In the months since she was awarded the 2021 ACT Young Australian of the Year, Tara McClelland has been able to reach out to more people than she could have imagined.
"The award has been an incredible way to be given a bigger platform and reach more people than you would be able to and get out further into the community," Ms McClelland said.
The 24-year-old received the honour for her work with the Salvation Army, helping people aged 16 to 25 who are at risk of homelessness.
She was also recognised for her volunteer efforts with mental health organisation Headspace and the Children and Young People Commissioner's office on family violence.
Ms McClelland said while she never expected to receive the prestigious award, she has been able to reach more young people as a result.
"I've been able to spread messages into schools and [do more keynote speeches," she said.
"I've been trying to focus on young people directly and in places directly involving young people and hearing what they had to say and spreading the message of community service.
"I would not have been able to do that without the award."
While next year's awards won't be handed out until January, nominations are closing soon for the 2022 Australian of the Year Awards.
Nominations close at midnight on July 31, with the winners to be announced on January 25.
The four categories for the awards include Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year and Australia's Local Hero.
Even after her win, Ms McClelland said she still had no idea who was responsible for her nomination.
However, she said it only took one person to nominate someone else for the honours.
"It's a simple form to fill out, so it's not overwhelming, and it only takes one nomination, which can change someone's life, she said.
"The great thing is it can be done by anyone, be it a colleague, a friend or a neighbour.
"[Whoever you nominate] doesn't have to be someone extraordinary, it can be someone who you think is giving back to the community."
Winners of the awards are selected by the not-for-profit Australia Day Council, made up of people from a diverse range of backgrounds.
While she may only have a few more months left as the ACT's Young Australian of the Year, Ms McClelland said she still planned to use the award as a springboard for her outreach work, long after her 12 months as the winner are up.
"I see myself going further and spreading that message wider, and [aiming] to get changes on a federal level," she said.
"The award going forward will be very beneficial."
- Australian Community Media, the publisher of this masthead, is the media partner for the awards.
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