Victorian 2021 Australian of the Year Awards presentation


Hello everyone and welcome to the 2021 Victorian Australian of the Year Awards.

I'm Richelle Hunt, co-host of ABCs The Conversation Hour and tonight your co-host of this awards, streaming to you live from Melbourne.


And I'm Warwick Long and I'm the co-anchor of ABC The Conversation Hour program with Richelle but I'm joining you from regional Victoria tonight in my hometown of Shepparton and co-host of what will be a great show tonight.

We've got some wonderful people to meet Richelle and I can't wait to go through it all but before we get started, we'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we are meeting. So for me, in Shepparton, I'm on Yorta Yorta and Bangarang country and I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.


And I would also like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we are meeting here this evening and pay my respects to their Elders, past and present, and extend that respect to other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that are viewing this evening.


Now although proceedings will look somewhat different this year, we still have a prestigious event and we really hope that you enjoy the show.

And this year, of all years, the Aussie spirit has really come to the fore.

Through unprecedented natural disasters, a global pandemic, our nation’s heroes have inspired with their awe and with their selfless acts.

Whether it be braving bushfires to save the lives of people as well as wildlife.

Maybe showing kindness through charity and to those in need.

Or caring for those that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Australians – and Victorians in particular – have displayed strength, character and it personifies the some of the best of those qualities that make us Australian.

I think we can all agree that this year has been a truly extraordinary year.

And our nominees are truly extraordinary Victorians.

And the thing is, we don’t often get a chance to thank them, so tonight, we can do exactly that.

This evening you're also welcome to join, to thank, and to recognise our heroes and you can do that by posting on social media.

So please, share your support. You can use the hashtag AusoftheYear. so if you put that first and its AUs of the year, and you can do that on Facebook, Twitter and of course on Instagram.


Hahstag Aus of the year. It would be wonderful if you could use that and celebrate our finalists and our winners.

This is the best of us in Victoria and it will be great to celebrate those people

and to give you an idea on how great some of these people are, we've received more than double the number of amount of awards nominations this year, reflecting the enormous challenges that we’ve had together, that Richelle outlined, but also the incredible people that we have out there.

And from those nominations, the ones located here in Victoria, our Victorian panel has selected the 17 incredible people that we're going to be celebrating tonight.

Our recipient will soon be announced in each category, been Australia’s Local Hero, the Young Australian of the Year, the Senior Australian of the Year, and the Australian of the Year Awards for Victoria.

Those four will then go on to join the other state and territory recipients at the national awards on the eve of Australia Day, which are announced of course by the Prime Minister and broadcast live on ABC TV and on Iview.

Whatever the outcome this evening, all our nominees richly deserve to be celebrated and richly deserve to here so once again, please use social media to celebrate them and let people know about their great story.

And we congratulate each of them for reaching this important stage of the nation’s most prestigious awards program.

Let’s hear now, from Her Excellency the Honourable Linda Dessau, Governor of Victoria, who has recorded this message for the nominees.


Let me start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land from which I'm sending this message, by paying my respects to the elders past and present, as well as to any elders attending the ceremony this evening.

Well, what a pleasure it is for me to once again have the opportunity to recognise the significant achievements of some exceptional Victorians, as the Victorian finalists for the 2021 Australian of the Year Awards are announced.

I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that the 61st year of the awards is quite unlike any other.

Naturally, I wish we were able to welcome you all here to our beautiful Government House, but as you know, that simply isn't possible this year.

I emphasis though, that a virtual ceremony shouldn’t be a dampener in any way.

We may not be gathered in the same room, but we've still come together to celebrate the outstanding ways in which each one of you, our nominees, has contributed to the life of our state and in turn, to the life of our nation.

Indeed the tribulation of this year mean that it is especially important to focus on the talent and the goodness that you represent, the recognition of each one of you in your respective fields, gives the rest of us a much needed boost.

It also affords us the chance to thank you for your significant contributions that traverse so many areas, including homelessness, disabilities, medical research, supplies and care, social impact start-ups, youth, sport, gender equality, renewable energy, bushfire preparedness and relief, and support for our Vietnamese community.

