Katherine locals Margret Chamberlain, principal of Kintore Street Special School, and police officer Sergeant Erica Gibson have been named among the 16 nominees for the Northern Territory's 2021 Australian of the Year Awards.
Ms Chamberlain is in the running to be named the NT's next Australian of the Year for her work leading the development of the only school in Katherine for students with physical and intellecutual impairments, as well as her 20-year devotion to volunteering as a para-swimming referee.
Sergeant Gibson, a police officer for 30 years, is nominated in the Local Hero category for her efforts to create safer communities for Northern Territory women in domestic violence situations.
The other Territorians in line to be named the NT's Local Hero, Young Australian, Senior Australian or Australian of the Year for 2021 include a world-renowned surgeon, a successful restaurateur, Indigenous community leaders and advocates, a volunteer firefighter and the first Aboriginal executive director for Territory Families.
Australia Day Council NT Chair Nigel Browne congratulated the Northern Territory nominees.
"The 2021 NT nominees are shining examples of care and compassion, of role models and of people who make the Northern Territory a better, safer place to live," Mr Browne said.
The Northern Territory award recipients will be announced in a ceremony hosted by NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner at Darwin Convention Centre at 6pm on Wednesday November 4.
The ceremony will be live-streamed on the Katherine Times website. Publisher ACM, the owner of the masthead, is the 2021 Australian of the Year Awards media partner.
These extraordinary Territorians are hugely inspirational for their contributions and achievements they reflect the richness of life in the territory and the importance of community.- National Australia Day Council CEO Karlie Brand
The Northern Territory award recipients will then join the other state and territory finalists for the annual national awards announcement on January 25, 2021.
National Australia Day Council CEO Karlie Brand said the NT nominees were making an impact at local, territory and even global levels.
"These extraordinary Territorians are hugely inspirational for their contributions and achievements - they reflect the richness of life in the territory and the importance of community," Ms Brand said.
The 2021 Northern Territory award nominees are:
Dorrelle Anderson - First Aboriginal Executive Director for Territory Families
Margaret Chamberlain - School principal and para-swimming official
Megan Hoosan - Subject of documentary In My Blood It Runs
Dr Wendy Page - Global expert in Aboriginal health
Dr Ollapallil Jacob - World-renowned surgeon
Jimmy Shu - Successful restaurateur
Beverley Shuker - Volunteer for Darwin River Bushfire Brigade
Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM - Aboriginal activist, educator and artist
Matthew Axten - Educator and mentor
Nicole Civitarese - Community champion
Dr Sanjay Joseph - Medical practitioner and co-founder of Healthy Start Darwin
Stuart McGrath - Aboriginal health practitioner
Josephine Crofts - Community worker
Sergeant Erica Gibson - Police officer and safer communities advocate
Jason Hanna - Business leader
Reanna Sanders - Founder of Auntys Free Feeds
The following biographies and photographs of the 2021 Australian of the Year nominees from the Northern Territory have been supplied by the organisers of the annual awards, the National Australia Day Council.
Dorrelle Anderson (aged 41): First Aboriginal Executive Director for Territory Families
Dorrelle Anderson is Southern Region Executive Director for Territory Families, an organisation that aims to reduce domestic, family, and sexual violence in the community. The first Aboriginal Australian to hold this position, Dorrelle manages up to 150 staff and a budget of $30 million. Under her leadership, Dorrelle's team has achieved significant outcomes over the past seven years.
She has played a vital role in key reforms, including implementing systems that improve efficiency and accountability, achieving the highest rate of children placed in kinship and family care in the Northern Territory, and establishing offices in remote communities. Known for her strong work ethic and dedication to the people of the Northern Territory, Dorrelle is committed to Aboriginal advancement. Dorrelle's exceptional leadership, kindness and passion inspires both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Territorians to work together to create stronger family outcomes. Her work contributes to the safety of children and young people, as well as their families and communities.
Margaret Chamberlain (62): School principal and para-swimming official
Margaret Chamberlain has led the development of the Kintore Street Special School, the only school in Katherine for students with physical and intellectual impairments. Her tireless work has seen the school grow from a single classroom to two campuses - enormously increasing its ability to cater to the needs of the community. Margaret dedicates significant time to raising funds for new school equipment, including organising the Katherine Crocodile Race since 2011.
