The locals in the running to be the 2017 Australian of the Year are…

act australian of the year nominees 2016

NATIONAL Australia Day Council CEO, Chris Kirby, says Community leaders, health and disability advocates, humanitarians and environmental champions are among the finalists in the 2017 ACT Australian of the Year Awards.

The ACT Award finalists announced today are in the running to be named ACT Australian of the Year, ACT Senior Australian of the Year, ACT Young Australian of the Year and ACT Local Hero.

The 2017 ACT Award finalists are:


  • Katrina Fanning – Community leader (Farrer)
  • Jessica May – Disability advocate (North Lyneham)
  • Ricky Stuart – Advocate for children with autism (Yarralumla)
  • Alan Tongue – Youth mentor and educator (Canberra)


  • Judith McLeod – Community volunteer (Weetangera)
  • Wendy Rainbird – Environmental champion (Canberra)
  • Terry Snow AM – Philanthropist (Deakin)
  • Dick Telford – Sports Scientist (Forrest)


  • Alpha Cheng – Humanitarian (Barton)
  • Heidi Prowse – Cystic Fibrosis champion (Hackett)
  • Rachael Stevens – Mental health advocate (Holder)
  • Caterina Sullivan – Sustainable development activist (O’Connor)


  • David Boddy – Community champion (Chapman)
  • Stasia Dabrowski OAM – Soup kitchen volunteer (Canberra)
  • Tash Maguire – Childhood cancer crusader (Marchment)
  • Marg Peachey – Wildlife warrior (Kambah)

The ACT Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Local Hero Award recipients will be announced on Monday 31 October 2016 at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.

The ACT Award recipients will then join recipients from all other States and Territories as finalists for the national awards, which will be held in Canberra on 25 January 2017.

“The ACT finalists are among 131 great Australians being recognised as State and Territory finalists in the Australian of the Year Awards,” Chris said.

“The Australian of the Year Awards allow us to recognise and celebrate the achievements of outstanding Australians – people making extraordinary contributions to our society.

“The ACT Award finalists share a motivation to help people, often putting aside their own life challenges to focus on bringing about positive change for others and to make real changes in the broader community. Their outlook and efforts have inspired those around them and make them Australians to be proud of.”

For more information on the Australian of the Year Awards visit



Katrina Fanning
Sportswoman and community leader
Representing Australia playing rugby league for more than a decade, Katrina Fanning was the most capped female player in the world when she retired. A respected leader both on and off the field, Katrina was admired for her ability to get the best out of everyone in her team. Today, Katrina is applying those well-honed leadership skills to champion the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in a range of settings – from employment to housing. As an advisor to governments and corporations, Katrina is developing life-changing education, employment, health and other policies and programs to support Indigenous Australians. She volunteers her time to support her local community through a range of activities – creating an indigenous showcase to promote local businesses, driving NAIDOC week celebrations and sitting on the board of Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council among them. Katrina is determined to ensure Aboriginal people are part of the decision-making process – regardless of the topic of conversation.

Jessica May
Disability advocate and entrepreneur
After being diagnosed with a panic disorder, the formerly high-flying Jessica May had trouble finding flexible employment. Undeterred, she decided to establish a recruitment and placement firm to support the 4.5 million Australians living with a disability who struggle to find traditional work. Jessica’s brainchild, Enabled Employment, uses the digital space to match the talents of individuals with disabilities with managers looking for skills. The service also supports former Australian Defence Force personnel with post-traumatic stress disorder and other injuries. An advocate and an innovator with insight and vision, Jessica has developed a simple but creative business model that has given hundreds of people the opportunity to gain meaningful employment, while building skills, self-esteem and self-reliance. A true inspiration for people with a disability and for women entrepreneurs everywhere, Jessica has overcome significant adversity in her own life. With courage, determination and great personal sacrifice, Jessica is empowering people, challenging perceptions and building a stronger and more inclusive community.