Now I know that summary doesn't do justice to the detail of your achievements in your respective fields of endeavour, but I do hope that it might highlight the diversity of what you do, and how you touch so many parts of our lives.

On behalf of the people of Victoria, I thank you. I congratulate each one of you and I wish the very best of luck to those who will represent Victoria in the national awards.

Enjoy the evening.


Thank you very much for that Governor, and a fine message too.

A virtual ceremony, maybe not what everybody wants, but completely understandable. It's fantastic to be able to take a journey around Victoria to people's homes, to people's places where they are and meet the nominees on their terms, which we're hoping to do tonight.

We’ll now hear from The Honourable Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria, who many of us have been watching quite a lot lately. He has prepared this message for all of us tonight.


Tonight, we come together for the Victorian Australian of the Year awards.

Physically apart but virtually connected.

Every year, these awards provide an opportunity to recognise some remarkable Victorians.

And to thank them for their contributions to our state.

But this year, I think that’s taken on extra meaning.

2020 has been tough. Tougher than we ever could’ve imagined.

But it’s also served as a reminder of the things that really matter:

Our sense of community and connection.

We’ve seen that in big ways and small.

From those working on our frontline

To the sacrifices of every single Victorian 

It’s never been more evident: the greatest strength of our state is our people.

Looking at the year’s nominees, that’s certainly true.

You are advocates, leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs.

Spanning fields as diverse as healthcare, the environment, gender equality and education.

To our nominees, and just as importantly those who support them

I want to say thank you.

Your efforts are helping to make our state, and our nation, stronger and fairer.

On behalf of every Victorian, congratulations and the very best of luck.


Thank you Premier, for those inspiring words. And yes. Hasn't he been a busy man.

Now, down to business. Our first award for this evening is Australia’s Local Hero. Now this award recognises Australians making a significant contribution to their local community.

Let’s take a closer look at this category and the important work and the amazing recipients that we've seen over the years.


Local heroes are really important to keeping Australian community strong because they're the glue. They're there to inspire to communicate with, to stay motivated, to lift everybody in that community when the chips are down.


I stand before you, not as an individual.

As a proud representative of every teacher around the country.


Community is much more than belonging to something.

It's about doing something together.

That makes belonging matter.


Anything's possible.

You are the answer.

And it only starts with a simple thing.


Australia's local hero category was added to reflect so many Australians out there that contribute to the local community.


When I give. I feel incredible joy, but I also feel this great sense of connection.


Our local heroes are everyday extraordinaries, who achieve extraordinary things.

These are Australians, who we celebrate as an example of what we can achieve when we put others before ourselves.


Australian local hero awards celebrates remarkable Australians who go above and beyond to be active citizens, making extraordinary contributions in their local communities and showcasing our Australian values.

They do not seek praise, but simply want to make their community a better place.

So congratulations to all of the finalists in Australia, local hero awards.


Almost countless million fellow Australians, we choose this handful each year to honour them, to support them and to encourage them.


Out of our tragedy, we created the Dolly's Dream, a vision to educate families and communities on the impacts that bullying has on young lives.


To our Aussie kids.

Doing it tough.

Hang on. Don't give up.

Folks on the way.


These are the people that form the fabric of our nation. They're on call 24/7, and we'll jump.

Whenever there's an emergency or someone needs help. And as I say they show you what's great about the people of Australia.


I love this category. It's so inspiring to watch all of those stories and this category acknowledges the vital work done on a local level in communities all across Victoria, and the nominees for the 2021 Victorian local hero are


Tenillie Bull, whose online platform, It's my shout raised money for small businesses devastated by fire, and lots of tourism in East Gippsland.

It's my shout allowed people to donate to local businesses by purchasing virtual products.

In eight weeks, It's my shout raised more than $140,000 with all funds going directly to the businesses involved to Tenillie 's ability to listen to others lifted the spirits of many locals traumatised by the fires, her generosity and enthusiasm in the face of adversity, is an inspiration to all.