Margaret also shows her commitment to differently abled Australians through her volunteer work as one of Australia's top para-sports officials. She has been a para-swimming referee for over 20 years and has officiated at the para-Olympics in Beijing and Athens, as well as at multiple world championships. As one of six World Para-Swimming educators and assessors, she helped develop the para-swimming course with World Academy of Sport in Manchester. She was also deeply involved with preparing the officials' training course for the International Paralympic Committee and has presented the course in Australia and many countries overseas.
Megan Hoosan (31): Subject of documentary In My Blood It Runs
Megan Hoosan was a key subject of the critically acclaimed ABC documentary In My Blood It Runs. By sharing her story with Australia, she has made a significant positive impact in Aboriginal representation on screen.
The documentary is told through the eyes of Megan's 10-year-old Arrernte/Garrwa son, Dujuan, who reveals the difficulties he faces in his school and on the streets of Alice Springs. It examines how the mainstream education system fails Aboriginal children, instead of supporting them to reach their full potential - and the effect this has on their families and communities. Megan's openness also highlights the many challenges facing Aboriginal women in their parenting journeys. A role model to women across the country, she demonstrates strength and resilience as a mother to four children - encouraging them to speak their language and explore their cultural identity.
Dr Wendy Page (65): Global expert in Aboriginal health
For more than 30 years, Dr Wendy Page has been dedicated to improving Aboriginal health outcomes, working tirelessly at the grassroots level for the communities in North East Arnhem Land. In 1993, Wendy took up a position at the newly established Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation in Nhulunbuy, where she is now medical director.
Wendy has worked to highlight and eliminate a parasitic roundworm prevalent in Aboriginal communities across Northern Australia. She set up the first national workshop for strongyloidiasis, a disease caused by the Strongyloides worm. Wendy's efforts have been instrumental in reducing the prevalence of strongyloidiasis in local East Arnhem Land communities - from 60 per cent to below 10 per cent. Her many published papers on the Strongyloides worm have made her a world-recognised expert and are used to inform all medical practitioners. Wendy is passionate about mentoring young doctors. She has taken on roles as a lead supervisor in Nhulunbuy and as an examiner in Darwin to help registrars become qualified GPs.
Dr Ollapallil Jacob (69): World-renowned surgeon
A surgeon in Alice Springs for more than 20 years, Dr Ollapallil Jacob provides elective and emergency care - including neurosurgery, thoracic surgery and general surgery - for Central Australia residents. He has led the understanding of surgical management in a range of areas, including acute pancreatitis - for which local survival rates are among the best in the world. His adaptive surgical style has also significantly reduced the number of amputations for Indigenous people. He advocates for continual improvement in healthcare services.
His community work has shone a spotlight on other public health issues and reduced rollover car-accidents and skin-infection rates. He is an inspiring educator and mentor for junior doctors and medical students at the Flinders University rural clinical school. Ollapallil is passionate about the rights of patients and ensuring their voices are heard. He has received numerous local and national honours for his contribution, including the inaugural Royal College of Surgeons Indigenous Award in 2015.
Jimmy Shu (71): Successful restaurateur
Jimmy Shu is a renowned and respected Darwin businessman and restaurateur. After moving to Australia, Jimmy started his own Melbourne restaurant - which won the best vegetarian cuisine award for around 15 years. Driven by passion for bringing people together over a meal, he is now the owner of 13 restaurants, including 11 in Australia and two in Malaysia. In the 30 years since opening two successful Hanuman restaurants in the Top End - in Alice Springs and Darwin - Jimmy has forged a special place in the local community.
During the pandemic he became a TV sensation as the star of the culinary show 'Jimmy Shu's Taste of the Territory', an eight-part series that aired on SBS and promoted the unique qualities of the NT. Despite suffering numerous break-ins to his restaurants, Jimmy is determined to be part of the solution - calling for a round-table discussion between government and small business owners while fostering positive conversations with offenders.
