It’s that time of year again: nominations for Australian of the Year have been announced and eight incredible older people have been nominated for 2021 Senior Australian of the Year.
With backgrounds in art, social work and activism, these dedicated and talented older people have worked tirelessly to improve the lives of those in their communities all around the country.
Without further ado, here are the eight inspirational older men and women in the running to be 2021 Senior Australian of the Year.
Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM
As an aboriginal elder from Nauiyu, an activist, writer, public speaker and artist, Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM is this year’s Northern Territory state recipient and national nominee.
In 1975, she became the first fully qualified Aboriginal teacher, and became a strong advocate for the inclusion of visual arts in children’s education. In her role as an art consultant with the Department of Education, Miriam-Rose visited schools in Australia’s Top End, teaching the importance of the visual arts.
Becoming principal of the Catholic school in her local community, Miriam-Rose was then appointed to the Federal Government’s advisory body, the National Indigenous Council. Establishing the Miriam Rose Foundation in 2013, she began working on fostering reconciliation and bridging the gap between Aboriginal culture and mainstream society.
In 1998, she was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia medal for her “role in promoting Aboriginal education and art”, and in 2002 she received an Honorary PhD in Education from Charles Darwin University. Throughout her life, Miriam-Rose has remained a passionate advocate and activist for the cultural independence of her people, and has instilled herself as a spokesperson for the Aboriginal worldview.
Patricia Anderson AO
Patricia Anderson AO is an Alyawarre woman, writer, and advocate for the health and wellbeing of Australia’s First Peoples. Cementing her reputation as a passionate advocate both nationally and internationally, Patricia has represented Australia’s indigenous community on the world stage.
Her extensive list of achievements have covered community development, policy formation, and research ethics, dedicating her life and career to promoting compassion and understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.
Over her career, she has served as Chair on a number of organisations, including National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory, and the Prime Minister’s Referendum Council. As a well respected and widely published author, she has also been speaker and presenter at numerous events, including presenting to the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous People.
Patricia is the inaugural patron of Women’s Safety Services of Central Australia, and has been the recipient of several honours and awards, including HRC’s Human Rights Medal, a Westpac 100 Women of Influence Award, a NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award, and an Order of Australia for “distinguished service to the Indigenous community as a social justice advocate.”
Tasmania’s Senior Australian of the Year, Brian Williams, was a scout leader and youth mentor for over 50 years. Taking thousands of young people under his wing over the years, Brian developed his Scout troop, Blackmans Bay Scout Group, into the biggest and most successful troop in Tasmania.
Since 1983, Brian has been on the state training team, nurturing future leaders as part of the Venturer Scout Section, future proofing the organisation, personally training over 100 future leaders.
He has also been a key player in setting up a number of state and national events, including the organising the inaugural Australian Venture in Launceston. Bringing young people from all around Australia for 12 days of activities, the event was so successful, Tasmania had been invited to run additional national events.
He is also the deputy chair on the committee for A Day on the Beach, a celebration of Australian life and culture held on Australia Day, offering locals and scouts the opportunity to engage with the community in fun and valuable events.
Dr Richard Walley OAM
Dr Richard Walley OAM is a Nyungar man and leading Aboriginal performer, musician and writer. His career in social justice for Aboriginal Australians began at a young age in Perth, and he has devoted his life to helping individuals and organisations work towards reconciliation through cultural awareness.
Known for originating and reinvigorating the modern form of the Welcome to Country, a ceremony which is now commonplace across Australia, Richard shares his deep knowledge of cultural practices, and educates on historical injustices and Aboriginal culture.
As a valued member on multiple committees, Richard acts as a consultant to provide cultural advice to both the government and corporate agencies. He is also one of the leading experts in providing Welcome to Country, cultural awareness training and advice on Indigenous affairs.
Richard is also recognised as one of the country’s respected Aboriginal artists, his work being featured on the Aboriginal rounds of sporting events, and takes an active artistic role in local and national events and festivals. For his contributions to Aboriginal cultural awareness and the arts, Richard has been the recipient of numerous awards and honours, including Order of Australia, Honorary Doctorate, and WA Citizen Of The Year.