Matthew Charles-Jones instigator of the community renewable energy group, Totally Renewable Yackandandah, or TRY. TRY’s goal is to sustain energy sovereignty for Yackandandah by 2022, a goal well within sight.

With Matthew's leadership, Yackandandah now has among the highest densities of rooftop solar in Australia.

The town has installed solar systems on all its major institutional buildings, and a mini grid to create a truly interdependent power supply.

Matthew regularly shares TRY’s journey with other communities, inspiring them to also reach for 100% renewable energy.

Nathan Rogers, a form of volunteer firefighter, whose organisation provides a bushfire preparedness and recovery support to elderly, injured and disabled community members.

The bushfire Foundation's volunteer team helps vulnerable people by cutting grass, cleaning gutters, removing rubbish, installing fire pumps and building fire breaks.

The foundation also helps with bushfire recovery, helping clean up damaged properties and delivering animal feed.

In the 2019-2020 bushfires, Nathan's appeal for bushfire victims in South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria raised more than $85,000, and has distributed around $55,000.

Dr Kirby white, a Bendigo GP, who co-founded gowns for doctors with colleague, Dr. Nicole Townsend.

When their clinic supply of disposable gowns ran out in the third week of the COVID 19 outbreak, they created a gown that could be laundered and reused and Gowns for doctors was born.

Kirby raised more than $40,000 to fund the initiative, then engage local volunteers and commercial textile companies to make the gowns.

They've created 5200 gowns supplying more than 750 Regional GP clinics with these essential garments.


Considering we've met our Local Hero nominees, all Tenillie, Matthew, Nathan and Kirby.

Don't put me out of my misery I suppose I should say and tell us who is the 2021 Victorian Local Hero of the Year.


It’s always so exciting. I've always wanted to do this. This is a big moment.

So a big congratulations the 2021 local hero for Victoria is Dr Kirby White.

I would just like to again congratulate Dr Kirby White for winning the Local Hero Award the Victorian Australian of the Year.

But let's move on now to the Young Australian of the Year category.

Now, this award recognises young inspiring Australians and Victorians in particular aged between 16 to 30 and already in their young age, have achieved incredible things in all walks of life.


Since 1979 we've had the Young Australian of the Year category, and that's acknowledging 16 to 30 year olds.

And let's face it, youth is the future of the nation.


I truly believe this award not just as for me, but rather as an endorsement of the achievements of Australian women's football national team.

And more broadly, Australian women's football and women's sport in general.


Whether it’d be through encouragement, support for their own ambition.

We all deserve the chance to dream.

So, dream big Australia because anything's possible.


Inspiring others, educating others, you know, celebrating the fact that we have a fantastic country to live in, where we can be and grow to our full potential.


We have the power to shape the future, and make Australia a place where we all proud where we all belong, and where we stand united.


This award ceremony is in a sense of celebration of the idea that individuals use his or her ability to give back to our great nation.


To look at our young Australians of the year is a glimpse into the future of our great nation. Their tenacity, commitment and success.  These are young Australians who are making a lasting difference to our great nation.


It takes about one hour to wash and dry someone's clothes and after about two minutes to set up there's not a huge amount to do so, we pull out the six orange chairs and everyone sits around and has a really nice chat, and that one our times really powerful.


You look for integrity, you look for human decency and you look for energy.


For me it's my whole life all of my team all of everyone that I work with, it's about being your authentic self.

Like I said just just trying to do the best that you can regardless of what you do, whether it's in sport, in life, in anything so this is incredibly humbling and it's going to be something that's it's very very high on my mental peace at home.


I dream of an Australia, where people are not afraid of learning Auslan, of having a go and uniting with a language that is uniquely Australian.


And you look at what they've done. And look at where they're going, we are in good hands.


Well, I don't know about you but I certainly feel confident that our communities are in good hands when you see and you meet and hear the stories of some of the incredible things that young people are achieving at such a young age.

So let's go to the nominees for the 2021, young Victorian Australian of the Year the nominees are


Nathaniel Diong, an inspiring entrepreneur, and Gen Z educator who is helping us be the change they want to see in the world.

