Canberra’s Aunty Val named 2022 Senior Australian of the Year | HerCanberra

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Canberra’s Aunty Val named 2022 Senior Australian of the Year

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After dedicating her life to helping others around Canberra, 71-year-old St John Ambulance volunteer Valmai (Val) Dempsey has been named the 2022 Senior Australian of the Year.

Joining an athlete leading change for people with a disability, a young doctor taking medicine to the streets to help marginalised people, and a woman changing the way rural Australia uses and talks about alcohol, Val has always gone above and beyond for her community. 

Val will be honored alongside athlete, paralympian, philanthropist, media commentator and advocate, Dylan Alcott OAM who has been named Australia of the Year—the first person with a disability to receive the award. 

Known affectionately as Aunty Val, for more than 50 years she has dedicated her life to St John Ambulance and is one of the ACT’s longest-serving volunteers as she works to promote a healthy and safe community.

She also created Project Survival, taking first aid education and messages into the places drug users frequented and frequently uses her platform to call for learner drivers to be the next generation of mobile-first aiders. 

Starting as a cadet volunteer while still in primary school, Val has always worked tirelessly to promote and deliver emergency first aid training to help save lives.

In 2020, her commitment and strength shone through when she led 40 fellow volunteers as they supported fire-affected communities during the ‘Black Summer’ bushfires over the many weeks they were facing hardship. 

Then, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Val displayed an unwavering commitment to the St John team. Without hesitation, she personally contacted every volunteer to check they were ‘doing OK’ in terms of welfare, mental health and morale. 

If that wasn’t enough, in 2021 she clocked up over 600 hours volunteering, leading first-aid training, providing support at local events and activities, and working with the COVID-19 response team.

For more information on the Australian of the Year Awards visit

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