Beloved Indigenous Australian basketball hero Patrick Mills has been named the ACT Australian of the Year for 2022 at a ceremony at the National Gallery of Australia today (12 November).
Mr Mills has become Australia’s most decorated basketball player, featuring in four Olympic games, leading the Boomers to their first-ever medal in Tokyo this year, and becoming Australia’s inaugural Indigenous Olympic flag bearer.
However, in equal measure, it’s his work away from the court and his use of his global platform to champion Indigenous culture and inspire positive change through the Team Mills Foundation that has been acknowledged through this award.
St John Ambulance volunteer Valmai Dempsey was named the 2022 ACT Senior Australian of the Year.
Starting as a primary school student, Ms Dempsey has spent over 50 years volunteering with St John Ambulance.
Despite her experience, 2020 became her toughest challenge, first through the Black Summer bushfires and then the pandemic. She spoke to the emotions upon receiving the ward.
“To say I feel a little humble is probably an understatement. I’m quite overwhelmed, but I’m just so excited. Standing here with this amazing group of people, you are all so extraordinary. I’m so very privileged to be here among you,” said Ms Dempsey.
“There are moments where being a part of this wonderful opportunity is joyous; there are moments where it really does tug at the other heartstrings.”
“I give so little, but they give me so much,” she said.
Acknowledging the challenges of 2020, Ms Dempsey said watching people head towards the smoke throughout the bushfires was something that will always resonate with her and taught her a lot about leadership.
Sean Dondas has been awarded the ACT Young Australian of the Year for 2022.
Mr Dondas is on the Board of Directors for cancer patient support service CanTeen, having joined the organisation in 2008 at age 14 when his mother received a terminal cancer diagnosis. He has helped many young people deal with similar circumstances and has helped shape the organisation’s activities such as clinical trials, youth cancer services and online counselling service.
“Speechless,” said Mr Dondas in his acceptance speech.
“It’s been an amazing ride so far, and I think what I can do is inspire the next generation of leaders to come through and spread the word that there are supports out there.”
Luke Ferguson has been announced the ACT Local Hero for 2022.
A youth support worker at The Woden School, Mr Ferguson empowers young people with disabilities by increasing their independence, achieving their goals and engaging with the wider community. This empowerment is exemplified by his establishment of the inclusive school-wide music program, Party Down Productions, which taught the students a range of new skills and helped draw confidence out of the students.
He explained in his acceptance speech why his job at The Woden School is “fantastic”.
“I get to empower kids of all abilities and all backgrounds through the power of music. I mean, that is pretty special,” Mr Ferguson said.
The four ACT award recipients now go into the running for the Australian of the Year awards which will be presented on 25 January 2022.