Through his organisation future minds network, Nathaniel has helped more than 11,000 young people to create positive change through start-ups, while practising enterprise skills they need to thrive in the future workforce.

In 2020, Nathanial ran over $90,000 worth of pro bono programmes to support young people during COVID-19. Nathaniel also mentors early stage start-ups across three continents sits on eight not for profit boards and has raised $15,000 for charity.

Tayla Harris, a champion athlete who is making her mark on the playing field and beyond.

As a footballer in the AFLW, Tayla was Carlton football clubs leading goal kicker in 2019, in boxing she holds the Australian super welterweight title and is undefeated in eight professional fights.

In 2019, a photograph of Tayla kicking a goal became the target of sexualized trolling online.

She courageously used this experience to fight online bullying and disrespect towards women, Tayla now advocates for gender equality and respectful relationships.

Keeley Johnson, who created the charity Keeley’s Cause at just 13 years old.

Keeley's autism and learning disability meant she struggled to learn using paper based methods, but was able to learn using an iPad.

With her mom, she provided iPads loaded with tailored education plans to children with autism or an intellectual disability.

In just two years, Keeley has raised more than $70,000 through donations and sponsorship merchandise sales and sausage sizzles.

Dylan Langley, an out of home care advocate who is seeking to raise the age limit for residential facilities.

After leaving the out of home care system at age 18. Dylan had nowhere to go.

He experienced homelessness, and a mental health breakdown.

Now working with the home stretch campaign. Dillon advocates for systemic change that would allow vulnerable young adults to continue in out of home care, until they turn 21.


I do know that you have the envelope, the envelope that contains this evenings winner so please let us know.


My turn to open an envelope and here we go.

The 2021 Young Australian of the Year for Victoria is Tayla Harris.

Thank you, Tayla. Tayla Harris who is our 2021 Victorian Young Australian of the Year.

That's the incredible thing about your story too, Tayla, is you effectively thrown into this but you've harnessed it to try and do something good from it.

What inspires you to keep going?

It wasn't your choice to essentially be, you know, put into this world it came from all of that abuse you first receive so what inspires you to keep going?


I couldn't do anything without the support of not only my family, but my friends, and in my particular scenario that extends beyond people I even know.

I was fortunate enough to have been shown an incredible amount of support by, I would say the Australian community but then it even extended beyond that.

So, of course this award. I could not have been in the position I am and recognised and honoured to receive it without that support of others.

So, on behalf of the people that felt represented from the saga, that I went through.

Thank you. Thank you so much and I'll continue to push on and advocate for equality and, and to try and end this onslaught of online abuse because it's just not something that I'm going to accept.

And I'm only 23 now so I've got a fair bit of time to continue to push for a better world.

So, jump on board and let's make a nicer place for anyone who experiences anything along those lines.

Thank you so much.

I really appreciate it and all the best and congratulations to the other nominees as well.

We were just chatting before and excellent people and amazing, amazing things that they've been able to do in their young lives.


Absolutely incredible and congratulations really, once again, as well.

Tayla will continue along on these awards, it is very 2020s at how this happens virtually but we make do.

That's what we've been doing in Victoria this entire period and there has been some good news lately but we've become very good at making do with what we've got.

So we'll continue all along.

On the award ceremony now and our next award is going from the young to, shall we say, more experienced.

Our next award is the Senior Australian of the Year.

This award celebrates the ongoing achievements of Australians, aged, 65 years and over, who continue to challenge themselves and inspire others.


Our senior Australians are so inspiring, a lifetime of work, they can really show young people Australia a way forward.

And these awards will be recognised as senior Australian of year, a real platform to put them in the spotlight.


Only by accepting correcting and building on mistakes, can we eventually experience the satisfaction of doing something, or seeing something that has never been done, or seen before.


I pray that all people in our wonderful country of Australia, regardless of language, culture, skin color or religious belief. I stand tall as proud Australians.


Reading is probably the most powerful thing that you can give to a child, reading and stories.


