She's spent 34 years working in communities right across the Northern Territory but police officer Erica Gibson had never visited Canberra until she came to the national capital in January to be honoured in the Australian of the Year Awards.
"It was almost overwhelming to stand there on that stage, to meet the other nominees," the NT's Local Hero for 2021 said.
"To have afternoon tea with the Governor General - to actually have a conversation with people like David Hurley and Grace Tame - an incredible experience."
For Sergeant Gibson, the dedication to her policing career and the people she helps along the way is reward enough.
But since accepting her NT Local Hero award and taking centre stage in Canberra with other state and territory finalists, she has been gratified to see a national spotlight shining on issues she cares about so deeply, including support for victims of family violence, the creation of safer communities and the challenges and rewards of remote policing.
"Involvement in the Australian of the Year Awards has quite honestly been life-changing," Katherine-based Sergeant Gibson said. "I know that sounds dramatic but it's true. This whole experience has been humbling, and while it's such an honour and a privilege to be recognised, it has highlighted my work and initiatives in policing."
To this day, Sergeant Gibson is unsure who originally nominated her for the Local Hero category of the awards.
"This experience has made me realise that the things I do every day really make a difference in people's lives," she said.
Australians are being urged to think about an inspiring member of their community who deserves to be nominated for the 2022 Australian of the Year Awards.
Sergeant Gibson said she would encourage everyone to have their say on who should be considered for the awards.
"If you are thinking of nominating yourself, or someone else for the Australian of the Year awards, just do it."
Nominations are now invited for the 2022 awards.
There are four different categories: Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Australia's Local Hero.
Nominate someone at australianoftheyear.org.au before midnight on July 31. The national award winners will be announced in Canberra on January 25, 2022.
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