Australian of the Year Awards: “You Can Make a Difference” - Hope 103.2

Australian of the Year Awards: “You Can Make a Difference”

This years’ nominees include a cancer survivor on a mission, and two professors who changed the way we treat our "national" disease.

By Mike CrooksThursday 25 Jan 2024NewsReading Time: 3 minutes

As always, Australia’s national day on January 26 not only comes with celebration and reflection (and barbecues), but an acknowledgement of some very special locals.

This year, there are 34 people in the running for the Australian of the Year awards.

The awards include Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Australia’s Local Hero.

All nominees were put forward by a member of the Australian public who were “inspired by their achievements or contributions, and believed their story should be shared with all Australians,” said National Australia Day Council CEO Mark Fraser.

“Whether they have spent a lifetime helping others, are forging new pathways, breaking down barriers, bringing people together, challenging us to do better or demonstrating the potential we all have to achieve greatness, the national nominees are all showing us what it is to be exemplary citizens.”

Australian of the Year

The awards will be announced on Thursday evening, the eve of the Australia Day public holiday.

Among the nominees for the top gong are Sydney professors Georgina Long and Richard Scolyer, whose tireless work on melanoma – Australia’s so-called “national cancer” – has saved countless lives.

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“Their enduring partnership has saved thousands of lives from melanoma,” read a University of Sydney statement.

“Less than a decade ago, advanced melanoma was fatal. Thanks to Richard and Georgina’s immunotherapy approach, which activates a patient’s own immune system, it has become a curable disease.”

The nominees also include:

  • Canberra’s Joanne Farrell, who is a champion for females in the construction industry. She founded Build Like A Girl, which supports girls and women to work in trades.
  • Stephanie Trethewey, the former Tasmanian TV journalist who set up the charity Motherland to connect mothers raising children on the land.
  • WA’s Mechelle Turvey, the mum of teenager Cassius Turvey, who died after being assaulted coming home from school in Perth in 2022. Miss Turvey has become an inspiring and crucial advocate for victims of crime.

The full list of nominees can be found here:

Young Australian of the Year

In Sydney, an extraordinary medical student represents NSW for the Young Australian of the Year award.

Nikhil Autar was diagnosed with leukaemia at the age of 17 and was given a “10 to 20 per cent chance of surviving,” he said.

Not only is he beating those odds, but he created Bheem Health, “a social enterprise that provides low-cost medical devices for sick and vulnerable people.”

He also created the device BheemUP, which allows any bed to be converted into a hospital bed.

Nikhil was still a teen when he underwent chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants and open-heart surgery.

As a cancer survivor who understands the importance of access for people with disability, Nikhil also created Knia Maps – “Know In Advance Maps” – which he calls the “Google Maps of accessibility.”

The maps have “plotted accessibility” at major Sydney hospitals, universities, public venues and transport, and many small businesses.

“One in six people in Australia have a disability,” Nikhil said. “Fifty metres can be the difference… between life and death.”


Giving people happiness

Now a medical student, Nikhil has raised almost $500,000 in grant funding and conducted cancer research.

He is a blogger, disability advocate and motivational speaker.

He’s currently developing BheemSense, the world’s first sensor mat that tracks sleep phases and helps minimise pressure sores.

But Nikhil says that you don’t need a medical degree to help others. He says simply providing transport or assistance to someone with a disability can be life changing.

“The best form of happiness is giving other people happiness,” he said. “You don’t need to be a doctor to make a difference.”

For more information on the awards visit here.

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