It is a reflection and acknowledgement of people who pretty much had a lifetime of making a contribution to this nation and inspiring those people around them.


We are a nation built on stories, and the stories our senior Australians of the year tell are off tireless dedication and commitment to improving the lives of others.

This award gives us an opportunity to celebrate our senior Australians and the achievement of their life’s work.


Senior Australians have contributed greatly to the building of this nation.

The Senior Australian of Year awards are an opportunity to recognise the outstanding contribution that you continue to make.

The people nominated for these awards are role models for their families appears for all Australians, no matter their age.


We need to remember that we had all the drivers for the world our children experience every day, raising children is so much more than a family responsibility.


The road has not been easy.

And we need to be more accepting of each other.


I stand here representing all of you.

This is a whole of nation, effort, and I'm very proud and thrilled that this award will help propagate our efforts.


Our senior Australians have had a lifetime of experience but it doesn't stop now.


Senior Australians of the Year catagory, have and continue to shape our nation.


And let's make the incredible people from Victoria who are the nominees for the 2021 Victorian Senior Australian of the Year.


Bich Cam Nguyen in the full time CEO and Secretary of the Australian Vietnamese Women's Association.

Cam and her family came to Australia in 1975 as refugees.

With her husband and friends and without any funding, they found it the Vietnamese friendly society.

Then in 1983, while bringing up her family and working full time.

Cam started the women's organisation which now has three offices, 200 paid staff including volunteers, servicing all ages and genders across Melbourne.

Cam’s dedication to the community has helped refugees and migrants from many backgrounds to feel valued and empowered.

Lorna Prendergast a passionate advocate for dementia sufferers, who has helped to promote the role of music therapy.

In 2019, Lorna made global headlines when she graduated from Melbourne University with a master's degree in ageing at the age of 90.

She undertook her studies in memory of her late husband Jim, a dementia sufferer.

In July, 2020, Lorna began and music therapy trial in the dementia ward of East Gippsland nursing homes, inspiring and unstoppable.

Lorna is creating a deeper understanding of dementia patients’ needs.

Professor Geoffrey Sussman, a modern day renaissance man.

Geoffrey's international career in wound management has spanned almost 60 years.

He's widely acknowledged as Australia's leading authority in the field.

He is also a pioneer educator researcher clinician and author.

Geoffrey has a long career in amateur and professional theatre, and in TV as a writer, director and performer.

He has made a significant contribution to the sporting world as a sport administrator and Olympian.

Dr Rodney Syme has challenged the laws on voluntary assisted dying for more than 40 years.

With compassion and care, Rodney helped frame the successful legislation of voluntary assisted dying in Victoria in 2017 and Western Australia in 2020.

Through the media parliamentary inquiries and seminars, Rodney has helped raise awareness of voluntary assisted dying.

A cause rapidly gaining acceptance around the world.

A urological surgeon, he has risked prosecution and his reputation by assisting terminally ill Australians who wish to die with dignity.

In 2017, Rodney was recognised with the Australian Humanist of the Year award.


Well, Richelle, with the Young Australian of the Year nominees, made me feel like I wasn't doing enough with my life.

Well, the senior Australian of the Year nominees inspire me to think that I could do much more with the life I have left.

These are incredible people, what amazing nominees, from a wide and varied section of our community.

So, to Cam, Lorna, Geoffrey and Rodney, congratulations to you all that is just a short snippet of the amazing work that you do and it is absolutely incredible and we think it's amazing that you've been put through to this position tonight.

Of course, there can be only one winner and I might throw to my partner in crime Richelle now who has the envelope who can tell us who the winner is.


So was, would you like me to do the honours.

Okay, so the Senior Australian of the Year.

The 2021 Senior Australian of the Year for Victoria is Bich Cam Nguyen.

Congratulations, such as wonderful isn't it?

It really was to see all of these community members.

And I did mispronounce I'm sorry, it's Bich, Bich Cam Nguyen.

So a warm congratulations and thank you for all of the work that you do.

Now, before moving to our final award this evening, we would like to acknowledge some of our generous partners who together make this award programme possible.

