On the 25th of January, we hopped on a plane to Canberra to begin our stay there for the Australian of the Year Awards Ceremony.
After we arrived at our hotel, the Crowne Plaza, checked in and stored our luggage in our rooms, we each started getting ready for the night to come.
Upon arrival at the awards ceremony, we had the opportunity to meet Dr. Bo Reményi, a Northern Territory nominee up for Australian of the Year, who shared her backstory on how she got to this position while we chatted about how much we wanted to meet Samuel Johnson, an actor also up for the Australian of the Year award for his achievements in creating the ‘Love Your Sister’ campaign and raising millions of dollars for breast cancer.
After talking to her about Sam and her own successful achievements, she excused herself and came back in a matter of seconds with him by her side. With the brightest of smiles on our faces, we got several pictures with him and Dr. Reményi, as well as FHS’ Principal Mr. John Albiston and Student Leadership teacher, Mrs. Sarah Bahramis.
After we’d started to come down from the excitement of meeting Sam and Dr. Reményi, we then walked the red carpet alongside our teachers and were lead into Parliament House to meet all the nominees in the featured categories - Young Australian of the Year, Local Hero, Senior Australian of the Year and the Australian of the Year. After a bite to eat, we began to introduce ourselves to everyone in the room.
We met Rosie Batty - a domestic violence campaigner who was fortunate enough to win the 2015 Australian of the Year Award. She was very interested in our project of ‘Stomping Out Stereotypes’ and thought it was a great issue that we were tackling. She was very fond and wanted to become more involved with what we were conquering and getting more into the young minds of the future leaders of our country.
As well as Rosie Batty, we encountered Eddie Woo who ended the night with the Local Hero award by his side. for his online maths classes. He spent a great deal of time explaining to us about how he created his YouTube channel (“Eddie Woo”) to help a Year 10 student who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer so that they could stay up to date with their work and so they could understand all the tasks given to them. Eddie was so passionate and enthusiastic towards his teaching and was an inspiration to those just willing to help.
Along with these two remarkable individuals, we came across Georgie Stone, a nominee up for Victorian Young Australian of the Year. Georgie, a transgender woman, has shown Australia that trans youth can speak out, tell their stories, demand equality and gain acceptance. She has helped change the law around access to the first stage of medical treatment for transgender adolescents and improved medical outcomes for trans youth throughout Australia. Her personal story has driven progress in health, medical services and access to safe schooling environments. Many organisations, from schools to the New South Wales Police Force, use her appearances on Four Corners and Australian Story (two television programs) for training and education. She was incredible to talk to, along with her mum and brother Harry, who has written and is directing the production at Elwood College, as he and Georgie will be completing Year 12 this year.
Last of all, we were introduced to Scott Rankin, a playwright and director also nominated for the Tasmanian Australian of the Year award. Scott has been able to reach this incredible milestone in his life because of his charity, ‘Big hART’, which uses the arts to bring about social justice by telling the story of many different Indigenous Australians, whether it be their experience with domestic violence, incarceration, addiction, homelessness or intergenerational injustice faced by these individuals. Scott asked us about our future and what we would like to accomplish in our lives and gave us advice on how to be able to stay in Australia while achieving our goals for life.
Thank you to the National Australia Day Council and the Foundation for Young Australians without whom this opportunity wouldn’t have been a reality had they not created our ‘Inspired Citizens’ award, to Mrs. Sarah Bahramis for giving up all your time and effort to see us succeed throughout our project: “Stomping Out Stereotypes”, and to Mr. John Albiston, for coming with us to Canberra for the ceremonies and chaperoning us to and from the airport.
Written by Kynen Cogan and Imogen Brown