Canberra’s finest in the running for national awards

Posted 24 Jan 2019

Story by CBR Canberra

Each year our nation honours the achievements and contributions of its best and brightest through the Australian of the Year Awards.

Meet the remarkable Canberrans in the running for the national awards, due to be announced on 25 January 2019 right here in the nation’s capital. Good luck and congratulations to all nominees.

ACT Australian of the Year 2019

Virginia Haussegger AM

For over 25 years, Virginia Haussegger AM has built a career as a television journalist, writer and commentator. She is also a leading advocate for women, and was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2014 for service to the community, gender equity and the media.

Journalist and commentator Virginia Haussegger AM is a leading advocate for gender equality. In 2017 she founded the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation, with a singular focus on improving the representation of women in leadership and key decision making roles across Australia and the region.

Over nearly three decades Virginia built a stellar career as a television journalist and commentator. She has reported around the globe for leading current affairs programs on Channel 7, the 9 Network and the ABC, and anchored the ABC’s flagship TV News in Canberra for 15 years. Her views on the status of women have been widely published and debated across the media. She is currently spearheading a program of research into national attitudes to gender equality and its impact on men and boys.

In 2014 she was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for service to the community, as an advocate for women’s rights and gender equity, and to the media.

ACT Senior Australian of the Year 2019

Dr Suzanne Packer AM

Since starting her career as a paediatrician in 1972, Dr Sue Packer AM has worked tirelessly to advocate for the rights of children. Sue has been a leader in child abuse prevention and treatment and a champion of the importance of early childhood environments for the developing brain.

Since starting her career as a paediatrician in 1972, Dr Sue Packer AM has worked tirelessly to advocate for the rights of children. Sue has been a leader in child abuse prevention and treatment and a champion of the importance of early childhood environments for the developing brain.

Since starting her career as a paediatrician in 1972, Dr Sue Packer AM has worked tirelessly to advocate for the rights of children in our healthcare system and in the wider community.
She has been involved in child abuse prevention through the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect since its very early days and has treated babies and children suffering terrible trauma from child abuse and neglect.

In addition, Sue has championed the importance of early childhood environments for the developing brain, leading to recognition by education and government agencies. Sue was one of the driving forces behind the acknowledgement of the importance of creating child-friendly spaces in hospitals and the value of play in recovery.

Presenting papers at conferences internationally and still volunteering on a number of boards to improve health and well-being of children. She maintains an interest in the adult lives of children she has seen. Sue stands up for the rights of children at every opportunity and encourages others to do the same.

ACT Young Australian of the Year 2019

Hannah Wandel

Concerned by the challenges faced by young women in regional Australia, Hannah Wandel founded Country to Canberra to help break down the barriers to success. In 2018, Hannah travelled over 32,000kms to 80 bush communities nationally, reaching over 3,500 teenage girls to run gender equality, leadership and empowerment workshops.

Concerned by the challenges faced by young women in regional Australia, Hannah Wandel founded Country to Canberra to help break down gender and geographical barriers to success. Hannah’s passion for helping others was inspired by the generous response of her rural community when a fire destroyed her family’s home when Hannah was just 13 years old.

In 2018, Hannah’s amazing energy and drive saw her travel over 32,000kms to 80 bush communities nationally, to reach over 3,500 teenage girls to run gender equality, leadership and empowerment workshops.

Hannah has also organised ‘Power Trip’ camps where young rural women visit Canberra to be mentored by politicians and CEOs, and undertake training. Country to Canberra seeks to equip girls to become leaders in their communities and reach their potential. Program evaluations overwhelmingly show girls who attend have a greater understanding of equality issues and improved self-confidence.

Hannah’s tireless efforts to advocate for young women also sees her volunteering on multiple community boards.

ACT Local Hero 2019

David Williams

David Williams encourages people with intellectual disabilities to speak up for themselves, rather than relying on others to speak on their behalf. David founded the Confident Speakers program 22 years ago, providing participants with a structured communication course and personal mentoring, to help their voices be heard.

For people with an intellectual disability, it can be challenging to have their voices heard. But David Williams is helping these people to speak up for themselves, instead of relying on others.

David founded the Confident Speakers program 22 years ago, providing participants with the skills and tools they need to communicate their viewpoint and participate in the broader community. The program combines a structured communication course with social engagement, encouragement and mentoring.

This approach, along with David’s persistence and care, has seen participants who seemed non-verbal, grow in confidence, and deliver presentations to others and the community. Participants have also prepared and delivered papers at international conferences, including the International Down Syndrome Congress and the 2013 World Down Syndrome Day at the UN.

David’s dedication to people with disabilities has included coordinating five fundraising balls for the ACT Down Syndrome Association, assisting in the Annual Buddy Walk and delivering the ACT’s Athlete Leadership Program for Special Olympics over 6 years.

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