So let's do that now.

Our national diversity inclusion partner is Chevron and they help inspire foster unity and connects people of all ages and backgrounds.

The Australian of the year category partner, that's Australia Post, and thank you for your support as the National recipient in the delivery if you don't mind the pun there of all the vital messages nationwide.

The Department of Health is our category partner for the senior Australian of the Year Award and the Department of Home Affairs, is the local Hero Award partner.

We thank our broadcast partner, the ABC who will screen the national announcement on ABC and on Iview on the 25th of January, and the ABC also helps us connect with local communities all around Australia on radio, TV and online.

Our media partner, Australian community media, helps inspire millions of Australians by telling stories of extraordinary state and territory recipients and supporting our call for nominations nationwide.

Our alumni partner is the International Day of people with a disability.

We thank our official hotel partner the intercontinental Hotels group, and we appreciate your warm hospitality.

We'd also like to thank our cultural partner the Australian National University who through its School of Arts and music and the amazing students there have designed the trophies this evening and have composed the music being played for our recipients today.

And also our thanks goes to our exhibition partner to the National Museum of Australia who delivers the Australian of the year exhibition around the country all throughout the year.

And last, but certainly not least, we appreciate the continued support of our legal partner of Minter Ellison.

So thank you to all of our partners for their vital and for their ongoing support.


Without great partners awards like these simply can't happen so our thank you goes to you.

Let's finish up tonight with our final award Richelle, the 2021 Victorian Australian of the year.


History shows us the amazing fields of endeavour that have been covered off in the Australian of the Year awards.

We've got musicians, we've got scientists, medical researchers even some sports people.

I think it's a broad reflection of the qualities of people we have around the nation.


Unlike me you don't have to go overseas to realise your dreams. You can realise them right here. Just look into your own heart, look to your own land.


I'm going to continue to be myself, keep standing up for what I believe in. And hopefully, by doing this, other people will follow.


Our Australians of the year are truly extraordinary.

We can all be proud of the contributions that they have made to our nation and the remarkable things they have achieved.

They lead us, inspire us, help those in need, and make our country a far better place.


I think it's really important for all Australians to really think about who these people are and what they've done, not just for themselves but for everyone.


There's a temptation to take the easy road.

I think that life will be better if we mould it to as comfortable as possible.

Time is short, get amongst it and take it kids with you.


If I can make a difference to someone else's life, if they can do some strength, by hearing what I say and knowing that I am speaking on their behalf.

Give me a lot of hope.


I think from the bottom of my heart.

Those of you who give up on your time, give up your expertise, give up your hearts, and especially those who risked their lives to make this country the greatest place on Earth. Thank you.


The Australian of the Year. They really do reflect what is important, as an individual and collectively as a nation to the rest of the country, and they'll continue to shape the nation as we move into the future.


You get to meet some incredible people now, because the nominees for the 2021 Victorian Australian of the Year are


Stephen Bevington, founder of the largest not for profit social and affordable housing provider in Australia.

Stephen’s lived experience of homelessness inspired his dedication to provide affordable housing for those in need.

Founded 26 years ago in Melbourne, as a one-man operation.

Community Housing limited now has a presence in countries such as East Timor, Chile, Peru and India.

Today, Steven’s company manages over 11,000 properties nationwide, it also creates employment and training in construction, especially in regional and remote Aboriginal communities.

Kate Jones and Amanda Hose, hosts of two peas in a podcast.

Kate and Amanda met 14 years ago, after both having twins with a physical or intellectual disability for additional needs, they started their podcast after realising there were few voices speaking about their experience.

In 12 months, their podcast passed the 1 million download mark, attracting an average of 10,000 Weekly listeners.

By sharing their parenting experiences with humour and honesty, Kate and Amanda give a voice to parents with children who have additional needs.

Associate Professor Thomas Oxley, an internationally recognised neuro interventional surgeon, and urologist. Thomas is the driving force behind innovations that could restore independence in 30 million people with severe paralysis.

