Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has celebrated the diversity of passions, backgrounds and achievements among nominees for the Australian of the Year awards.
From community heroes to advocates and Indigenous leaders, finalists from across the country gathered in Canberra on Wednesday evening for an awards ceremony.
Mr. Albanese met the 32 finalists over morning tea at The Lodge.
“You are a vivid snapshot of the greatness of our modern nation,” said the prime minister.
“Despite all your efforts, you are united by a common determination to use your talents to work for the good of others.
“You would all be a worthy winner as you are already great Australians.”
The Prime Minister also thanked 2022 Australians of the Year Dylan Alcott, Valmai Dempsey, Daniel Nour and Shanna Whan for their services.
He said they had set the bar high for the 2023 winners and he hoped to continue working with them in the future.
“(Australian of the Year awards are) an honor and a challenge. A reward and a responsibility,” said Albanese.
“It is to your eternal credit that each of you answered that call with such passion and enthusiasm and endless good humour.”
The 2023 finalists include human rights activist Craig Foster, migrant leader John Kamara, Indigenous musician William Barton, insect breeding pioneer Olympia Yarger, documentary filmmaker Taryn Brumfitt, Land Council president Samuel Bush-Blanasi, pediatrician Angraj Khillan and end-of-life advocate Samar Aoun.
This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the Local Hero Award, which recognizes the work of community leaders across the country.
One of the finalists for the award is Victorian Belinda Hill, the founder of Mums of the Hills, an organization that helps connect mothers in the Yarra and Dandenong regions.
“We set it up to make sure there’s a good bond between mothers throughout their journey as a mother, whether they’re pregnant or grandparents,” she told AAP.
“We also provide opportunities to respond, to prepare for and recover from natural disasters.”
WA Local Hero nominee James Murphy started the Town Team Movement as a way to inspire people to improve their communities.
The movement has more than 110 teams that help foster connections within local areas through events such as street festivals, worker bees and food co-ops.
“People are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of connecting with others,” Murphy said.
“Any kind of local network you can tap into in your local community will benefit a better life overall.”
Jahdai Vigona, the Northern Territory’s Young Australian of the Year finalist, has been recognized for his role as an Indigenous community leader.
The man from the Tiwi Islands helps run mental health education programs in schools.
“It actually makes me very proud just to know that there are so many like-minded people like me out there who want to help the world around them and make an impact and change it for the better,” he said.
“I also advocate for young people to have opportunities, make sure they take care of their health, and make sure those opportunities are supported in the NT.”