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2018 Act Australian of the Year Awards recipients announced

HerCanberra Team

An Indigenous entrepreneur, a prize-winning biophysicist, a youth and outreach worker and a tireless supporter of sick kids have been recognised in the 2018 ACT Australian of the Year Awards.

National Australia Day Council CEO, Ms Jenny Barbour, said the ACT Award recipients represented the diverse ways in which people contribute to our society.

“The Australian of the Year Awards allow us to recognise and celebrate the achievements of outstanding Australians – people making extraordinary contributions to our society,” said Ms Barbour.

“The ACT Award recipients show us all how our personal experiences, challenges and passions can have a greater impact and help others.”

2018 ACT Australian of the Year 

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Indigenous entrepreneur and community leader Dion Devow has been named 2018 ACT Australian of the Year.When he chose a controversial name for his business, Dion Devow wanted to reclaim a derogatory term and express pride in his Aboriginal culture and heritage.

Darkies Design, which Dion started in 2010, produces contemporary Aboriginal-themed apparel and print media for mainstream, sports and promotional use. One of Dion’s first concepts was a t-shirt with a simple logo: 100% Pure Australian.

Darkies Design collaborates with Indigenous artists and designers to produce his designs, and has also supplied ceremonial uniforms to the Department of Veterans Affairs for the teams participating in Australia’s First World War Centenary Commemorations on the Western Front.

Quiet yet outspoken, Dion now champions other Indigenous people to build businesses and achieve economic independence. In 2014, Dion created the Canberra Business Yarning Circle, an Indigenous business owners network. An ambassador for Indigenous Community Volunteers, Dion also sits on the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body and is working hard to help other Indigenous business owners achieve their dreams.

2018 ACT Senior Australian of the Year

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The 2018 ACT Senior Australian of the Year is 69 year old prize-winning biophysicist Dr Graham. Farquhar AO. One of Australia’s most eminent scientists, Dr Graham Farquhar is helping reshape our understanding of photosynthesis, the very basis of life on Earth.

After growing up with a Tasmanian farming family background, Graham has used his love of science to deliver practical benefits to the agricultural sector. His study of mathematics and physics formed the bedrock of a career creating mathematical models of how plants work.

Graham has received a string of accolades during his distinguished career for his research examining how water efficient crops can protect food security in a changing climate. Importantly, he has worked to improve world food security by developing strains of wheat that can grow with less water.

In 2017 Graham became the first Australian to win a Kyoto Prize – the most prestigious international award for fields not traditionally honoured with a Nobel Prize. From his long-term base at the Australian National University, Graham is tackling some of the most profound challenges facing humanity and the environment.

2018 ACT Young Australian of the Year

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The 2018 ACT Young Australian of the Year is 28 year old youth and outreach worker Zack Bryers.

He’s been a homeless teenager, a soldier in Afghanistan, a gridiron player for Australia, a Churchill Fellow, and now Zack Bryers is a youth worker on call 24/7. After leaving home at 15, Zack couch surfed and spent time on the streets, before he set a goal to join the army which turned his life around.

He spent tours of duty in Afghanistan before post-traumatic stress disorder saw him medically discharged. So, Zack set himself another goal – to make the Australian gridiron team within 18 months. Remarkably, he was playing in the World Cup in the United States within 17 months.

He then trained as a youth worker and is now YouthCare Canberra’s first full-time outreach worker. With compassion and consistency, Zack helps teens find temporary accommodation, attend court or hospital, overcome drug addictions or transform their lives after time in jail.

Drawing on his own experiences, Zack is supporting and inspiring some of his community’s most disadvantaged and disengaged young people.

2018 ACT Local Hero

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The 2018 ACT Local Hero is Suzanne Tunks, a dedicated supporter and fundraiser for sick kids.

After her daughter was born with congenital heart disease, Suzanne Tunks learnt to appreciate how hard it is for many families in similar situations. Suzanne spent half of her daughter Stella’s short life of nine months in hospital, an experience which drove her to create the Stella Bella Little Stars Foundation.

Suzanne has rallied the community and launched a variety of support programs. She’s raised more than $720,000 to provide support and financial assistance for families, covering everything from food and petrol to chemist accounts and emergency accommodation.

In 2017, Suzanne opened the Stella Bella Children’s Centre, which offers much-needed respite care. Meanwhile, the Little Star Beads Program brightens the lives of seriously ill children by giving them a bead for specific medical procedures and milestones in their treatment, which then become a symbol of their courage. Having already brightened the lives of almost 1,000 children facing tough times, Suzanne is expanding the Little Stars Bead Program to hospitals all around Australia.

The four ACT Award recipients were congratulated by ACT Chief Minister, Andrew Barr MLA and presented with glass trophies designed by students from the ANU School of Art.

The ACT Award recipients will join a cohort of 32 State and Territory recipients from around the country. These recipients will represent their state at the national Awards on 25 January 2018 in Canberra, where the four Australians of the Year will be announced.

For more information on the Australian of the Year Awards visit australianoftheyear.org.au.

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