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2017 ACT Australians of the Year announced

HerCanberra Team

The Chief Minister of ACT, Andrew Barr MLA, has announced the 2017 ACT Australian of the Year Award recipients.

The 2017 ACT Australian of the Year is youth mentor and educator, Alan Tongue.

After a stellar sporting career, Alan Tongue understands how to demand and inspire greatness in others.  Since retiring from football in 2011, Alan began applying his talents to help young people at the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre make the most of the cards they’d been dealt. Alan created the Aspire program to rehabilitate young people and equip them with life skills to make positive choices. The program has since expanded to include prisoners at the Alexander Maconochie Centre, and disengaged youth in Canberra’s schools. Determined to tackle family violence, Alan travels throughout the ACT and NSW to educate football players and High School students about how they can eradicate family violence, and he is partnering with Barnardos to teach young people how to build healthy and respectful relationships. A friendly face at the Early Morning Centre for homeless people, Alan regularly serves breakfast to help some of the community’s most vulnerable.

The 2017 ACT Senior Australian of the Year is 71 year old sports scientist and coach, Dick Telford.

Undoubtedly Australia’s most dedicated marathon running coach, Dick Telford has coached distance runners to eight Commonwealth Games medals, four being gold, as well as coaching Australia’s only Olympic marathon medallist, Lisa Ondieki. While his sustained coaching success has propelled him into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, Dick’s pioneering research into the ‘physical literacy’ of Australian children is equally deserving of a gold medal. As the director of the National Lifestyle of Our Kids Study, Dick’s work has shown that quality physical education led not only to better health, but to better NAPLAN results. He’s now working on a plan to implement physical literacy programs into state education systems. The first sports scientist appointed by the Australian Institute of Sport, Dick is currently a professorial fellow at the University of Canberra’s Research Institute for Sport and Exercise and Adjunct Professor at the Australian National University, while volunteering endless hours to coach an elite distance running squad and Olympic marathon runners.

The 2017 ACT Young Australian of the Year is 29 year old Cystic Fibrosis champion, Heidi Prowse.

When the man she loved told her he had cystic fibrosis, Heidi Prowse didn’t shy away. Instead, Heidi put her positive attitude and problem-solving skills to great use, volunteering for Cystic Fibrosis ACT, and, together with husband Andrew, organised the inaugural Santa Speedo Shuffle. The event, which started with seven friends braving chilly conditions to circle Lake Burley Griffin in speedos and Santa hats, has collected $360,000 in just four years. In 2016, a record 101 people participated, with funds raised providing practical support services, such as equipment, nutritional supplements and sport and recreation grants. Today, as the organisation’s Executive Officer, Heidi divides her time between administration, fundraising and meeting with families and medical staff. A woman of enormous capacity, tenacity and integrity, Heidi supports parents of newborns diagnosed with CF and consoles those suffering. Learning first-hand the debilitating effects of CF, Heidi is determined to make a difference to people living with this chronic genetic condition.

The 2017 ACT Local Hero is soup kitchen volunteer, Stasia Dabrowski OAM.

Best known as the ‘soup kitchen lady’, Stasia Dabrowski has been serving Canberra’s neediest for nearly four decades. Despite passing the 90-year milestone, Stasia shows no signs of slowing down. Born in 1926 in Poland, Stasia’s family lost everything during World War II. Arriving in Canberra in 1964 with her husband and young family, Stasia remembered her own experiences when her teenage son came home talking about a homeless family needing food. They cooked pizzas for them and that began the helping of others. Stasia is up at 5am six days each week, driving her van around Canberra to collect donated food from companies, then distributes it. Stasia runs a mobile soup kitchen in Civic – something she’s done relentlessly, rain, hail or shine since 1979. She peels and cooks 180 kilograms of vegetables Thursday nights, feeding up to 500 people on a busy Friday night. A Canberra icon, Stasia gives not only food, but love, kindness and compassion to all.

National Australia Day Council CEO, Chris Kirby, said the ACT Award recipients are four inspirational Australians.

“The ACT Award recipients are amazingly dedicated individuals making significant changes to the lives of others and contributing consistently over many years to improve our nation,” said Mr Kirby.

The ACT Award recipients will join recipients from the other States and Territories as finalists for the national Awards to be announced on 25 January 2017 in Canberra.

Image: Courtesy Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT

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