All-female ACT nominees for Australian and Young Australian of the Year
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All-female ACT nominees for Australian and Young Australian of the Year

One thing is for sure - the ACT will have a female contender for Australian of the Year and Young Australian of the Year in 2019.

All the nominees for both categories are women.

The ACT's nominees for the 2019 Australian of the Year were announced on Wednesday: journalist Virginia Haussegger, community advocate Rebecca Vassarotti, ecologist Kate Grarock and education innovator Megan Gilmour.

Virginia Haussegger is head  of the University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis’ 50/50 to promote gender equality.

Virginia Haussegger is head of the University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis’ 50/50 to promote gender equality.

One successful nominee from that all-female lineup will contest the national Australian of the Year award, which will be held in Canberra on January 25. Nominees for the ACT in the Young Australian, Senior Australian and Local Hero categories were also revealed on Wednesday.

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The ACT nominees for the Australian of the Year are all accomplished women.

A journalist for more than 25 years, Virginia Haussegger is now head of the University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis’ 50/50 by 2030 Foundation, a gender-equality initiative.

She said the nomination was "an incredible honour'' and having all-women nominees in the major categories was "enough of a win for me''.

"It really feeds into this very strong sense at the moment that now is our time,'' Ms Haussegger said.

"I feel very excited for all of these women.''

A former Greens candidate, Ms Vassarotti was also executive director of YWCA Canberra for almost a decade.  As chair of Getaboutable, she advocates helping people with disabilities receive services they need to get out and about more easily.  She is also co-chair of the Canberra Gambling Reform Alliance.

"It's a pretty amazing group of women,'' Ms Vassarotti said. "To be in that company is a very humbling and overwhelming experience.''

Rebecca Vassarotti was executive director of YWCA Canberra for almost a decade.

Rebecca Vassarotti was executive director of YWCA Canberra for almost a decade.Credit:Jamila Toderas

Ecologist Kate Grarock is passionate about conservation. After producing six scientific papers on the management of introduced species as part of her PhD, she was appointed sanctuary ecologist at Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary in Canberra in 2013.

Ecologist Kate Grarock with Brian the bettong.

Ecologist Kate Grarock with Brian the bettong.Credit:Karleen Minney

Dr Grarock joined then navy at 17, serving for five years before turning her attention to conservation, seeing her role at Mulligans Flat also as an ambassador who encourages the public to come and see the woodlands.

"I've always been so passionate about the environment and getting that to rub off on people,'' she said.

Megan Gilmour with two other mums founded MissingSchool – a not-for-profit organisation working for continuous school connection for children with illness. The inspiration was her own son Darcy, now 18 and completing year 12, who missed two years of primary school due to a serious illness.

"He is now thriving,'' she said.

Co-founder of Missing School Megan Gilmour and her son Darcy.

Co-founder of Missing School Megan Gilmour and her son Darcy.Credit:Graham Tidy

Ms Gilmour, a Churchill fellow, was "elated'' by her Australian of the Year nomination, not least because it was recognition of the group's hard work. A national telepresence robot pilot to keep sick kids connected to their schools was now going Australia-wide and had also piqued interest overseas.

"My next goal is to ensure Australia is the best in the world at this work,'' she said.

National Australia Day Council CEO Karlie Brand said the ACT nominees were among more than 120 people being recognised in all states and territories as part of the 2019 Australian of the Year Awards.

"The ACT nominees are doing extraordinary work in the community to help others," said Ms Brand.

"Whether it be through their professional skills or their voluntary efforts, they are creating change, improving lives and making our world a better place."

"It’s also inspiring to see all nominees in the ACT Australian of the Year and ACT Young Australian of the Year categories this year are women.

"The stories of nominees around the nation show us the many ways in which Australians are making a difference."

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

Nominees in other categories for the ACT are:

2019 ACT SENIOR AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR

Julian Cribb - Science writer (Franklin)

Cathi Moore - Social justice champion for women and girls (Richardson)

Dr Sue Packer AM - Paediatrician and child advocate (Lyons)

Agnes Shea OAM - Indigenous elder and reconciliation advocate (Gowrie)

2019 ACT YOUNG AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR

Sophie Fisher - Mobility enabler for refugee and migrant women (Canberra)

Sally Hill - Indonesian language and bi-lateral relations advocate (Jerrabomberra)

Karlie Noon - Role model for Indigenous youth and STEM advocate (Stirling)

Hannah Wandel - Change agent for young rural women (Kingston)

2019 ACT LOCAL HERO

Peter Gordon - Hands Across Canberra CEO (Narrabundah)

Jayanti Gupta - Supporter of women of South Asian origin (Hughes)

Juliet Moody - Comedian and domestic violence advocate (Forde)

David Williams - Disability advocate (Kaleen).

Megan Doherty is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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