Bich Cam Nguyen
The recipient of the Victorian Senior Australian of the Year, Bich Cam Nguyen is the full-time CEO and secretary of the Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association (AVWA). At 80-years-old, Cam has built the AVWA into the flourishing organisation that it is with three offices and over 200 volunteers and staff.
Coming to Australia with her family and a refugee in 1975, she founded the Vietnamese Friendly Society. With no funding behind them, Cam, along with her husband and some friends, formed the society with a means to offer interpretation services and social information about Australia to newly arrived Vietnamese refugees.
As a continuing champion of Vietnamese Australians and women, Cam founded the AVWA in 1983, buoyed by the support of 16 other Vietnamese professional women. While raising her family and working full time, Cam created a space for Vietnamese and Victorian women of all backgrounds to receive counselling and access programs like home care and training. By 1995, Cam was the AVWA’s full-time executive director, and became the CEO in 2004, a role she has continued to hold since.
During her life, Cam has served on numerous committees, including as honorary secretary for a consortium of African organisations, and has devoted her life to empowering and supporting refugees and migrants of all backgrounds.
Aunty McRose Elu
Torres Strait Island Elder McRose Elu has devoted her life to tirelessly advocating for Torres Strait communities and educating people about climate change. As a passionate advocate for improving the lives of Torres Strait communities and future generations, she has been invited to speak around the world.
Committed to fostering reconciliation, McRose has acted as an educator at the local, state and federal levels, sharing the customs and traditions of her people. At the forefront of the push to recognise the traditional customary adoption practices of Torres Strait Islander families, McRose was a key component of the negotiations, leading to the introduction of a landmark Bill to the Queensland Parliament.
An early activist against the impact of climate change, since 1980, McRose has been pushing for action to prevent climate change and save Torres Strait communities, speaking at the UN and to business and political leaders. She is also a member of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARCC), advocating for renewable and sustainable production methods.
As a passionate and proud Torres Strait Island Elder, McRose also provides essential outreach and translation services to Torres Strait Islander communities, assisting them to access vital services.
Professor Richard Bruggemann
South Australian Senior Australian of the Year recipient, Professor Richard Bruggemann, has consistently devoted his career to advocating for people living with an intellectual disability. At 76 years of age, Richard has provided governments with expert advice on disability services, legislation, inclusion and rights.
He spends much of his time as a passionate volunteer, sitting on more than 20 non-government boards and committees devoted to disability rights, and has become a prolific writer on the subject. Most recently, he was asked by the South Australian Government to join a special taskforce in the investigation of the tragic death of Ann Marie Smith, a woman who was living with cerebral palsy.
He was also given a new government role, assessing the temporary orders to protect people living with cognitive or mental impairments as COVID-19 spread across the country. His tireless efforts across his career and his leadership and advocacy has helped create more accessible communities for people living with intellectual disabilities.
Aunty Isabel Reid
Elder and advocate for the Stolen Generation, Aunty Isabel Reid is the oldest living survivor of those living under the NSW Aborigines Protection Act 1909-1969. Born in 1932, Isabel and her siblings were forcibly removed from their parents and school, with no information about where they were going.
As children, Isabel and her sister, Betty, were sent to Cootamundra Domestic Training Home, where they worked as domestic services, their wages being paid directly to the NSW Government. As an Elder of the Wiradjuri people, Isabel has devoted herself to advocating and raising awareness of the Stolen Generation, working to make sure such a thing never happens again.
Isabel was made an inaugural director of the Coota Girls Aboriginal Corporation in 2013, and in 2016, she was appointed as Chairperson and an inaugural member of the Stolen Generation Advisory Committee. Her passion and leadership was key in securing the $74 million reparation package offered to those who were forcibly removed from their families and communities under the Aborigines Protection Act 1909-1969.
She is a passionate and powerful advocate for her community and is beloved by many.
Image Source: Australian of the Year Awards