Beverley Shuker (67): Volunteer for Darwin River Bushfire Brigade
Beverley Shuker has been a devoted volunteer firefighter, tanker driver and committee member for 42 years. Through a lengthy advocacy campaign with Bushfires NT, Beverley, supported by her husband Hek (and others), was instrumental in having the brigades officially gazetted in 1984. With a deep love of animals, Beverley has also been a dedicated wildlife carer with Wildcare NT for more than 20 years. She takes in orphaned animals and birds, nurses them back to health and releases them back into their natural habitat somewhere on her farm.
She also volunteers on the management committee of the Berry Springs Recreation Reserve, where she supports the running of the reserve. Beverley was instrumental in organising the Berry Springs Markets. In 2019, Beverley's commitment to volunteering, her community support efforts and passion for fire management were recognised with the Northern Territory Volunteer of the Year Award.
Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM (73): Aboriginal activist, educator and artist
Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM is an Aboriginal elder from Nauiyu and a renowned artist, activist, writer and public speaker. In 1975, Miriam-Rose became the Territory's first fully qualified Aboriginal teacher. As an art consultant for the Department of Education, she visited schools through the Top End, advocating for the inclusion of visual art as part of every child's education. Miriam-Rose later became the principal of the Catholic school in her home community before being appointed to the Federal Government's advisory body, the National Indigenous Council.
In 2013, she established the Miriam Rose Foundation, to bridge the divide between Aboriginal culture and mainstream society - driving reconciliation at a grassroots level. Through her professional and creative life, Miriam-Rose has remained dedicated to maintaining the cultural independence of her people and being a spokesperson for the Aboriginal worldview. In recognition of her leadership, she was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia medal and an Honorary PhD in Education from Charles Darwin University.
Matthew Axten (28): Educator and mentor
Matthew Axten is an Arrernte man and a teacher who is committed to making a real difference in the lives of students at Gillen School in Alice Springs. Taking a leadership role, he uses values-based practice to cultivate a community of students and nurture a supportive learning environment. Matthew has worked to enhance literacy and numeracy centres - based on student data - to target specific learning needs.
He is also proactive in understanding and implementing key concepts of school-wide positive behaviour support. His innovative approach ensures that students receive positive reinforcement for behaviours that will help them achieve success at school. To make positive long-term changes in the lives of students, Mathew is committed to increasing community involvement in the school - with a focus on engaging parents in their children's education. In 2019, Matthew's fellow teachers recognised his dedication by nominating him for the Young Aboriginal Educator of the Year Award.
Nicole Civitarese (27): Community champion
Nicole Civitarese is a young woman committed to making positive contributions to her community. Throughout COVID-19, she used her social media platforms to share crucial and lifesaving information with the community - helping ensure public safety and wellbeing. After Tennant Creek's only supermarket burned down, Nicole participated in the delivery of essential food supplies to vulnerable community members. This was particularly helpful for senior Indigenous residents, who found it hard to get groceries or who were worried about the risks of COVID-19.
Nicole has held leadership positions and volunteered for many community organisations, including the local Lions Club, the Country Women's Association, and the Tennant Creek Show Society. As secretary of the Tennant Creek RSL Sub Branch and member of the NT Veteran Affairs Ministerial Advisory Council, she is a powerful advocate for supporting service, ex-service, and veteran community personnel while also facilitating broader community conversations about military service. In August 2020, Nicole raised thousands of dollars for breast cancer research. Her hard work and dedication were recognised with the 2019 NT Young Achiever Somerville Community Service Award.
Dr Sanjay Joseph (25): Medical practitioner and co-founder of Healthy Start Darwin
Dr Sanjay Joseph is a junior doctor at the Top End Health Service and is dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of all Territorians. In 2016, Sanjay began Healthy Start Darwin, an education project that provides refugees with health information and helps them transition to Australian life. As lead coordinator, Sanjay and his team have already conducted sessions for more than 400 refugees - empowering them to access medical services in Australia.
This initiative has also provided a significant opportunity to train health students and professionals. Sanjay is committed to supporting medical students in his own time, directly mentoring five junior doctors and teaching 20 students and junior doctors. Sanjay is passionate about rural and Indigenous health and encourages and inspires his fellow doctors to help vulnerable community members. In 2019, he was awarded the Northern Territory Junior Medical Officer of the Year and the Australian Junior Doctor of the Year.
