25 January 2022

Our Val named Senior Australian of the Year; Dylan Alcott takes main award

| Ian Bushnell
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‘Auntie’ Val Dempsey has been a stalwart through fire and pandemic. Photo: Supplied.

The ACT’s Val Dempsey has been named 2022 Senior Australian of the Year, and Victoria’s Dylan Alcott has become the first person with a disability to be named Australian of the Year in the annual award program’s 62-year history.

Alcott – athlete, Paralympian, philanthropist, media commentator and advocate – took out the main award for his leadership and commitment to developing opportunities for people with a disability that is making an impact for thousands of Australians.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the Australian of the Year Award recipients at a ceremony at the National Arboretum in Canberra this evening (25 January).

Ms Dempsey, 71, has dedicated her life to St John Ambulance and is one of the ACT’s longest-serving volunteers, starting as cadet volunteer while still in primary school.

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Known as Auntie Val, she faced her biggest challenges in the past two years – first with the ‘Black Summer’ bushfires, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

She led 40 fellow volunteers as they supported fire-affected communities during the emergency that stretched over many weeks.

Then when the pandemic hit, Ms Dempsey displayed an unwavering commitment to the St John team, despite heavy impacts on team morale, personally contacting every volunteer to check they were ‘doing OK’ in terms of welfare and mental health.

Dylan Alcott

Dylan Alcott on court at the Open. Photo: Facebook.

Dylan Alcott hated being in a wheelchair as a teenager because he didn’t see anyone like him in mainstream media, but sport changed everything.

A gold medal at the Paralympic Games in wheelchair basketball preceded three more in Paralympic competition after a cross-code switch to tennis, including last year’s Tokyo Games.

Now, with 23 quad wheelchair Grand Slam titles and a Newcombe Medal, Alcott recently became the first man in history, in any form of tennis, to win the Golden Slam.

He is currently commentating and competing at the Australian Open in Melbourne.

But he calls the Dylan Alcott Foundation to provide scholarships and grant funding to marginalised Australians with a disability his greatest achievement.

He has also authored his best-selling autobiography, Able, and co-founded Get Skilled Access.

The 31-year old’s AbilityFest is Australia’s first and only inclusive, fully accessible music festival.

Alcott holds several high-profile media roles spanning TV, radio and podcasting.

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The 2022 Young Australian of the Year is the 26-year old founder of Street Side Medics, Dr Daniel Nour, of Sydney.

Dr Nour founded the not-for-profit, GP-led mobile medical service for homeless people in August 2020.

With 145 volunteers and four clinics across NSW, Street Side Medics has changed the lives of more than 300 patients. It has treated many communicable and non-communicable illnesses, dealt with neglected medical needs and detected conditions that would otherwise have gone unnoticed.

Despite working full time at Royal North Shore Hospital, Dr Nour still volunteers at the organisation’s four sites.

The 2022 Australia’s Local Hero is the founder and CEO of Sober in the Country, 47-year old-Shanna Whan of Narrabri, NSW.

Ms Whan is single-handedly creating radical social impact and change around how people discuss and use alcohol in rural Australia.

Herself a survivor of alcohol addiction, what began as volunteer work to help others locally, evolved into a grassroots charity that now has national reach and offers peer support, advocacy and education.

Chair of the National Australia Day Council Danielle Roche congratulated the 2022 Australian of the Year Award recipients.

“The 2022 Australians of the Year are great examples of the Australian spirit. Their courage, determination and fearlessness are an inspiration to us all,” she said.

Alcott will return to Melbourne immediately after the ceremony to play at the Australian Open,

Dr Nour, Ms Dempsey and Ms Whan will attend the National Flag Raising and Citizenship Ceremony in Canberra on Australia Day morning before travelling to Sydney for the evening’s Australia Day events.

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