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Capital's high achievers in line for top honours

Date

Megan Doherty and Julieanne Strachan

Julie McKay (Young Australian of the Year 2013 ACT finalist), Dr Jim Peacock (Senior Australian of the Year 2013 ACT finalist), Francis Owusu (Australia's Local Hero ACT finalist) and Dr Tom Calma (Australian of the Year ACT finalist).

Julie McKay (Young Australian of the Year 2013 ACT finalist), Dr Jim Peacock (Senior Australian of the Year 2013 ACT finalist), Francis Owusu (Australia's Local Hero ACT finalist) and Dr Tom Calma (Australian of the Year ACT finalist). Photo: Katherine Griffiths

Former diplomat and human rights and social justice campaigner Dr Tom Calma is the ACT finalist in the Australian of the Year Award, up against other contenders including media figure Ita Buttrose, businessman Kerry Stokes and advertising supremo Harold Mitchell.

''It's a good recognition of everyone that's walked with me. This is not something that is done by individuals,'' Dr Calma said.

A former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner and race discrimination commissioner, Dr Calma was asked on Thursday for his opinion on Aborigine Nova Peris being parachuted in as Labor's candidate for the Senate in the Northern Territory. Dr Calma said he had no views on the political machinations but believed Ms Peris was up to the job.

''I think as a person, as an individual, Nova's very well-qualified to understand issues facing Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander people and territorians,'' he said. Dr Calma, 59, of Chapman, said if selected he would use being Australian of the Year to promote Canberra's centenary and encourage people to visit the national capital. He also wants to ensure the issues of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are fairly represented.

''We want to push people of all political persuasions to understand that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people want to work in partnership with them. We don't want to be continually dictated as to how our lives are run,'' he said.

Former chief scientist and chief of CSIRO Plant Industry and CSIRO fellow Dr Jim Peacock is the ACT finalist in the Senior Australian of the Year category. Dr Peacock, 75, said his grandchildren thought he'd been nominated because he was ''the oldest person in the ACT''.

His work has included the development of insect-resistant cotton and the establishment of the Discovery Centre in Canberra.

''It's very exciting to get this recognition, particularly because in my fields, science research and education, they're often fields that don't attract the recognition from the general public as much as sport and other things,'' he said.

Dr Peacock said he would continue to try to improve science education in schools, including in remote indigenous communities.

''I have strong feelings about helping Australia with my science and that's been with me since the earliest times in my research career and why I stayed in Australia, although I've had other opportunities,'' he said.

As executive director of UN Women Australia, Julie McKay, 29, is the ACT finalist for Young Australian of The Year. She is part of a global United Nations campaign to improve the lives of the millions of women who struggle against poverty, violence and discrimination. Originally from Brisbane and once headed down the path to be a banker, Ms McKay followed her true passion to work for non-government organisations since moving to Canberra in 2005.

She credits mentors who took a risk on her, a family focused on education and even a background in debating for helping her build confidence early in her career.

Ms McKay said she hoped the outcome of her selection was to encourage even one young woman to reconsider if she was actually engaged in work she loved rather than what she felt expected to do.

The ACT's finalist as Australia's Local Hero, Francis Owusu, will also be the subject of a film commissioned by the Commonwealth Bank celebrating a finalist from each state or territory.

Mr Owusu runs Kulture Break, a program teaching dance to 500 students a week and encouraging a positive culture among young people. He was born in Canberra, spent his early years in Geelong and moved back when he was 15, attending St Edmund's College.

''When I came to Canberra I was very shy and I didn't know anybody and it was a bit tough for me. But then I got involved in the Rock Eisteddfod and I was part of the first year that did dance at the school and I went from being looked down on to looked up to. We came second in the ACT in the Eisteddfod that year - 1991. That changed the culture of the school and my life,'' he said.

Kulture Break is also about building self-esteem. ''I thought about what dance had done for me and I wanted my life to be about more than me and reach out to young people who felt they didn't belong and use my skills in schools,'' he said.

1 comment

  • I have no doubt what so ever that all the above mentioned people are truly worthy of awards they have been nominated for but what about some recognition as Aussie/s of the year for people like the retired Sydney chap and former soldier that spends his own money when invited to visit schools all over the place to talk with kids about Australian war history, something our education system has not got the fortitude to do.
    What about the dudes in Sydney who risked their necks to pull people out of a burning vehicle prior to christmas.
    The firefighter or ambo that goes beyond and above their already dangerous call saving peoples lives.
    These are just three examples of hundreds of ordinary Australians that are ordinary hero's.
    In sport what about major speedway or drag racing drivers who compete overseas again at their own expense flying the aussie flag, many with recognition on their racers while wholloping the opposition.

    Commenter
    Nitro Gangster
    Location
    ACT
    Date and time
    January 25, 2013, 12:04PM
    Comments are now closed

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