Canberra’s finest line up for 2018 ACT Australian of the Year awards

B2B Editor2 November 2017

Canberra’s finest line up for 2018 ACT Australian of the Year awards

An Indigenous entrepreneur and community leader, a mothers’ health and exercise pioneer, a youth dance educator and a charity board member and fundraiser are in the running to be named ACT Australian of the Year.

The nominees for the 2018 ACT Australian of the Year Awards have been announced with the winners to be named on Monday, 6 November 2017 at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.

Other nominees include those for ACT Senior Australian of the Year, ACT Young Australian of the Year and ACT Local Hero.

The ACT award recipients will then join 32 State and Territory recipients from around Australia in the national awards, which will be held in Canberra on 25 January 2018.

The four nominees for ACT Australian of the Year:

  • Darkies Design founder Mark Dion Devow, turned a derogatory term on its head to create a successful business that produces contemporary Aboriginal-themed apparel and print media for mainstream, sports and promotional use. Dion now champions other Indigenous people to build businesses and achieve economic independence. In 2014, he created the Canberra Business Yarning Circle, an Indigenous business owners network. An ambassador for Indigenous Community Volunteers, Dion also sits on the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body.
  • Jennelle McAppion, founder of Mums Exercise Group Australia. After giving birth to triplets, Jennelle set out to improve her health and fitness but discovered there were no free or low-cost services for women with children in tow. In less than three years, Jennelle’s organisation has grown to over 20,000 members around Australia who participate in a range of exercise sessions, from pram-friendly walking groups to mums and bubs swimming classes. She coordinates 350 volunteers nationally and 100-plus free exercise sessions each week while working in paid employment and juggling triplets.
  • Ruth Osborne is a pioneer of youth dance practice in Australia, performing, teaching, choreographing, directing and collaborating for more than four decades. Ruth established the Contemporary Dance Centre, taught at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts and was founding Artistic Director of STEPS Youth Dance Company. She has choreographed for local, national and international television and film, and for large-scale events. As the Artistic Director of QL2 Dance in Canberra, Ruth is dedicated to developing the next generation of dancemakers and to building a dynamic, caring and diverse artistic community.
  • Paul Walshe OAM is a charity board member and fundraiser. With a mission to raise money for a respite centre in Queanbeyan, Paul Walshe hiked the gruelling Kokoda Track this year. In 2000, he joined the inaugural board of the ACT Eden Monaro Cancer Support Group. For six years he organised the Cancer Support Group annual fundraising ball, and spent 10 years staging Canberra’s Pink Dinner for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Together, these events garnered more than $1.3 million. Paul has advocated for mental health as a Directions ACT board member and has sat on the Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal board since 2009. By day, Paul manages corporate affairs for ActewAGL and is the driving force behind many corporate charity events.

National Australia Day Council CEO Jenny Barbour said the ACT nominees were among 130 great Australians being recognised at the state level in the Australian of the Year Awards.

“The Australian of the Year Awards allow us to recognise and celebrate the achievements of outstanding Australians – people making extraordinary contributions to our society,” said Ms Barbour.

“The ACT Award nominees all draw from their own experiences and share their learnings with others to bring about real change. Their energy, achievements and efforts are inspirational and make them Australians to be proud of.”

Community champion Diane Kargas AM (ACT Senior Australian of the Year nominee) resigned from her senior role in the ACT Public Service to dedicate her life to the Canberra community, using her skills in financial management, governance and administration to assist a range of charities. She has tackled challenges from homelessness to social inclusion to bushfire recovery. She is Chair of Common Ground, an organisation that supports supportive and inclusive low-cost housing, and as chair of Hands Across Canberra, Diane brings together businesses, charities, government and individuals to channel donations to local charities.

Science communicator Si n Keys (ACT Young Australian of the Year nominee) has developed a free program to encourage people with intellectual disabilities to enjoy and engage with science. The Senior Programs Officer with the National Youth Science Forum, Si n was inspired to create Scienceability for her brother Ehren, who has Down syndrome and also loves science. Si n applied for a National Science Week grant and launched Scienceability in 2017, Australia’s first science program run for and by people with intellectual disabilities. Si n is challenging ideas of who can engage with science.

Charity fundraiser and businessman Peter Munday (ACT Local Hero nominee) has used his business resources and personal connections to raise millions for charity. By raffling off cars donated by his business, Lennock Volkswagen, and by encouraging his customers to support his worthy causes, Peter has contributed enormously to charities as diverse as the Starlight Children’s Foundation, the Snowy Hydro SouthCare Helicopter, the Canberra Regional Cancer Centre, Lifeline and Menslink. Passionate about supporting young men through tough times, Peter leads the fundraising efforts for Menslink, raising $120,000 in 2016 alone. As a founding member of the Canberra Starlight committee, Peter helped raise $3 million to establish the Starlight children’s ward at the Canberra Hospital. He also personally donated $100,000 raised through a car raffle to refurbish The Cottage, a day facility for young people with severe mental health issues. His annual ‘Drive for the Community’ brings car enthusiasts together to support adolescent mental health.

An 2014 ACT Local Hero finalist, Canberra businessman Richard Rolfe, congratulated all of the nominees on their achievements being recognised.

“They are each making an extraordinary contribution to our community, and their friends and families are no doubt justifiably proud that their achievements are being publicly recognised,” Mr Rolfe said.

“Peter Munday is a great example of how an individual can harness the goodwill of a great local business, Lennock Motors, and achieve the necessary buy-in from both suppliers and colleagues within the motor industry to assist a wide range of very deserving charities.”

Other nominees:


  • Dr Graham Farquhar AO – Prize winning biophysicist (Canberra)
  • Narelle Hargreaves OAM – Educator and advocate for children and young people (Canberra)
  • Diane Kargas AM – Community champion (Red Hill)
  • Jennifer Kemarre Martiniello – Artist and Indigenous arts advocate (Canberra)


  • Zack Bryers – Youth and outreach worker (Ngunnawal)
  • Caitlin Figueiredo – Youth advocate and change maker (Kaleen)
  • Joshua Gilbert – Climate change champion (Griffith)
  • Si n Keys – Science communicator (Canberra)


  • Genevieve Bolton OAM – Community lawyer (Canberra)
  • Sarah Mamalai – Brain cancer research advocate and fundraiser (Pearce)
  • Peter Munday – Charity fundraiser (Canberra)
  • Suzanne Tunks – Supporter and fundraiser for sick children (Canberra)

Original Article published by Ian Bushnell from the RiotACT.

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