2017 VICTORIAN AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR AWARDS RECIPIENTS ANNOUNCED
The 2017 Victorian Australian of the Year Award recipients have been announced this evening at a ceremony hosted by the Honourable Linda Dessau AM, Governor of Victoria and Mr Anthony Howard QC, at Government House in Melbourne.
The Victorian Award recipients will join recipients from the other States and Territories as finalists for the national Awards to be announced on 25 January 2017 in Canberra.
The 2017 Victorian Australian of the Year is refugee, torture and trauma rehabilitation advocate, Paris Aristotle AM. A tireless advocate for refugees and asylum seekers, Paris Aristotle has made an enormous contribution by helping countless people rebuild their lives in Australia after surviving torture and trauma in their countries of origin. In 1988, Paris began building the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture, also known as Foundation House. Now leading a team of more than 200 staff, he has helped refugees recover from unspeakable trauma, through a range of mental health, health, advocacy, educational and community services. Paris has worked closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the field of refugee resettlement and has been instrumental in building a national network of torture and trauma services. For almost three decades he has advised both sides of politics on refugee and asylum seeker policy, and multicultural affairs. Currently the Chair of two federal government councils, Paris has demonstrated patience, personal integrity and practical skill as he navigates what is often an ethical and political minefield.
The 2017 Victorian Senior Australian of the Year is 72 year old Indigenous educator, Lois Peeler AM.
A member of the Sapphires, Lois Peeler is also a political activist, passionate educator and principal at Australia’s only Aboriginal girls’ boarding school. Lois has worked in a range of roles in Indigenous affairs and currently chairs the Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee. At Worawa Aboriginal College in Victoria’s Healesville, Lois welcomes students from some of Australia’s most remote regions, many of whom have been exposed to trauma and dysfunction in their young lives. Lois oversees a holistic approach to education that brings together Aboriginal knowledge, values and pedagogy and Western academic leadership. A powerful role model for her students, staff and community, Lois instils pride and confidence in her students, and helps them gain a deep appreciation of their culture, encouraging the celebration of Aboriginal ways of knowing, doing and being. More than a principal, Lois is also an Elder of the Yorta Yorta people, with the abiding responsibility of nurturing Aboriginal culture, history and identity in an education framework.
The 2017 Victorian Young Australian of the Year is 28 year old diversity and inclusion champion, Jason Ball. When he came out in 2012, Australian Rules player Jason Ball was surprised by the splash his announcement made, as he was a country player at the time. With no openly gay players at the elite AFL level coming out in the male-dominated team sport, Jason's story captured the media's attention and the public's imagination. While Jason was met with overwhelming support, his personal story shone a light on the prevalence of homophobia in sport. Since then, Jason has marched in Pride March Victoria alongside his teammates from the Yarra Glen Football Club. He kick-started the Pride Cup – an event that celebrates diversity and inclusion in sport and which was the inspiration for the AFL's Pride Game between St Kilda and Sydney. He’s trained AFL draftees on inclusive language, and has represented beyondblue and the Safe Schools Coalition Australia, speaking at schools, sporting clubs and conferences about mental health and inclusion. With tremendous courage and conviction, Jason has elevated the conversation about homophobia in sport.
The 2017 Victorian Local Hero is Warrnambool community fundraiser, Vicki Jellie. After her husband Peter died of cancer in 2008, Vicki Jellie found his plans for a local cancer fundraising event. His dream had been to bring radiotherapy services to the South West of Victoria. During treatment, Peter spent weeks away from home in Warrnambool, travelling to Melbourne for radiotherapy treatment. Peter’s dream became Vicki’s passion. In 2009, Vicki brought together local leaders to initiate Peter's Project – a community group dedicated to fighting for better cancer services. Despite being told that a cancer centre in Warrnambool would “never happen”, Vicki relentlessly lobbied governments, rallying the community and raising funds. In May 2014, Vicki announced that the dream had been achieved: $5 million raised by the local community, $25 million to be funded by state and federal governments. In July 2016, the new South West Regional Cancer Centre opened, offering radiotherapy treatment for regional patients. Vicki’s persistence has proven that ‘nothing is impossible’ and will continue to support “all the Peters” who are facing their own cancer battles.
The Governor of Victoria congratulated all the finalists and recipients, paying tribute to their contribution to Victoria.
"There is no question that they make us all better for what they have done and are doing, whether it is by improving our physical or mental health; promoting social inclusion and accessibility; supporting the victims of torture, family violence or sexual abuse; or addressing specific needs in the refugee, indigenous or veteran communities," the Governor said.
"Importantly, each of the finalists has taken action and in doing so have helped to build not only a vibrant and innovative country, but also a caring, compassionate and fairer one."
The Premier of Victoria also congratulated finalists and the Award recipients.
“On behalf of the people of Victoria, it is with great pride that I congratulate the recipients of the 2017 Victorian Australian of the Year Awards,” said Mr Andrews.
"Each recipient represents the diversity that is Victoria's strength and we benefit from their contribution to our state."
Commonwealth Bank has proudly sponsored the Australian of the Year Awards for 37 years. Chief Executive Officer, Ian Narev, said it was an honour to acknowledge the Victorian Award recipients.
“Commonwealth Bank congratulates Paris, Lois, Jason and Vicki on becoming national finalists in the Australian of the Year Awards,” said Mr Narev.
“We are delighted to celebrate their achievements and we wish them all the best for the National Awards in January.”
For more information on the Australian of the Year Awards visit the Honour Roll.