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2106 ACT Australian of the year Awards, Gandel Hall, National Gallery of Australia, 2nd November, 2015 for ACT Government and National Australia Day Council

Young Canberran of the Year: Nominate now

Nip Wijewickrema

To describe the feeling of being named Young Canberran of the Year is like describing the colour yellow.

Impossible to describe, yet still an incredible privilege to be able to enjoy the colour, beauty and general experience.

In December 2014, I (Nipuni Wijewickrema) was named Young Canberran of the Year. It was something I wasn’t expecting, to say the least. So much so that on the day of the awards I almost left the house without brushing my hair from the gym! I also kept telling my parents there was no need for them to come along to the ceremony, as there was NO chance I would win and they would be better off drinking coffee and running their respective businesses.

Next minute… I’m accepting (and winging) my award acceptance speech and my social media accounts are melting down. The last year has been a whirlwind – I’ve had so many opportunities, experiences and networks as a result of being named Young Canberran of the Year .

For those that have no idea who I am (apart from a random girl that doesn’t brush her hair), I established GG’s Flowers – a socially sustainable florist that employs people with special need. I, along with my family, created GG’s Flowers for my little sister Gayana, a 16-year-old girl with Down syndrome.

Nip with her sister Gayana

Nip with her sister Gayana

Those out there that have family members or friends with special needs will totally understand the gut wrenching feeling of knowing that your special person will naturally not have the same opportunities as you and I. So, instead of sitting around and waiting for an opportunity for her, we decided to do something about it and make our own opportunity.

When we started 2.5 years ago, if you told me we would have created an incredible brand like we have, and that I would find myself being named Young Canberran of the Year and ACT Young Australian of the Year – I’d never have believed you.

I never set out to do what I’ve done with the hope of recognition or praise. Instead, I had a very important barrier in my own family and needed to do something about it. Incredibly – we’ve managed to employ five people with special needs on a casual basis and do hundreds of deliveries of flowers with a purpose.

However, having the honour, the award and the media attention has enabled me and GG’s Flowers to grow at an astonishing rate. It has ensured that people know about our business and message, it’s made us accessible to Canberra when spreading our message on inclusion in the workplace and most importantly, it’s ensured that we know what we’re doing is the right thing to do for our community.

I truly believe there are some extraordinary young people in our beautiful capital city that are incredibly worthy of the recognition and praise that this award gives.


Nip receiving her award

So, as my term as Young Canberran of the Year comes to an end, it’s time to pass the baton on to the next young person doing extraordinary things for our beautiful city. If you think you or someone you know is worthy of the recognition of a YouthInteract award – nominate them today.

There are a few awards up for grabs – Young Canberra Citizen of the Year, Personal Achievement, Individual Community Service, Group Achievement, Youth Arts and Multimedia and Young Environmentalist. If you know someone who’s deserving of this award, make sure you nominate them. Nominations close on 29 March.

Finally, Canberra – thank you so much for trusting, supporting and loving me as your own. I would have never been able to survive without the constant messages, selfies and letters of support. Your support has meant more than you’ll ever know to my family and I. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my term as Young Canberran and look forward to advocating and working for and with young people and those with special needs for years to come.

the essentials

What: Nominations for the Young Canberran of the Year
Where to nominate: Visit the YouthIneract website for details www.communityservices.act.gov.au/ocyfs/youth-interact/awards


Nip Wijewickrema

Nip Wijewickrema is a journalism graduate from the University of Canberra who currently works in Communications. When she's not working, she's wearing one of her many onesies, eating delicious food or delivering flowers with her beautiful sister, Gayana who has Down Syndrome. The more flowers GG's Flowers sell, the more people with disabilities they can hire. More about the Author

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