Professor Brendan Murphy, the man who steered Australia's COVID-19 response, said he was humbled after being announced as the 2021 ACT Australian of the Year.
"It is incredibly humbling - probably not deserved but I'll accept that on behalf of the medical leaders around the country," Professor Murphy said after accepting the award.
At the helm of the nation's COVID-19 response Professor Murphy was flung into the centre of Australia's public consciousness this year as a calm voice in the middle of a crisis. He described his role in the fight against the pandemic as the most privileged thing he did in his life and thanked the cooperation of leaders.
"I didn't want this ghastly virus to come, but I was there when it came and I was determined to save the Australian people from what we saw in the rest of the world," he said.
"It's important to me because I care about people and I care about the health of this nation and I care about particularly vulnerable people who are so tragically affected by this virus."
After resigning as the CMO in July, Professor Murphy is now the secretary of the Department of Health.
Professor Murphy paid tribute to ACT's chief health officer Dr Kerryn Coleman and said the ACT's response to COVID-19 was one of the best in Australia. He ended his speech with this reminder to all governments: "Listen to your experts, follow their advice and you'll do well as a government."
Alyawarre woman, writer and First Nations health advocate, 76-year-old Patricia Anderson AO was awarded the 2021 ACT Senior Australian of the Year.
As she received her award, Ms Anderson paid respects to 2020 ACT Senior Australian of the Year Sue Salthouse, who died in July. She acknowledged her parents, Gus and Molly Anderson, saying they were the first people to show her the value of standing up for what was right.
She called on all Australians to work together to address the unfinished business between First Nations and other Australians, and to push to implementation of the Uluru Statement of the Heart, which she described as a gift to all Australians.
"This will require a high level of maturity and sophistication, but lets do it," she said.
Ms Anderson has served as chair for the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, the Prime Minister's Referendum Council and the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory. She has previously received the HRC Human Rights Medal, a NAIDOC lifetime achievement award, an Order of Australia and honorary doctorate.
Youth advocate TaraMcClelland, 24, won the 2021 ACT Young Australian of the Year award. Ms McClelland works professionally for The Salvation Army with people aged 16-25 experiencing or at risk of homelessness. In her spare time she volunteers at Headspace and is a member of the Canberra Youth Theatre's Youth Artists Advisory Panel, and the Children and Young People Commissioner's Office on family violence. Ms McClelland was previously nominated for the 2020 Young Canberra Citizen of the Year. In accepting her award, Ms McClelland said the young people she worked and volunteered with were a source of inspiration.
"Young people are the future," she said. "As a young person I've always just felt like our voices need to be heard and our voices deserve recognition for the incredible work young people do for the future of this great nation."
The 2021 ACT Local Hero award went to 44-year-old Timothy Miller, the founder of Lids4Kids. Lids4Kids is a national organisation which encourages households, schools and businesses to collect plastic lids to be recycled into products for children. Lids4Kids has more than 25,000 participants across Australia. Prior to this venture, he worked in road safety and environmentalism, and led the development of a five-star environmental rating for vehicles.
In his speech, Mr Miller highlighted the need for governments and businesses to eliminate the plastic in products, and ended his speech with a simple call to action: "Stop buying crap, stop buying plastic."