Ricky Stuart
Advocate for children with autism
He may have reached the pinnacle of success as an international rugby league superstar and coach, but Ricky Stuart’s work off the field is just as spectacular. Ricky played more than 200 rugby league games at the highest level, and represented Australia as a dual-international with the Kangaroos and the Wallabies. He has coached grand final winners and State of Origin and Australian teams and was presented with the prestigious Clive Churchill Medal. After his daughter was diagnosed with autism, Ricky established a foundation to support children with autism and their families. In 2016, the Ricky Stuart Foundation, in partnership with the ACT Government, opened a world-class respite centre for young children with autism or other disabilities, and plans for a state-of-the-art centre for teens are underway. The much-loved coach of the Canberra Raiders, Ricky has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for children with autism, while also donating his time and skill to many other charities to support and strengthen his community.

Alan Tongue
Youth mentor and educator
After a stellar sporting career, Alan Tongue understands how to demand and inspire greatness in others. Since retiring from football in 2011, Alan began applying his talents to help young people at the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre make the most of the cards they’d been dealt. Alan created the Aspire program to rehabilitate young people and equip them with life skills to make positive choices. The program has since expanded to include prisoners at the Alexander Maconochie Centre, and disengaged youth in Canberra’s schools. Determined to tackle family violence, Alan travels throughout the ACT and NSW to educate football players and High School students about how they can eradicate family violence, and he is partnering with Barnardos to teach young people how to build healthy and respectful relationships. A friendly face at the Early Morning Centre for homeless people, Alan regularly serves breakfast to help some of the community’s most vulnerable. Post-retirement, Alan’s status as a Canberra legend continues to grow.


Judith McLeod, 72
Community volunteer
When the chronic diabetes she had endured since a teenager finally took her leg 15 years ago, Judith McLeod was determined not to lose her energy or enthusiasm for life. By the time Judith became an amputee, she was accustomed to overcoming obstacles. She’d been told she would never reach 40 – but is now 72. Despite having to give up her rewarding public service career, Judith was determined not to become housebound. Today, she is a life member of Swimming ACT (after volunteering in many roles for 20 years), shares her story with newly-diagnosed diabetics and amputees, and volunteers at her local Salvation Army store each week. Judith raises money for children with special needs and has been a popular president of the National Seniors North Canberra Branch.
She also donates her time to the Australian National University Medical School to help students further their understanding of patient treatment, medical conditions and care of diabetics. Resilient in the face of adversity, Judith’s positivity and generosity inspire others.

Wendy Rainbird, 74
Environmental champion
Channelling her passion for the environment, Wendy Rainbird has devoted more than two decades to the preservation of the bush capital. As the Farrer Ridge ParkCare co-ordinator – an entirely voluntary role – Wendy has been instrumental in creating a signposted walk around the much-loved ridge. Her drive to protect the natural environment has taken her far beyond the borders of the national capital. She has been elected as environment adviser to the International Council for Women, which advocates for human rights for women. Wendy was also the environment advisor for National Council of Women of Australia for six years, reporting on the impacts and consequences of climate change. A former teacher and active member of ACT Landcare, Wendy delights in taking groups including school children for walking tours along the tracks of Farrer Ridge. She’s led teachers’ training, run specialist workshops, written learning modules and examined education practice to help students gain a lifelong interest in sustainability.

Terry Snow AM, 72
Entrepreneur and philanthropist
An astute businessman responsible for the development of the Canberra Airport, Terry Snow has spent nearly three decades investing in the nation’s capital and its people. Terry’s economic contribution to Canberra is impressive, and his vision has delivered first-class facilities, and created jobs and opportunities. Terry and his brother George established the Snow Foundation in 1991, and since then have provided more than $18 million to help 200-plus organisations and individuals throughout the region. The charities that have been touched by Terry’s generosity include well-known organisations like Barnardos and The Smith Family, as well as a host of smaller social initiatives such as The Yellow Van, a food rescue service feeding the homeless and disadvantaged people, and Home in Queanbeyan, a housing and outreach service for men and women suffering chronic mental illness. Terry is also committed to other social issues, and in 2015 night visitors to Canberra Airport were greeted with the colours of the rainbow in a public show of support for marriage equality.

