Standing up for Canberra

ACT Australian of the Year 2011

I rise today to talk about the exceptional achievements of the ACT Australians of the year and their work and efforts for the Canberra community. Their nominations represent their relentless efforts and contributions to better the lives of those around them, particularly the people of Canberra.

I first of all congratulate the ACT Australian of the Year, Professor Ian Chubb AC, who is known to many in this House. Ian Chubb has provided three decades of service to tertiary education and university governance, most recently as Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University. Professor Chubb has made an exceptional contribution to the strength and standing of the nation’s university, one of my alma maters, and is a worthy recipient of this very high honour.

I would also like to congratulate the ACT Senior Australian of the Year, Marie Coleman, who like many in this town has had the experience of serving and contributing to the government of the day. Marie is a former public servant of the Whitlam and Fraser governments, was active in providing a positive outlook for women during a period of massive social change and is very active in the local community. Marie was the first woman to head a Commonwealth government statutory agency and the first woman to hold the powers of permanent head under the Public Service Act. She was the founding secretary of the National Foundation for Australian Women, and I commend her for her struggle and congratulate her on her achievement.

I would also like to congratulate the Territory’s Young Australian of the Year, David Bresnik, who is an extraordinary young man. I wish to congratulate David for his youth support volunteer work with St Vincent de Paul. David quickly became involved with sporting activities, excursions and week-long camps for children experiencing hardship and disadvantage. He is an accountant and he is a great inspiration for young Canberrans and other young Australians. I will be looking forward to spending more time with him over the next 12 months in terms of using him as a role model for students and other youth throughout Canberra.

The ACT nominee for Australia’s Local Hero is Alan Jessop. Alan has collected for the Salvation Army for 22 years and continues to collect three days a week for the charity. He is a passionate contributor to our society and my community. At the age of 80, he has no intention of stopping his charity work. His dedication and diligence are remarkable. He is a Canberra institution. Congratulations, Alan.

I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of the public servants who received medals at the Australia Day awards. Matthew Anderson received the Public Service Medal for outstanding public service in leading the Australian government’s consular and humanitarian response to the September 2009 tsunami in Samoa. I am proud of his achievements and also the achievements of others, such as Geoff Leeper, Frank Leverett and others who received Public Service Medals across the Canberra community. They are extraordinary individuals and continue to give in their efforts to make a difference and serve their community. I am incredibly grateful for their efforts in the Canberra community and also their contribution to the nation. I thank them very much for their work in the Canberra community.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Simon McKeon, the Australian of the Year. Mr McKeon received this award because of his long efforts in the not-for-profit sector. I had the privilege of meeting him and his wife at the Australia Day citizenship ceremony at the lake on Australia Day. The Prime Minister was there for the service. It was a beautiful summer’s day. Fifty new Australian citizens took part in that ceremony. It was a great day. It was a great opportunity to meet the new citizens and also some of the former Australians of the Year, such as Simon Gilchrist and others. Mr McKeon, as we know, has had an active role in the private sector, through the Macquarie Group, but he has also spent a lot of time working for not-for-profit and charity organisations. He has contributed his skills and talents to help some quite worthwhile causes when it certainly would have been more lucrative for him to remain in the corporate world.

In accepting his award, he called on all Australians to donate more to charity. I echo Mr McKeon’s call. He also said in his acceptance speech, which was here on the eve of Australia Day, that people should volunteer, not just to help their community and not just to work in an op shop and those sorts of services but to get engaged on boards and use their expertise to give to charities and not-for-profit organisations that cannot afford that expertise but really appreciate, say, accountants or lawyers volunteering. Having been a board director of a number of different organisations, both not-for-profit and commercial organisations, I encourage Canberrans and Australians to, first of all, acknowledge the fact that they have valuable skills and, also, give back to the community. 

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