This means that despite a healthy and active brain, they are unable to move their arms due to conditions such as spinal cord injury, motor neuron disease and stroke.

Thomas invented the Stentrode, a brain computer interface that wirelessly transmits brain signals to enable severely paralysed people to text message, email, and perform online tasks using only thoughts.

Donna Stolzenberg, founder of Grassroots charity, the National homeless collective.

Donna began by handing out 50 donated sleeping bags to homeless people.

Under her direction, the National homeless collective has grown to include six sub charities that target different social issues.

It also runs the Kala space, an OP-shop employing women affected by domestic abuse or homelessness.

Donna's generosity and resourcefulness have also provided practical solutions for women escaping domestic violence, Australians affected by the 2020 bushfires, and those impacted by the COVID-19 lockdowns.


What an incredible group of people Rochelle, we got to meet some of them on our show earlier this week, the wide and varied stories that they have to tell.

Whether it's affecting that the lives with medical advancements whether it's affecting someone's lives through housing or homelessness giving assistance there, or whether it's creating a community through literally media or podcasts and letting people talk about things.

It's an amazing group of Victorians this year.


So worthy of their nominations this evening work and Warwick you're right, it's just an inspiration to know that these people are in our communities and doing this work, day in day out and not necessarily for nominations like this but so worthy.

Let's try one more time to maybe meet some of the recipients this evening and see whether or not we can have a quick chat with them.


Yes, I can. Nice to be with you.

Well, I've been involved in housing with governments overseas.

And a tremendous problems meeting people's desperate need for housing, because of funding, and there were always people falling through the cracks.

So I was able with Community Housing to develop projects which would meet people’s the specific needs, such as people with disabilities or young people, older people who needed specialised housing.


And Warwick I think we might have a chat to Kate now, if possible case.

Tell us a little bit about the most important thing you've learned since beginning the podcast with Mandy.

We had the privilege of speaking to earlier in the week, it'd be wonderful to let people know.


Most important thing that Mandy and I have realised is the really big need for connection amongst parents, especially when your families’ narratives a little bit different.


And Mandy?

Amanda Hose

I just bringing people together in a way, the podcast world enables, many people to be able to join in and so this is such a thrill to bring people together.


Donna, can you tell us a little bit about the national homeless collective.

And this year, in particular the spotlight on homelessness and the stereotypes that just can't be put onto it.

Tell us a little bit about that.


National homeless collective is a grassroots charity that started about six years ago and what we do is we take the person from the start to finish journey and put a lot of different services or projects, sort of wrap them around them so that we can help them as an individual

And we've created a system where the entire population of Australia can help us to help people so if you've got something that you can offer them at we've got someone who needs it.

It's been a very, very different year because of COVID so we've seen a lot of people move into homelessness who perhaps weren't affected before.

There have been a lot of different issues coming up starting with the bushfires and of course with COVID and a lockdown so we've had to really adapt quite quickly to the different needs of the people that were supporting.


Well congratulations to you and again Warwick.

Congratulations to all of the nominees of this incredibly prestigious award.


Couldn't have said it better myself, Rochelle and amazing group of people doing incredible work and you can do yourself a favour and find more time to find out about any of the initiatives these people are working on.

Absolutely fantastic but Rochelle I need to know, could you please tell us who the 2021 Victorian Australian of the Year is.


Yes. And again, congratulations to everybody that's been nominated.

The 2021 Australian of the Year for Victoria is Donna Stolzenberg.



Absolutely I'm in shock to be nominated but to also be the recipient of this award but this award represents 1000s and 1000s of hours of volunteerism and people just coming forward to help.

I found, you know, nearly six years ago that there were so many gaps in the system that you know I could see that I became aware of these gaps but awareness without action is nothing.

And I couldn't just sit back and be aware of issues without stepping forward and actually doing something to alleviate the stress and the suffering of people that that I was meeting out there,

And you know we created something that was a voice for those who were unheard and that was a face for those who are unseen, and we realised that we had to change the narrative around homelessness and get people thinking about it differently.

It's not just about the old man on the street corner as we've sort of been led to believe anybody can be affected by homelessness, by family violence, by any kind of systemic failure out there.


