Recognising the people tirelessly working in our communities to support others is essential. The Australian of the Year Awards aims to highlight these people and their contributions to Australia. I would also like to showcase the impact this year’s winners are having.
2020 Australian of the Year: Dr James Muecke
Dr James Muecke has been passionate about fighting blindness, starting from his time working in Kenya. He has recently focused upon the relationship between type 2 diabetes and blindness, which is affected nearly 1 in 10 Australians. Dr Muecke also co-founded Vision Myanmar at the South Australia Institute of Ophthalmology in 2000, which has developed and operated eye health and blindness initiatives in Myanmar.
The success of this project lead to the founding of ‘Sight For All’, a social impact organisation which creates low-cost programs to fight blindness through research, education and infrastructure, and raises funds to deliver eye health care projects free overseas to partner countries and communities. Congratulations to Dr Muecke and thank you for your contribution.
2020 Young Australian of the Year: Ashleigh Barty
Ashleigh Barty has exploded onto the tennis scene over the past 12 months. After an up-and-down start to her career, she has finally reaped the rewards of her work ethic, consistency and patience. She is currently the number one ranked women’s singles player by the Women’s Tennis Association and is quickly becoming a household name in Australia. Barty also serves as the National Indigenous Tennis Ambassador for Tennis Australia, demonstrating her passion for expanding the game of tennis around Australia.
Ash Barty is the tennis inspiration Australians have been looking for. She is respectful, humble and talks with grace. Although disappoints arise, Barty remains upbeat and embodies a growth mindset. Congratulation to Ash Barty and we look forward to continuing watching you grow into the future.
2020 Local Hero: Bernie Shakeshaft
After seeing the plight of disadvantaged youth in his community, Bernie Shakeshaft made the decision to take action. He founded the BackTrack Youth Works Program, aiming to transform the lives of Australia’s most vulnerable children. He developed a program which utilised animal-assisted learning, agricultural skills and a residential facility to achieve success, resulting in more than 1,000 children reconnecting with their education and families. The program has positively impacted many rural communities, such as decreasing the youth crime rate in Armidale by more than 38%, saving millions of dollars.
Bernie’s kind, graceful, and effective method of changing the lives of children should be celebrated. He acknowledged an issue and used his own skills to address it. He never looked for recognition, but always put the kids first. Congratulations, Bernie Shakeshaft, thank you for all your effort.