St John Ambulance volunteer Val Dempsey who helped communities through the Black Summer fires named 2022 Senior Australian of the Year

For the first time in the award’s 62-year history, a person with a disability has been named Australian of the Year.

Dylan Alcott OAM, a 31-year-old athlete, Paralympian, philanthropist, media commentator and advocate, has received the prestigious award for achievements in both his sport and his disability awareness work.

Alcott said as a teenager he hated using a wheelchair because there was nobody like him in mainstream media, but sport changed that.

He began his athletic career with a gold medal at the Paralympic Games in wheelchair basketball, then switched sports to tennis. He now has 23 quad wheelchair grand slams and a Newcombe Medal, and is the first male in history to win a Golden Slam in any form of tennis.

But Alcott’s sporting achievements are not the main reason he was named Australian of the Year, he is also being recognised for his work uplifting Australians with a disability.

In 2017, he founded the Dylan Alcott Foundation to provide scholarships and grant funding to marginalised Australians with a disability, and in the same year he co-founded disability and accessibility training start-up Get Skilled Access.

He organised AbilityFest, Australia’s first and only inclusive, fully accessible music festival, and wrote his best-selling autobiography Able.

Alcott’s achievements do not end with his advocacy, he is also a philanthropist, and in 2014 set the world record for the longest continuous playing of wheelchair tennis – 24 hours non-stop – to raise funds for The Starlight Foundation and the Children’s Charity.

He received an Order of Australia in 2009 at just 18-years-old, was named GQ Sportsman of the Year for 2016, and 2016 Paralympian of the Year.

St John Ambulance volunteer who helped communities through the Black Summer fires named Senior Australian of the Year

One of the Australian Capital Territory’s longest-serving volunteers with over 50 years of dedication to St John Ambulance, Valmai (Val) Dempsey has been named Senior Australian of the Year for 2022.

Val Dempsey began as a cadet volunteer with St John Ambulance in primary school, and half a century on she still dedicates more hours than any other volunteer.

She is a mother of two, grandmother of six and great-grandmother-of-one, but she is considered family by many volunteers who affectionately call her “Aunty Val”.

Ms Dempsey led 40 volunteers to support communities affected by the Black Summer bushfires, and personally got in contact with every member of the St John team to offer support through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chair of the National Australia Day Council, Danielle Roche OAM, said Ms Dempsey “embodies the Australian spirit of volunteering” through her consistent work.

“She has donated her time to the service of St John Ambulance for more than half a century, helping countless Australians,” she said.

Doctor who founded a mobile medical service for the homeless named Young Australian of the Year

Daniel Nour was in his final year of his medical degree in London when he saw a man having a seizure at a train station. He stopped and helped the man, and later discovered he was homeless.

Dr Nour said the moment was a turning point for him, as he realised the gap in medical support for people experiencing homelessness and decided to do something about it.

He returned to Australia, and in 2020 he started Street Side Medics, a not-for-profit GP-led mobile medical service for vulnerable people in New South Wales.

For his work delivering medical support to people experiencing homelessness, 26-year-old Dr Nour has been named the Young Australian of the Year for 2022.

Street Side Medics now has 145 volunteers and four clinics across New South Wales, and has changed the lives of more than 300 patients by dealing with neglected medical needs and detecting conditions that would have otherwise gone unnoticed, such as cancer, HIV, diabetes, and heart disease.

“With his leadership and social consciousness, Daniel is committed to making a real difference to the lives of many Australians. He’s also making significant improvements to society,” the Australian of the Year awards panel said in a statement.

Despite working full time at the Royal North Shore Hospital, Dr Nour volunteers his afternoons to ensure the four Street Side Medics sites run smoothly.

Chair of the National Australia Day Council, Danielle Roche OAM, said Dr Nour’s work had helped ensure vulnerable people can receive medical care.

“Dr Daniel Nour and Street Side Medics work to make sure no Australian gets left behind, providing vital medical care and lifesaving treatment to those experiencing homelessness and who might otherwise fall through the cracks,” she said.

In accepting his award, Dr Nour said many Australians living in homelessness were “suffering in silence”.

“Many die of conditions which could be treated and avoid interventions which could have improved quality of life,” he said.

“I have seen 50-year-olds like Peter die of heart failure, struggling for a breath in the cold night air. I have seen people like 40-year-old Eddie, who’s living with maggots in his wounds. I have seen people like Neil, a 29-year-old type 1 diabetic who is suffering from irreparable damage due to being unable to afford his insulin.

“As Australians, it’s our responsibility to advocate for those who seem to have lost their voice and to rise up to the occasion, even when we question our own ability to do so. “

‘My story is not unique’: Shana Whan named Local Hero 2022

Shanna Whan has been recognised for her charity work changing the conversation around alcohol consumption in rural Australia, being named Australia’s Local Hero for 2022.

When the now 47-year-old almost lost her life to alcohol addiction in 2015, she began her work spreading the message that it is “always OK to say no” to booze.

She began volunteering locally to support others struggling with alcohol addiction, and her work grew into a not-for-profit peer support group, Sober in the Country (SITC).

That work has now earned her the title of Australia’s Local Hero for 2022 at a ceremony in Canberra this evening.

Ms Whan grew up in the country and said her childhood was positive, but a series of traumatic events when she was 18 left her afraid and unsure of how to cope.

She said being in a rural community, there were not any support groups or peer counselling available, but what was “prolific and abundant” in her community was alcohol.

Ms Whan quit alcohol with the help of a new friend who had experienced similar trials and now has taken Sober in the Country to a group with national reach that offers peer support, broadscale advocacy, and education around alcohol.

She said in her acceptance speech that she shared her story because somebody had to.

“I do it because someone had to go first. I do it because somebody sharing their truth with me saved my life, and I do it because every single one of you knows my story is not unique,” she said.

“Alcohol use is the silent pandemic we are not discussing, and it’s a pandemic that is exploding exponentially with COVID-19 no matter your postcode.”

Chair of the National Australia Day Council, Danielle Roche OAM, offered her congratulations to Ms Whan, and said her work was changing lives across rural Australia.

“Shanna is an inspiring and tireless local hero who not only overcame her own life-threatening challenges, but turned the experience into a force for good,” Ms Roche said.

“Her Sober in the Country movement is changing lives across remote and rural Australia.”

Source: Thanks