And how will this award help your work?

Will this move it forward more funding? More people signing up?

How will this award actually impact the incredible work that you do?


I think this award will amplify our voice we've been doing some incredible work for the last nearly six years but this award is going to give us a chance now to really step up and let people know that we have to change things.

The small grassroots charities out there and I know so many of them doing some incredible work.

We're often not heard where we're the frontline very, very often because we can mobilise very very quickly.

We have an army of volunteers, but we're often not heard, and the causes of homelessness have changed so much in the last 20, 30 even 10 years.

And we have to start listening to the people who are affected now and start changing the way that we respond to homelessness, both as an individual and as a society as well and so it will hopefully let already.

Even since being on your show yesterday we've already had so many people emailing us and so many people saying I want to get involved I love what you do and they'd never heard of us before.

So now this will amplify that and what that translates to is that we end up helping more and more people get out of homelessness permanently and get out of domestic violence permanently not just the band aid fix that, you know, we've been using for so so long.



Thank you for the work that you do.

Thank you for joining us this evening I'm so glad that technology finally won and let us be able to speak to you.

So again, congratulations.


Thank you so much and thank you to my, my fellow nominees as well you're all amazing I am in such amazing company and this goes to all of you.

And thank you to my, my beautiful family, and my incredible volunteers, we are nothing without you.

So it is for everybody I might be the face of this charity but I'm not the only one running it so thank you so much to everybody, I'm extremely happy.


So you should be Donna so you should be, as you said, sometimes it's hard for small grassroots charities to be heard, well we're hearing you now and hopefully this award allows more to hear from you because you are doing fantastic work, and congratulations to you.

Congratulations to our other winners tonight, Dr Kirby White, Taylor Harris, the young Australian of the Year for Victoria and Cam Nguyen the Senior Australian for Victoria and of course, Donna Stolzenberg.

Victoria is very proud of you all but also to our nominees amazing people who share we've met tonight thank you all for the work that you do.

Sorry we haven't been able to celebrate it in a way we would have liked to but I hope at least by being nominated at least by allowing us to share your stories more often.

We will continue to highlight the amazing work that you do, because all of you are adding to our great state and our nation as well so thank you for your achievements, your passion, determination, and commitment.

Congratulations again and I should have said winners tonight will now head off to be our representatives of the Australian of the Year awards nationally.

The Prime Minister will announce the national recipients on the eve of Australia Day, which is live at 7:30pm on ABC TV and Iview from the National Arboretum in Canberra.

On behalf of all of us, I wish all our recipients and nominees every success in their endeavours, and to our recipients, we wish you the best in the next stage of the programme as well we're rooting for you.

We're proud Victorians on that front.

So I hope you have great success of the national awards.

And remember if you'd like to share any of the stories from any of the nominees tonight, or our winners, or just to congratulate those for being involved, you can head to social media use the hashtag, Aus of the year.

We would love to you, and please share the amazing work that these people are doing, and may be heard by more people.

I think I've said the words, amazing, incredible, best of what we do, but it really is tonight isn't it Richelle. It really is a celebration of the best of us in Australia and I couldn't be prouder.


I agree wholeheartedly and it does bring us to the end of tonight's awards and I know it's been tricky and probably not how it would normally be, but it certainly does not take away from the significance not only the nomination and the award.

But more importantly the work that you do, and the changes that you make to people's lives so apologies that it was a little bit tricky this evening.

But hands on heart, we thank you for everything that you do and the changes that you make you certainly do make our communities a better place to live.

So I encourage you all. All of you that are watching, that are participating, that are rooting along for somebody, to think about maybe other people that inspire you, in your community, in your network or maybe in your family and certainly people have risen to the top throughout coronavirus that have inspired many of us.

You can nominate somebody now believe it or not for the 2022 Australian of the Year awards.

And you can do that at So thank you again, congratulations.

It's been an honour and a privilege to be a part of this evening.

So ladies and gentlemen, good night and have a wonderful evening.


Reviewed 24 February 2021