Who will be named Australia's Local Hero at the 2023 Australian of the Year Awards?
From nominations submitted by the public, there are 32 people in the running to be named 2023 Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Australia's Local Hero.
The Local Hero finalists this year include a volunteer ambulance officer, an advocate for responsible pet ownership, a medical scientist helping women from culturally and linguistically diverse groups and a social entrepreneur bringing people together to regenerate their own communities.
One of these inspiring Aussies will be named Australia's Local Hero for 2023 at the Australian of the Year Awards to be presented in Canberra on January 25.
Here are the national finalists:
Scientist and co-founder of SiTara's Story.
Dr Shamaruh Mirza is a medical scientist, but she knows that feeling connected and having someone to talk to is as important as any medicine for good health.
Originally from Bangladesh, Shamaruh was seeing a lot of women dealing with depression as she did volunteer work among culturally and linguistically diverse groups in Canberra.
Wanting to give women of diverse backgrounds a safe space in which to discuss their challenges and gain confidence, she co-founded SiTara's Story in 2017. It would be somewhere women could discuss stigmatised topics without fear, form support networks and empower themselves.
The volunteer-run not-for-profit now organises workshops, talk shops, seminars and creative competitions that support women to discuss mental health, disability, domestic violence, self-care and skill development. In 2021, the organisation was awarded the ACT Mental Health Month award.
Shamaruh, 44, was herself a finalist in the Canberra Community Spirits Award 2021.
Founder of Turbans 4 Australia.
Amar Singh believes helping others should not be limited by religion, language or cultural background.
Amar, 41, founded a charity after experiencing racial slurs and insults because of his Sikh turban and beard. He wanted to show people they didn't need to be afraid and began helping struggling Australians.
Every week, Turbans 4 Australia package and distribute up to 450 food and grocery hampers to people experiencing food insecurity in Western Sydney.
They also raise awareness and funds for important causes while promoting multiculturalism and religious tolerance. But the organisation is best known around Australia since its founding in 2015 for transporting emergency goods to those in need.
Turbans 4 Australia has delivered hay to farmers experiencing drought; supplies to flood victims in Lismore and bushfire-impacted people on the South Coast; food hampers to the isolated and vulnerable during COVID-19 lockdowns; and supplies to the Salvation Army in central Queensland in the devastating wake of Cyclone Marcia.
Social worker and founder of Two Two One mental health charity.
Darwin social worker Sacha King set up her own charity in 2019 after she noticed a lack of mental health services in the Northern Territory. The region has almost twice the amount of mental health patients per capita than the Australian average and the lowest number of services.
Two Two One delivers accredited mental health training and community workshops to close gaps in the delivery of mental health services and education.
Sacha also organises events for young people around Darwin that create safe spaces where they can relax, share stories and access services and support.
The 'GO (Girls Only) Night' brings girls together with women from different backgrounds to connect and develop life skills, while the Darwin City Launch series offers local disadvantaged youth a sporting outlet on Saturday nights.
Sacha, aged 32, also coordinates events for the Annual Mental Health Week. Funds raised go to running Mental Health First Aid courses in schools.
Founder of A Brave Life.
Melissa had been coping with a dysfunctional family life when she became pregnant at 16. Despite constantly being told her life was over, Melissa finished high school when she was seven months pregnant.
She had very limited family support and struggled to buy essentials but worked hard. Melissa attended university as a single parent with a one-year-old in tow and became a registered nurse and midwife.
Working in healthcare, she recognised the need for better support for teenage and young mothers.
She began giving newborn essentials to young mums who were struggling. Within 12 months, she'd started A Brave Life.
The charity supports young mothers dealing with domestic violence, poverty, trauma, relationship breakdowns, unplanned pregnancy and homelessness. It provides essentials such as baby supplies, emotional nurturing and paths to education and employment.
By mid-2022, 45-year-old Melissa had delivered more than 8000 baby bundle care packages.
Co-founder of Lost Pets of South Australia and creator of the Chipblitz program
More than 65,000 pets across Australia have received a microchip thanks to 61-year-old Christine Robertson, but that wasn't what she initially set out to achieve.
Christine co-founded the Lost Pets of South Australia charity in 2013 to reunite lost pets with their families. The volunteer organisation uses social media and its connections with the RSPCA and other animal welfare groups to get lost animals back home.
However, it soon became apparent that many pets were being lost because their owners couldn't afford to get them microchipped. Microchip fees generally start at about $65. So, Christine developed the Chipblitz program in 2015, allowing trained implanters to microchip a pet for just $10.
Chipblitz is now the biggest pet microchipping program in the Southern Hemisphere. It has a partnership with national pet goods store PETstock and 1400-plus volunteers. More than 44,000 pets have been chipped in South Australia alone since the program began.
Volunteer ambulance officer and ammunition technical officer.
Keith Parker has specialised in explosive ordnance throughout his Army career, serving overseas and assisting the United Nations (UN) on several occasions.
He helped the UN modernise and improve its explosives storage when he managed an international explosives safety trial at Woomera, South Australia.
Keith also acted as an Australian representative to help negotiate weapons surrender during a period of conflict in the Solomon Islands.
Outside of his army role, since 2011 Keith has contributed more than 1500 hours a year as a Volunteer Ambulance Officer (VAO) for Ambulance Tasmania in Sheffield. He has often been a first responder to the scene of medical emergencies in rural Tasmania and works alongside paramedics to provide patient care.
Keith, 66, has progressed to VAO-4 (the highest rank) and now assists in the training of new recruits, covers vacant night shifts and operates solo as a first responder if no paramedics are available.
Founder of Mums of the Hills
Belinda Young founded the Mums of the Hills Facebook group in 2015 to help mothers connect online and face-to-face in the Yarra and Dandenong ranges. The group, more than 5000 members, is recommended by local mother and baby services to new mothers.
Belinda, 46, has provided a steady source of practical support to help her community respond to and recover from natural disasters, collaborating with key agencies, organisations and groups - from organising insurance, bushfire preparedness and chainsaw workshops to coordinating storm-related information so it's easier to access.
She has advocated for better NBN, infrastructure and childcare services, and voluntarily created and shared resources and communications during the 2020 and 2021 pandemic lockdowns for local businesses, including mental health and food directories.
Belinda has also supported mothers escaping domestic violence and others facing financial struggles, boosting the sense of community and care in the region.
Co-founder of Town Team Movement.
Social entrepreneur James (Jimmy) Murphy founded the Town Team Movement to inspire and support people to be responsible for improving their communities. The non-profit social enterprise enables people and local government to connect, organise and act to regenerate neighbourhoods.
Jimmy uses Town Teams to advocate for more accessible and affordable community spaces that reflect the people who inhabit them. Residents, businesses and other community members are encouraged to form or join an existing Town Team group. Town Team Movement groups have held street festivals, run working bees, introduced street art, built community gardens, rewilded areas and created food co-ops.
Jimmy, 42, also co-founded Arts Impact WA, a philanthropic organisation that funds arts projects.
Jimmy's practical, positive approach has spread from Western Australia across the nation and to New Zealand. There are now more than 108 Town Teams making the world better - one community at a time.
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