Stuart McGrath (29): Aboriginal health practitioner
Stuart McGrath is an Aboriginal health practitioner. On graduation, he will become the first Yolngu registered nurse. At age 29 Stuart has already been exposed to experiences which give him special insight into the needs of different community groups - from his nomadic upbringing in remote Indigenous communities, to schooling in Canberra and studying in Darwin.
Stuart has overcome significant challenges to follow his dreams - including completing his first year of a Bachelor of Nursing degree remotely while working full-time and being a father to two young girls. He helped produce the 'Ask the Specialist' podcast, with the Menzies School of Health Research, to improve communication between health professionals and patients. A natural leader, Stuart is committed to closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. His passion for helping his community will inspire other First Nations young people to participate in the health workforce, leading to happier and healthier lives.
Josephine Crofts (56): Community worker
Josephine Crofts nurtures the Maningrida community by providing healthy meals to children at the Maningrida Community Education Centre and the Mala'la Greats Youth Services. Through her work in the school tuckshop, she provides breakfast, lunch and dinners for children and youth who may not otherwise have access to nutritious foods.
She dedicates countless hours to cook wholesome meals with a team of volunteers drawn from the local community. As a mentor to Indigenous women, she helps them develop their cooking, hospitality, food hygiene and nutrition skills, with a direct benefit to their families and the wider community. Josephine's efforts help the local school provide skills for a healthy life, in an area where there are high levels of rheumatic fever - an auto-immune disease prevalent in remote areas of central and northern Australia. Her selfless work provides a tangible health benefit to the people she feeds and fosters a greater sense of community, value and belonging.
Sergeant Erica Gibson (53): Police officer and safer communities advocate
Sergeant Erica Gibson is an engaging and enthusiastic leader who is creating safer communities for Northern Territory women. A police officer for more than 30 years, she passionately drives and supports community programs that help to combat family violence. Erica oversaw implementation of the Family Safety Framework program, which provides a network of safe homes in remote communities for people in domestic violence situations. She actively supports the Stars Foundation of East Arnhem region, which helps women and girls choose healthy, active lifestyles and positive relationships.
She was also a key organiser in Nhulunbuy's inaugural White Ribbon Day event, which raised approximately $50,000. In 2016, Erica was appointed a member of the RCAG Regional Community Advisory Group for Top End Health Services. And in 2017, she received a Telstra NT Business Women's Award. A keen mentor of other women in the police force, Erica's integrity and leadership inspire others to make positive change.
Jason Hanna (48): Business leader
Jason Hanna is an inspirational business leader who faced the challenges of COVID-19 to minimise job losses in the hospitality and entertainment sectors. When the pandemic closed his venues, he was integral in starting Deliverish, a commission-free food and beverage online-ordering app, available to all businesses in the Northern Territory.
He then launched 'Music on your Driveway', with food orders delivered by musicians who played 45-minute, socially distanced sets. He also promoted a pay-it-forward scheme, allowing people to shout a coffee in the botanic gardens for those who had lost their job. On Anzac Day, he donated unused kegs of beer to servicemen and women nominated by the community. Jason's staff and helpers delivered the beer in two utes - one in Palmerston and one in Darwin city - to helping keep the spirit of the day alive. His actions have supported the local hospitality and entertainment industry and provided a positive contribution to those feeling isolated and vulnerable during the pandemic.
Reanna Sanders (41): Founder of Auntys Free Feeds
Each week, Palmerston mother Reanna Sanders serves more than 100 free meals to local people in need. Having once been in a position where she needed help herself, she started Auntys Free Feeds, serving up home-made food every Sunday in the Palmerston pool carpark. Reanna's excitement and enthusiasm for the work inspires volunteers and donations.
Auntys Free Feeds is supported by a small group of volunteers who assist by cooking and bringing along additional meals. This helps ensure that the meals can go ahead every week, even if she is unable to go herself. What started as just meals is now expanding to help meet the broader needs of disadvantaged people within the community. Reanna now also provides warm clothes, blankets and other essential items to the people who come to be fed. Her community involvement and desire to help the less fortunate are providing a valuable service for those who need it most.
For more information on the Australian of the Year Awards, visit australianoftheyear.org.au
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