Dick Telford, 71
Sports scientist and coach
Undoubtedly Australia’s most dedicated marathon running coach, Dick Telford has coached distance runners to eight Commonwealth Games medals, four being gold, as well as coaching Australia’s only Olympic marathon medallist, Lisa Ondieki. While his sustained coaching success has propelled him into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, Dick’s pioneering research into the ‘physical literacy’ of Australian children is equally deserving of a gold medal. As the director of the National Lifestyle of Our Kids Study, Dick’s work has shown that quality physical education led not only to better health, but to better NAPLAN results. He’s now working on a plan to implement physical literacy programs into state education systems. The first sports scientist appointed by the Australian Institute of Sport, Dick is currently a professorial fellow at the University of Canberra’s Research Institute for Sport and Exercise and Adjunct Professor at the Australian National University, while volunteering endless hours to coach an elite distance running squad and Olympic marathon runners.


Alpha Cheng, 29
After suffering the profound loss of his father at the hands of an extremist, Alpha Cheng has turned his tragedy into a call for Australians to unite rather than be divided by hate. Arriving in Sydney with his family as an immigrant from Hong Kong as a child, Alpha grew up in a loving family that embraced multicultural diversity. In October 2015, Alpha’s father, Curtis Cheng, was murdered while leaving work in Parramatta. Since then, Alpha has become a vocal advocate for gun control, and has worked voluntarily to promote a national gun amnesty. Moreover, Alpha actively encourages acceptance and tolerance, and has spoken out against people who would use his father’s death to justify their opposition to Muslim immigration. A passionate Humanities teacher in a Canberra high school, Alpha is committed to imparting fairness and equality to all his students. Despite suffering at the hands of extremists, Alpha continues to believe Australia is a better place when we all respect our rich diversity of cultures.

Heidi Prowse, 29
Cystic Fibrosis champion
When the man she loved told her he had cystic fibrosis, Heidi Prowse didn’t shy away. Instead, Heidi put her positive attitude and problem-solving skills to great use, volunteering for Cystic Fibrosis ACT, and, together with husband Andrew, organised the inaugural Santa Speedo Shuffle. The event, which started with seven friends braving chilly conditions to circle Lake Burley Griffin in speedos and Santa hats, has collected $360,000 in just four years. In 2016, a record 101 people participated, with funds raised providing practical support services, such as equipment, nutritional supplements and sport and recreation grants. Today, as the organisation’s Executive Officer, Heidi divides her time between administration, fundraising and meeting with families and medical staff. A woman of enormous capacity, tenacity and integrity, Heidi supports parents of newborns diagnosed with CF and consoles those suffering. Learning first-hand the debilitating effects of CF, Heidi is determined to make a difference to people living with this chronic genetic condition.

Rachael Stevens, 25
Mental health advocate
A survivor of a suicide attempt, anorexia and child abuse, Rachael Stevens uses her words and art to change young people’s lives for the better. Rachael was just 15 years old when a diagnosis of anorexia derailed her life.
At 17, Rachael was told she was more likely to lose her life to mental illness than recover. Now a youth mental health advocate and author of The Skeleton Diaries, Rachael shares her story of resilience and hope with others. Rachael voluntarily visits young people in schools across the ACT, shedding light on a hidden illness and encouraging them to rewrite their story. Her workshops and talks have inspired thousands not to give up despite challenges and seek help if they are struggling. With steadfast commitment, Rachael is focused on suicide prevention, health promotion and early intervention, empowering the next generation to seek support before they reach crisis. She offers her real-life example of why a person’s past does not have to be a permanent prison which disqualifies them from having incredible future.

