Australian of the Year AwardsA few weeks ago I received a phone call from a woman called Suzanne and she told me that I was a finalist for the Victorian Australian of the Year.  She told me that I was one of 4 finalists out of thousands of nominations.  I was a bit stunned and she must have realized because she then said “Did you know you were nominated?”  When I replied that no I didn’t know, she said “I love my job!”  I was told that I was to keep it quiet and that I could only tell immediate family until the official press release was put out, which would be a few weeks away.

So on Tuesday night Russ and I were invited to the official evening where the winners would be announced in 4 categories, Local Hero, Young Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year and Australian of the Year.  As I walked into the room on the 17th floor of the RACV Club on Bourke Street I still couldn’t believe that I was a finalist.  I do what I do because I am passionate about scholarships through the Go For Gold program with MS Limited and I ride my trike because I love it!  The people who were finalists with me are heros to me, they do amazing things within the community!

I believe that even the Local Heros should have been up for the Australian of the Year award because of what they do.  They are the people behind the things that just seem like they have been there forever, forgetting that what one person starts can be the catylst for change, like Louise Davidson the winner in this Local Hero category.  She started the Mother’s Day Classic run which has grown into a national community event with thousands of participants and has raised $24.3 million over the last 16 years for Breast Cancer Research.  She started it because her mother passed away from Breast Cancer and the sad news upon receiving her award that night was that she herself had been diagnosed 3 months ago.

The winner of the Young Australian of the Year was 18 year old Thomas King who at the age of 13 started a campaign aginst the use of palm oil.  He runs the SayNotoPalmOil wbsite and has 1/2 a million visitors from 180 countries to his site each year.  Now as an 18 year old he is a pulbic speaker and works as a change maker in human rights, evnironmental preservation and animal protection.  If he is any indication of our young people today our world is in good hands.

The Senior Australian of the Year for Victoria was Professor Sam Berkovic AC one of the world’s most respected neurologists.  His work over the last 25 years has revolved around research into Epilepsy.  He is involved in not only Australia but he also chairs international committees.  His involvement in this work has put Australia at the forefront of global research into epilepsy.

As for the Victorian Australian of the Year, I felt very humbled and honoured to be part of this group. The 3 other finalists have done some amazing things.  David Cooper ASM developed a ‘psychological first aid system’ for frontline Paramedics and this system has been adopted by organisations in not only Australia but also Canada.  David’s leadership has driven cultural change that is making a huge difference to the careers of his colleagues and is ensuring the community continues to receive the best care.  Richard Frankland is an Artist and Indigenous activist.  Apart from his music and film making he runs workshops on lateral violence awarenes and community healing and he is passionate about helping Australia’s First People becoming contributors and achievers.

Then we have the winner of the Victorian Australian of the Year for 2015, Rosie Batty.  We all know the story of Rosie, she has had a very public life with the murder of her son Luke at 11 years of age by his father.  It was a very public murder, in front of Luke’s football team mates and families.  Rosie has been an champion fighting domestic violence and calling for systemic changes.  She is an incredibly strong woman who has put her own loses aside to encourage other victims to speak out.  Just her courage facing this horrific time in her life makes her a hero to me.

So to be included amongst this amazing group of people is unbelievable and I honestly don’t believe that I should have been amongst them.  But in saying this it was a common theme from all the finalists, they couldn’t believe they were here!

VIC finalists_ 2015 AOTYA

I did find out that it was Greg Hutchings from MS that nominated me and he and Robyn Hunter (CEO of MS Limited) were both in attendance on Tuesday night.  Thank you to Greg for the nomination, I am truly appreciative.  But I couldn’t do what I do without the support of my husband Russ, who looks after my life, Greg, Robyn and all the staff at MS Australia and all the people that take part in the Mega Swim, those swimmers who have put the time in to get sponsors and swim in all those events. In actual fact they are all Australians of the Year.

It is really amazing to hear all the stories of what the average normal person is doing to make Australia and our world a better place.  I feel very proud to be included with all these amazing people and I just wish that the media would pick up on more of the good news stories that make our world just a little bit better.