Australian of the Year: Rosemary Kariuki says nominate a community champion who never tires or complains

Rosemary Kariuki, advocate for migrant and refugee woman, is Australia's Local Hero for 2021. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Rosemary Kariuki, advocate for migrant and refugee woman, is Australia's Local Hero for 2021. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Australia's Local Hero of 2021, Rosemary Kariuki has some wise advice if you are thinking of nominating a community champion for the 2022 Australian of the Year Awards.

"Nominate people who never complain, who never tire of doing the work," she says. "The more recognition people get, the more others can see how valuable it is to help others. They can see the benefit of helping to make this country a better place."

Ms Kariuki, from Sydney, came to Australia in 1999 after fleeing violence in Kenya, where she grew up on a farm with 16 brothers and sisters.

She came from a radical background: her father fought British colonial rule and spent seven years in jail.

When she arrived, she knew nobody but had already decided she was going to make friends so she brought humble gifts from Kenya in her suitcase, along with clothes and a few hundred dollars.

She went on to establish the annual African Women's Dinner Dance, a community fundraiser now in its 14th year.

As she accepted her Australia's Local Hero trophy from the Prime Minister in January, Ms Kariuki worried that multicultural Australia's communities lived in silos.

"I would love to see more Australians, those born here, refugees, migrants, anyone who calls Australia home, open their doors to their neighbours," she said.

Six months later she has been doing her part to open doors and says that her life has never been better.

"I have given a lot of talks and attended a lot of community and church events - I have even gone interstate," Ms Kariuki said. "I have enjoyed it. I am getting to see the change I am making. I am getting to know more of my neighbours and talking to more of the community."

A proud resident of the Camden area of south-west Sydney, she recently switched from working as a multicultural community liaison officer in the Parramatta Police Area Command to nearby Campbelltown City Police Area Command.

"I'm very proud that Australia accepted me in their country, to be able to educate my boys and also to fill those gaps that services do not understand through my volunteering with women and the migrant community," Ms Kariuki said.

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This story Celebrate the champions who never tire and never complain first appeared on The Canberra Times.