ACT News

Australia Day celebrations to recognise Canberrans' contributions

Australia Day celebrations in Canberra will pay tribute to ACT residents who have contributed to the advancement of health care, philanthropic investment and advocacy against child sexual abuse.

ACT Australian of the Year Glenn Keys  will be among many Canberrans in Commonwealth Park on Australia Day with events scheduled over two days.  

ACT Australia Day ambassadors Glenn Keys, Sandra Mahlberg and Damian De Marco at Commonwealth Park.
ACT Australia Day ambassadors Glenn Keys, Sandra Mahlberg and Damian De Marco at Commonwealth Park. Photo: Rohan Thomson

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced the plans for Australia Day on Wednesday and encouraged Canberrans to keep an eye out for award winners in the crowd.

"Celebrations will begin on Australia Day eve with the Australian of the Year awards followed by the popular Australia Celebrates concert, which will feature a fantastic line-up of home-grown talent including Paul Kelly and Jessica Mauboy," he said.

Paul Kelly is the headline act for the Australia Celebrates Live concert.
Paul Kelly is the headline act for the Australia Celebrates Live concert. Photo: Supplied

As managing director of global healthcare providers Aspen Medical, Mr Keys used a percentage of his business profits to contribute to health issues, particularly in Indigenous communities.

After the traditional breakfast on the lawns of Commonwealth Park, Canberrans will be able to witness a citizenship ceremony for new Australians with free children's entertainment nearby.

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Mr Keys accepted his award in November in front of his son Ehren, who was the inspiration for Project Independence, a housing initiative for disabled people established by his father.

Mr Barr also encouraged Canberrans to enjoy a fireworks spectacular from vantage points at Regatta Point or on the lawns at the National Library of Australia.

"ACT Young Australian of Year, basketball champion Patrick Mills, will be celebrating the day from afar with his family and his San Antonio Spurs teammates in the US," he said.

Alongside Mr Key will be ACT Local Hero Damian De Marco, who has been recognised for decades of work to expose the systematic failure of organisations to protect children from abuse.

Mr De Marco became the public face of the royal commission case investigating the institutional response of the Marist Brothers to allegations of child sex abuse against two of its brothers - the only person to testify without anonymity. 

"This boy somehow survived, others have not," he said. 

ACT Senior Australian of the Year Sandra Mahlberg, who has been recognised for her humanitarian work with Rotary's Oceanic Medical Aid for Children, will also attend.

Since 2006 Ms Mahlberg has hosted 15 children - "children who would have died, children who would be suffering if we didn't help them" - and their guardians, while maintaining a full-time nursing job at Calvary Hospital. 

"Be sure to keep an eye out for Glenn, Sandra and Damian throughout the day and as you enjoy the festivities down by Lake Burley Griffin," Mr Barr said.