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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Australian of the Year nominees named for Victoria

Nominees for the 2023 Victoria Australian of the Year Awards include a Vietnam Veteran, a man restoring and protecting wetland areas, a psychologist leading the way in disaster recovery, a police officer dedicated to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal prisoners and a woman using her own experience to help families of missing people.

They are just some of the 16 people in the running to be named the Victoria Australian of the Year, Victoria Senior Australian of the Year, Victoria Young Australian of the Year and Victoria Local Hero.

The 2023 Victoria award nominees are:

Victoria Australian of the Year

Meredith Allan – Disability advocate and lecturer (Surrey Hills)

Maree Clarke – Multi-disciplinary artist and curator (Yarraville)

Dr Angraj Khillan – Paediatrician and co-founder, Health Awareness Society of Australia (Essendon)

Loren O’Keeffe – Founder, Missing Persons Advocacy Network (Richmond)

Victoria Senior Australian of the Year

Dr Peter Rob Gordon OAM – Clinical psychologist and disaster recovery pioneer (Yarra Glen)

Clinical psychologist Dr Peter Rob Gordon OAM (Rob) has dedicated his career since the terrible Ash Wednesday fires of 1983 to helping traumatised communities and emergency service workers recover after disaster.  

Little was known about the lasting effects of trauma on communities before Rob started this work. He has built a body of knowledge to fill that gap. His person-centred, trauma-informed approach has shaped the way organisations such as the Australian Red Cross, government agencies and other groups work with traumatised communities after disaster and loss.

Rob has supported communities through the Port Arthur massacre, the Bali bombings, the Christchurch earthquakes and major floods, cyclones and fires.

He conducts information sessions and professional development, plus he provides free, individual consults to those who have suffered significant personal loss after a disaster.

Rob’s kindness, generosity and expertise were recognised with a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2021.

Robert Lytzki

Robert Lytzki – Founder, Foundation 61 (Geelong)

Robert Lytzki understands how insidious addiction is after battling it for 30 years. But he turned his life around – and now helps others do the same.

In 2005, Robert founded Foundation 61, Geelong’s first men’s residential rehabilitation centre. The not-for-profit offers men affected by addiction a six-month live-in program, helping them recover and reconnect with their loved ones.

Robert has built strong community relationships to ensure financial support for the centre. He has also spent the past six-plus years setting up Foundation 61 – House of Hope for women. The eight-bed home is under construction and includes spaces for two women with children.

Leaving school in Year 8 and eventually overcoming his own addiction, he obtained several certifications and diplomas and a Graduate Diploma in Counselling and Therapy. Robert’s dedication, honesty and care has helped hundreds of individuals get their lives back.

David Martin OAM – Vietnam veteran and administrator/CEO, Murray Valley Centre (Wodonga)

David Martin OAM.

Vietnam veteran David Martin OAM served in the Australian Army for 21 years and has been Administrator/CEO of the Murray Valley Centre since 1985. The day training centre helps people with disabilities live independently in the community and find employment.

David has been an active member of the RSL since 1969. He received life membership in 2004 and was awarded the RSL Meritorious Service Medal in 2016.

A member and three-time president of the Rutherglen RSL sub-branch since 1985, David has been a driving force behind the local memorial gardens, which tells the story of the community’s service and sacrifice through Australia’s conflicts.

David dedicated 20 years to Legacy Clubs around Australia that care for military widows and children as well as veteran families. He was named Citizen of the Year on Australia Day 2022 by the city of Wodonga, recognising his selfless work for veterans and people with disabilities.

Professor Frank Oberklaid AM – Paediatrician, founding director, Centre for Community Child Health (South Yarra)

Professor Frank Oberklaid AM.

Professor Frank Oberklaid AM is an internationally recognised authority and advocate for children’s health.

The paediatrician was director of the Centre for Community Child Health at The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne for 25 years and is co-group leader of Child Health Policy, Equity and Translation at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

Frank has focused on helping children with developmental and behavioural problems through research-based programs.

He recently developed the Mental Health in Primary Schools Program, which upskills experienced teachers to become mental health and wellbeing coordinators. The aim is to reduce children’s mental health issues through prevention and early intervention in the school setting. The program is now in more than 100 Victorian schools.

Frank also helped develop the parenting website raisingchildren.net.au, which receives one million visits each week. He is an Honorary Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Melbourne, a sought-after speaker and winner of many prestigious awards.

Victoria Young Australian of the Year

Molly Fergus – Foster carer and foster care advocate (Frankston)

Noel Lim – Co-founder, Anika Legal (Coburg)

Darcy McGauley-Bartlett – Advocate for Indigenous health care in prisons (Bendigo)

Mohamed Semra – Anti-racism campaigner and co-founder, Endeavour Youth Australia (Maidstone)

Victoria Local Hero

Mark Bachmann – Ecologist and founder, Nature Glenelg Trust (Mumbannar)

Joanne Blake – Wildlife and animal companion volunteer (Sale)

Jack Levitt – Founder, Flynn’s Walk (Melbourne)

Belinda Young – Founder, Mums of the Hills (Sassafras)

The Victoria nominees are among 130 people being recognised across all states and territories.

The four award recipients from Victoria will be announced on the evening of Tuesday 8 November 2022 in a ceremony at Victoria Government House in Melbourne, which will also be available to watch via ABC iView from 6pm (local VIC time).

They will then join the other state and territory recipients as national finalists for the national awards announcement on 25 January 2023 in Canberra. 

National Australia Day Council CEO, Karlie Brand congratulated the nominees on their recognition.

“The 2023 Victorian nominees are a diverse group of achievers and community contributors,” said Karlie.

“Their endeavours remind us of the power we all have to make a difference.”

The 2023 Awards also mark 20years of the Local Hero category. Introduced in 2003, the award acknowledges extraordinary contributions made by Australians in their local community.

Victorian recipients of Australia’s Local Hero include:

·     2017 Vicki Jellie – Community fundraising champion, bringing cancer services to SW Victoria

·     2014 Tim Conolan – Children’s charity founder

·     2008 Jonathon Welch AM – Choral conductor

·     2007 Shanaka Fernando – Social challenger.

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