Caterina Sullivan, 21
Sustainable development activist
Determined to support the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development, Caterina Sullivan has established a not-for-profit to ensure all Australians understand and work towards sustainability. Drawing on the skills learnt during three months in New York with Global Citizen last year, Caterina has created Global Goals Australia. As CEO, Caterina is spearheading a campaign to raise awareness of the 17 goals signed off by 193 nations, and how Australians can work together to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and address climate change by 2030. In the lead-up to the 2016 Federal election, Caterina secured written commitments from the three major parties towards achieving the goals, and has gathered the support of both individuals and corporates around the nation. With passion and purpose, Caterina is determined to help Australians appreciate why achieving these ambitious goals “isn’t just about far-away countries”, and why we should all work together to give everyone the best chance at life.


David Boddy (Chapman)
LEGO lover and community champion
At 50 years of age, David Boddy is not someone you would expect to see playing with LEGO. But David is sharing his passion for the little plastic bricks, and raising thousands of dollars for the Canberra community. In 2009, together with other LEGO enthusiasts, David established the Canberra LEGO Users Group and is the driving force behind the Canberra Brick Expo. In just six years, the Expo has raised more than $250,000 to purchase pieces of vital medical equipment for the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children at Canberra Hospital. Now chairman of not-for-profit Brick Expo Enterprises, David devotes countless hours to staging LEGO expos. Among David’s dazzling creations is a 92,000-piece portrait of Queen Elizabeth II for the Australian Museum of Democracy and a mock fish tank housing a school of clown fish which is now found in the Canberra Hospital. A quiet achiever, David volunteers at workshops and public events to share his love of LEGO with people of all ages.

Stasia Dabrowski OAM (Canberra)
Soup kitchen volunteer
Best known as the ‘soup kitchen lady’, Stasia Dabrowski has been serving Canberra’s neediest for nearly four decades. Despite passing the 90-year milestone, Stasia shows no signs of slowing down. Born in 1926 in Poland, Stasia’s family lost everything during World War II. Arriving in Canberra in 1964 with her husband and young family, Stasia remembered her own experiences when her teenage son came home talking about a homeless family needing food, they cooked pizzas for them and that began the helping of others. Stasia is up at 5am six days each week, driving her van around Canberra to collect donated food from companies, then distributes it. Stasia runs a mobile soup kitchen in Civic – something she’s done relentlessly, rain, hail or shine since 1979. She peels and cooks 180 kilograms of vegetables Thursday night’s, feeding up to 500 people on a busy Friday night. A Canberra icon, Stasia gives not only food, but love, kindness and compassion to all.

Tash Maguire (Yass)
Childhood cancer crusader
After her beautiful baby daughter Maya was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Tash Maguire was inspired to make happy memories for children battling life-limiting illnesses. She garnered the support of a troupe of volunteers and began collecting and distributing toys to hospitals around Australia for sick children – a project she calls Warming Beautiful Souls. Tragically, Maya passed away in 2013, but her legacy lives on in her mother’s work.
Tash, her husband Mark and daughter Amelia have built a special house in Yass, just outside Canberra, to provide respite for families with sick children, and for grieving parents to escape and recharge. Maya’s Rest is available at no cost, and Tash lovingly looks after these families so they can concentrate on connecting, uniting and gathering strength. Tash has brought the community of Yass together to support Maya’s Rest, with tree-planting days and other events raising funds to support families in their most difficult moments, and to ensure her precious daughter is remembered.

Marg Peachey (Kambah)
Wildlife warrior
Devoting her days to taking sick and injured wildlife under her wing, Marg Peachey spent a decade working as an animal carer and shelter manager before starting ACT Wildlife in 2013. The tireless and unpaid force behind the organisation, Marg leads a large group of volunteers who rescue, rehabilitate and release native wildlife. With warmth and commitment, Marg nurtures native animals great and small – from orphaned wombats, wallabies and possums hit by cars, reptiles mauled by dogs and birds caught by cats to flying foxes caught in fruit nets.
The Chair of the Australian Wildlife Rehabilitation Conference for the last three years, Marg’s wealth of knowledge and hands-on experience has driven her to develop and deliver wildlife training courses for veterinary nurses studying at the Canberra Institute of Technology.
A calligrapher and nature photographer, animal educator and wildlife warrior, Marg inspires others to protect and cherish Canberra’s precious native animals.


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