THEY are not stars of the screen, stage or sporting field.
But the winners saluted in the tenth Pride of Australia awards at Federation Square on Monday, October 6 are the people we should aspire to be.
From community champions to selfless volunteers and bravery beyond measure, the medals recognised unsung heroes who improve the lives of those around them.
Take Rosie Batty, whose stoicism and remarkable courage after her son was murdered by his father has touched us all.
Even amid the depths of her grief, she has crusaded for change in the domestic violence system to try and protect others.
She accepted her Courage medal today to a rousing standing ovation, one of ten medals to be handed out.
More than 20,000 inspiring stories have been told and 500 medals awarded over the past 10 years.
“Every person nominated today should be proud, and we salute them for enriching Victoria and making it an even better place to live,” said the Herald and Weekly Times’ Victorian Managing Director, Editorial, Peter Blunden.
They are also awarded in the categories of Community Spirit, Young Leader, Environment, Heroism, Fair Go, Inspiration, Care and Compassion, Outstanding Bravery and Child of Courage.
Nominated by the people who admire them, the winners receive the recognition they deserve for often years of hard work.
They have gone on to tour schools to inspire Australia’s next generation, meet the prime minister and become international ambassadors for their chosen cause.
They have done untold good for Victoria.
Victoria’s winners will go into the running for the national Pride of Australia awards, to be announced in December.
Danny Shaddock and Jenny Wiltshire (joint winners)
A TOTAL disregard for their own safety in the fight to save four others has earned heroic cops Danny Shaddock and Jenny Wiltshire the Heroism Medal. The Senior Constables were the first emergency services on scene at a Cloverlea farm where four semi-conscious men were trapped in a tank filled with a lethal substance. With Sen-Constable Wiltshire holding onto his belt, Sen-Constable Shaddock waded into the tank 15 times – saving all four men, three of whom were just seconds from death. The two police officers were taken to hospital following the rescue.
Care and Compassion Medal
LISA Gray is the ultimate super mum. She has cared for more than 70 children in her tireless work as a foster carer. Her Geelong home is filled with up to 10 children at any time one, including her two biological sons and the three children she permanently carers for. Her loving approach and enormous heart has turned around the lives of countless children in the past 14 years.
Child of Courage Medal
Eric Watkins is cool in a crisis. The eight-year-old showed composure beyond his years when his mother was knocked unconscious after crashing into a tree on a quad bike. The brave youngster stayed by her side, reassuring her that she would be OK and that help was on its way.
Community Spirit Medal
KIDS across Australia are set to receive free books thanks to a can-do mum from the Mornington Peninsula. Melinda Shelley has distributed more than 12,000 free books to children on the peninsula through her foundation, 123Read2Me, and with the help of the Lions Club the program hopes to go national next year. She has also campaigned for better health services, founding the Breastfeeding Interest Group as a consultancy group on women’s health.
NEARLY every pocket of Victoria has benefited from Les Smith’s green thumb. The 86-year-old, dubbed a “godfather of environmental advocacy”, is Environment Victoria’s longest serving volunteer and was instrumental in saving the Little Desert National Park from subdivision in the late 1960s. The former organic chemist with the CSIRO still gets his hands dirty each week, propagating native species.
Fair Go Medal
THERE is one word Gina Poulos cannot say – no. The cooking crusader has for decades run a foodbank from her home, handing out food parcels to the disadvantaged. She also opened her home in Morwell to families needing a bed, people with mental illness and those released from jail. While friends report that Ms Poulos never turns away someone in need, she also dips into her own pocket to ensure her charity continues to run.
Katherine Tsagaris had done inspirational work with juvenile offenders. Picture: Ian Curr
Katherine Tsagaris had done inspirational work with juvenile offenders. Picture: Ian Currie
KATHERINE Tsagaris is teaching her students more than mathematics or English. She is teaching them that they have options other than a life of crime. Ms Tsagaris, 29, leads a team of teachers at the Parkville Youth Justice Precinct, where her students are juvenile offenders aged between 15 and 19. With a passion for providing better options for her students, she fast-tracks their education with a whole school year taught in just two months. It is, as Ms Tsagaris sees it, “the job of a lifetime”.
FEW Victorians wouldn’t know Rosie Batty’s name or recognise her face. She became a spokeswoman for the fight against domestic violence after her 11-year-old son Luke was murdered by his father at cricket practice. She has bravely campaigned for reforms to the system that let her and Luke down. And she is making significant headway. The Victorian Government has announced an extra $30 million to tackle domestic violence, which Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay attributes to the ‘Rosie Batty factor’.
Sissy-Amelia Austin and Will Austin (joint winners)
Young Leader Medal
SIBLINGS Sissy-Amelia and Will Austin have leadership running through their veins. Trailblazer Sissy was the first in her family to finish VCE and study at university. The Gunditjmara woman, 20, is now inspiring others as the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Officer at Loreto College in Ballarat. Will, 18, who nominated Sissy for her award, is following in his sister’s inspirational footsteps. He is raising awareness of Australia’s devastating youth suicide rate, which is up to five times higher in Aboriginal youths. He volunteers as an RUOK? community ambassador, calling for a better understanding of mental health issues.
Rebecca Barbara, Rebecca Biron, Vinay Dass, Andrew Di Lollo, Jo McIntyre
Outstanding Bravery Medal
NEUROSURGEON Michael Wong has a group of five heroes, including a cancer patient, to thank for his life. Dr Wong was stabbed 14 times in the foyer of the Western Hospital in February. Without the help of nearby nurses and patients, including Andrew Di Lollo who was reporting for chemotherapy, Dr Wong could have bled out. The group distracted the attacker long enough to pull the surgeon out of harm’s way. Each holding an arm or leg, they carried him across the hospital to the emergency department where he underwent life-saving surgery.
Source: The Herald Sun
Image Credit: Michael Gallus is behind the volunteer children’s sporting foundation Footys4All. (Credit: Valeriu Campan – Herald Sun).