth Theatre's Youth Artists Advisory Panel, and has assisted the Children and Young People Commissioner's Oce with their work on family violence. Her significant contributions have been recognised with a commendation for a 2019 YOGIE Award and a nomination for 2020 Young Canberra Citizen of the Year.

Sarah O'Neill (aged 20): Volunteer youth worker

Sarah O'Neill dedicates her free time to providing respite and recreation for children under 12, in her volunteer position with the Vinnies Youth and Young Adults Team. As Senior Leader of the St Joe's Youth Programs, Sarah shows incredible commitment to the wellbeing of 300 young people, volunteering over 1,500 hours since 2016 for weekend activities, school holiday camps, monthly leadership meetings and training courses. Sarah is particularly interested in the wellbeing of volunteers and has used her leadership position to advocate for formal programs and training to promote self-care. Sarah's concern for social justice extends to her tireless volunteer work in other sectors, including for the Vinnies Night Patrol Van, offering support to Canberrans experiencing homelessness and poverty, and as part of a team at the Emergency Response Centre in Dickson, providing relief for bushfire victims. When Sarah lost work due to COVID-19 earlier this year, she dedicated her time to volunteering at the Vinnies shops.

Local Hero

Amanda Dolejsi. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Amanda Dolejsi. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Amanda Dolejsi (62): The ACT's only certified Auslan interpreter

Amanda Dolejsi is the ACT's only fully certified Australian Sign Language, or Auslan, interpreter. Throughout the bushfires and COVID-19 crisis, she has provided simultaneous Auslan interpretation for government officials on a near daily basis. Her constant presence at press conferences has enabled Deaf Australians to have access to crucial information to navigate these significant challenges. A consummate professional, Amanda came out of retirement to assist both the ACT Government and the Federal Government and has worked long hours to provide this invaluable service. Amanda has dedicated her life to ensuring that the Deaf community receive the exact same message that their hearing peers do. During the bushfires, she worked directly with firefighters to understand fire conditions, to interpret clearly and accurately for Auslan viewers. Amanda has also taught Auslan at Canberra Institute of Technology, inspiring and mentoring a new generation of qualified and dedicated Auslan interpreters.

Timothy Miller. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Timothy Miller. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Timothy Miller (aged 44): Founder of Lids4Kids

Timothy Miller runs Lids4Kids, a national organisation which encourages households, schools, businesses, and organisations to collect plastic lids to be recycled into sustainable products for children. Previously, Tim spent much of his career working in road safety and environmentalism, leading the development of a 5-star environmental rating for vehicles as well as an important online resource for consumers on the efficiency and environmental impact of their cars. He has also used his passion for cars to take part in outback rallies to fundraise for various charities that help sick, disadvantaged, or disabled children. Lids4Kids now has over 25,000 participants across Australia. Tim coordinates leaders from all states to spread the message about Lids4Kids in their communities and collect, clean and sort lids from drop off points around towns and cities. His efforts have saved millions of lids from landfill, while educating children about the issue of plastic waste and empowering them to take action.

Chiaka Moneke. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Chiaka Moneke. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Chiaka Moneke (aged 33): Support and advocate for victims of domestic violence

Chiaka Moneke is helping rebuild the lives of domestic violence victims and empowering them to live with confidence and purpose. She works to destigmatise divorce in the African-Australian community, supporting women to make the decision to leave violent relationships, providing shelter in her own home, and linking them with appropriate support services. In 2017, Chiaka organised a forum to educate Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) families around issues of domestic violence. Following a recent surge in domestic violence due to the pandemic, Chiaka has assisted women to be aware of available support and connected them to support services. A passionate advocate for empowering women through education, Chiaka sponsors and mentors 12 women and girls at various academic levels - funding their tuition fees and basic needs. She is a champion for Nigerian culture, and has been the African Village coordinator for the National Multicultural Festival and Secretary for the Igbo Association and Nigerian Association for over six years.

Jessica Peil. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Jessica Peil. Picture supplied by australianoftheyear.org.au

Jessica Peil (43): Community volunteer

Jessica Peil dedicates her time to raising much needed funds for community organisations. After the summer bushfires, she donated groceries to affected families on the South Coast, and sewed tote bags as part of the Slabs for Heroes Campaign. She knits beanies for the Human Kind Project, helping children in Malawi, and for the Fly Program, a men's mental health initiative that creates a safe environment for men to express their feelings. Jess is most passionate about raising funds and awareness for Bravehearts, which offers protection and empowerment for children who have been sexually assaulted, and education around spotting the warning signs and speaking up. For the past two years, Jess has participated in the 777 marathon event, completing seven marathons in seven states over seven days to raise awareness and funds. Jess has dedicated months to training and seeking sponsorship from major businesses, so far raising more than $88,000 for the charity. In 2020, due to COVID-19, all seven marathons were run within the ACT.

This story Meet the ACT's 2021 Australian of the year nominees first appeared on The Canberra Times.