19 October 2023

Look who's in contention to be the ACT's Australian of the Year

| Ian Bushnell
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Joanne Farrell

Build Like a Girl founder Joanne Farrell has made a huge difference in the construction industry for women. Photos: National Australia Day Council.

A diverse collection of Canberra’s finest have been nominated for the 2024 ACT Australian of the Year Awards, to be announced at the end of the month.

The 16 nominees across the four categories include a champion for women in the construction industry, a broadcaster, a disability employment ambassador, a woman saving our bees, volunteers, a singer-songwriter, multicultural advocates, a youth affairs leader, and a veterinarian providing care for pets and owners in crisis.

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The ACT award recipients will be announced on Monday 30 October 2023 in a ceremony at the National Gallery of Australia.

The nominees for the main award are Vinnies volunteer Dr Raymond Akhurst, ABC broadcaster Dan Bourchier, Build Like a Girl founder Joanne Farrell and Kurt Gruber, co-founder of charity Worldview Foundation and WV Technologies.

Dr Akhurst, 76, has been nominated for his volunteer work among communities devastated by the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires.

He coordinated the St Vincent de Paul’s Bushfire Taskforce, supported local Vinnies volunteers and staff, and spearheaded both the emergency response and the Vinnies’ Bushfire Recovery Program, which provided almost $10 million in emergency assistance, grants and development projects from the Snowy Mountains to the South Coast.

Dr Ray Akhurst

Dr Ray Akhurst spearheaded Vinnies emergency response and recovery effort during the Black Summer bushfires.

He also established sanitation solutions for people without access to bathrooms or toilets after the fires and organised Vinnies’ funding of training courses, helping locals find jobs and rebuild their communities.

The citation for broadcaster Dan Bourchier, 38, says that as the ABC’s Voice referendum correspondent he provided balanced coverage even while receiving threats and abuse for his coverage, navigating the complexities and challenges that arose as part of the national debate.

Mr Bourchier is known as a determined advocate for justice, especially for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the LGBTIQ+ community.

In 2005, he was recognised for his community leadership as NT Young Australian of the Year.

Now based in Canberra, he has worked for a range of television, print, radio and online news agencies including National Indigenous Television (NITV), Sky News and the ABC.

A sought-after public speaker, Mr Bouchier has Indigenous heritage from Victoria on his mother’s side. He is a company director and sits on numerous committees including as chair of the ABC’s Bonner Committee.

Dan Bourchier

The ABC’s Dan Bourchier is known as a determined advocate for justice, especially for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the LGBTIQ+ community.

Joanne Farrell, 45, champions women in the construction industry. In 2020, she founded Build Like A Girl, a not-for-profit program that supports girls and women to work in trades, matches them with pre-apprenticeship and entry-level training, and mentors them to secure work in the construction industry.

As the general manager of Kane Constructions ACT, part of the multimillion-dollar Kane group, Ms Farrell has pushed for a better gender balance in the industry.

Kane Constructions ACT went from having 6 per cent female staff in February 2020 to a 48 per cent female team in December 2022.

She works closely with government, peak industry bodies, unions, training organisations and building contractors to help them recruit, train and employ women in trade roles.

She also led the construction of Strathnairn Charity House, a project designed and mostly built by women, which was auctioned in March 2023. Proceeds from the sale were distributed to local charities.

Kurt Grubert, 44, co-founded the Worldview Foundation, which helps Indigenous people, particularly 17 to 24-year-olds, to overcome disadvantage, build stable lives and become job-ready and prosperous.

Worldview combines holistic wrap-around support with employment and training opportunities in the group’s social enterprises, as well as externally.

Mr Grubert also co-founded the national social enterprise WV Technologies, a highly certified IT disposals and e-waste recycling firm that won Supply Nation’s Registered Supplier of the Year Award 2023.

The organisation, which employs and trains many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, is helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve cyber security for both community and national interest.

Mr Grubert, who has Anēwan ancestry, was previously chairperson of No Slavery Australia and deputy chairperson of the Victims of Crime Assistance League.

Kurt Grubert

Kurt Grubert helps put young Indigenous people into stable employment.

Nominees for ACT Senior Australian of the Year are volunteer, multicultural advocate Ebenezer Banful OAM, the President and Vice President of Families & Friends for Drug Law Reform William Bush and Marion McConnell OAM, volunteer and founder of VINES Youth program John Feint, and community language learning, bilingualism, multiculturalism advocate Dr Amanda Scott.

In contention for the Young ACT Australian of the Year Award are employment ambassador at Down Syndrome Australia Charlotte Bailey, singer-songwriter and gender equality advocate Sophie Edwards, co-chair of the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition Caitlin Figueiredo, and advocate for multiculturalism, young people and mental health Saad Khalid.

Vying for the the ACT Local Hero Award will be the founder of ACT for Bees Julie Armstrong, founder of ACT Pet Crisis Support and the Tiny Veterinary Clinic Dr Eloise Bright, volunteer and advocate for diversity and multiculturalism Sandipan Mitra, and co-chair of the ACT Reconciliation Council Selina Walker.

The ACT nominees are among 133 people being recognised across all states and territories.

The winners join the other state and territory recipients as national finalists for the national awards, which will be announced on Thursday 25 January 2024 in Canberra.

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National Australia Day Council CEO Mark Fraser AO CVO congratulated the ACT nominees on their recognition.

“The nominees for the Australian Capital Territory Awards personify the values of the Australian of the Year Awards with their exceptional contributions,” he said.

“They are diverse in their areas of dedication and how they make a difference, which demonstrates we all have a role to play in making Australia better and we are all part of the national story.”

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Balance needed5:27 pm 19 Oct 23

I’ll give a special shout out to Dan Bourchier whose reporting on the Voice Referendum stayed balanced in this febrile atmosphere. He displayed very high integrity not to let his personal views unduly interfere. I admire this so much.

To be fair, thats his job…

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