Media Release by The Hon Larry Anthony MP

Congratulations to Young Australian of the Year finalists

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Larry Anthony, today congratulated the 31 State and Territory finalists of the 2004 Young Australian of the Year Award.

“The Young Australian of the Year Award recognises and celebrated the achievements of Australia’s young people, who through initiative, hard work and persistence achieve extraordinary results.

“With a focus on leadership, vision and entrepreneurial flair, the award fosters the pursuit of excellence. It also highlights to all Australians the success our young people have achieved through their determination, talent and contribution to their community.

“This year’s nominations increased by more than 200 per cent. The finalist list comprises voluntary missionaries, young entrepreneurs, scientists, environmentalists, radio broadcasters, school principals and previous members of the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Group.

“Previous winners of the award have come from sporting fields, the corporate sector and science labs and include inspirational people like Lleyton Hewitt, Scott Hocknull,
James Fitzpatrick, Ian Thorpe and Poppy King.

“By acknowledging young Australians who are excelling, other young people are motivated to achieve their goals and make their mark on Australia’s future,” Mr Anthony said.

The Young Australian of the Year, along with the Senior and Australian of the Year, will be announced on 25 January 2004 at a gala ceremony.

Information on the finalists and state events are available from the National Australia Day Council, phone 02 6273 8666, the awards website Australian of the Year Awards, or Horizon Public Relations phone 02 9552 2744

Young Australian of the Year Finalists

New South Wales

Sarah Dunbar

Sarah Dunbar has a passionate intolerance of poverty and injustice, with a mature and tireless commitment to get involved and become part of the solution. Sarah has been involved in numerous community service activities, including teaching Sunday School and Youth Groups at St. Stephens Anglican Church Belrose, and has been a World Vision voluntary worker since 1994. Recently Sarah was a voluntary missionary in Timisoara in Romania where she among many things, worked with disabled children in an orphanage, ran holiday activity programs and led adult English classes. Her dedication and commitment to increase the quality of life to those who need it, both in Australia and abroad, is truly inspiring.

Vanessa Hughes

Vanessa Hughes is not only a dedicated scientific researcher and educator but she is also a mentor to many younger scientists. She gives up her free time to help tutor students in biochemistry, haematology and anatomical pathology. Vanessa is currently conducting a research project that was suggested in 1937 which no one thought was possible. She is finding a method for the ageing of bruises. Through this, Vanessa aims to assist victims of child abuse. She has also been involved in many community initiatives including Shine – a program that encourages young teenage women to reach their full potential by goal setting, evaluating life’s challenges, and developing a sense of responsibility for their actions. Vanessa is a caring friend to many and a mentor and role model to countless young Australians.

William Scully-Power

An exceptional young entrepreneur, William Scully-Power is currently a director of three companies, Model Search Australia Pty Ltd, Conceptlabs Pty Ltd, and Marketing FX Pty Ltd. Founding his first business enterprise at the age of just 17, he has won a host of technology and business awards, including the 2001 Commonwealth Bank Young Hero Award. Earlier this year William was selected to sit on the Leadership and Enterprise Development Group of the Australian Federal Government’s National Youth Roundtable. A talented entrepreneur, William is an excellent and active ambassador for other young Australians.

Nikki Williams

Diagnosed with leukaemia at the age of 12, Nikki Williams courageously overcame this life-threatening disease. Nikki, now 17, works hard to drive support for organisations such as Westmead Children’s Hospital, Cancer Research Foundations, and the Red Cross which she believes have given her so much. Nikki uses any occasion to fundraise and create awareness for cancer. Nikki is an excellent ambassador for our youth. Her courage, compassion and enthusiasm for life certainly inspires people young and old to take advantage of all opportunities life presents.

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Matthew Albert

Matthew Albert is one of the two founding coordinators of the Sudanese Australian Integrated Learning (SAIL) Program. SAIL is a not-for-profit volunteer-run organisation which provides free community services to the Sudanese refugee community living in Melbourne’s western suburbs. The program provides services to over 220 Sudanese children and adults, and has over 100 volunteers. He has also founded the Sudanese Online Research Association, which is a centre for the collection of research about the Sudanese diaspora. Matthew has demonstrated outstanding character and qualities of the utmost dedication, integrity and honesty. At a young age, he has an amazing passion to contribute to, and improve, our multicultural community.

Hugh Evans

Since experiencing the squalor of the Manila slums in the Phillippines during a study tour as a 14-year-old boy, Hugh Evans has dedicated his life to helping the poorest people in the world. He has since established Australia’s first youth-run aid organisation, the Oak Tree Foundation, whose mission is
to empower developing communities through education. In 2002, Hugh spent seven months working in the impoverished Embo Valley in South Africa, during which time he led the construction of a sports field and a community library. He also worked in an AIDS orphanage, where he established a new child sponsorship program through World Vision. Hugh’s sincerity, humility and genuineness are what have inspired so many people, young and old, to work towards helping those less fortunate.

James Lee

For three and half years, James Lee has been dedicated to assisting and educating refugees and immigrants and leading large groups of young people in various community service activities. At the age of eighteen, James set up a voluntary tutoring service which today boasts more than 45 tutors and assists scores of people in suburban Melbourne. Not only the students benefit from the program, but their families too. James works hard to ensure the program is effective and he recently visited the Phillipines to research alternative mentoring programs. His commitment and self sacrifice is remarkable and truly inspirational for all Australians.

Sosina Wogahenu

A young Ethiopian refugee who became a citizen of Australia in 2002, Sosina Wogahenu was the first graduate of the National Institute of Circus Arts to be offered a permanent position with Circus Oz. Even more recently, Sosina was the first Australian performer to be invited to the international Circus Princess Award in Sweden where she captivated the audience while representing her new nation. Although her schedule is hectic, Sosina manages to find time to assist new refugees. In conjunction with Circus Oz, she has helped raise money for refugee groups throughout Australia. From impoverished beginnings, Sosina believes that life is what you make of it, and is a true inspiration.


Katherine Allen

In 2003 Katherine Allen in conjunction with Telstra undertook a major thesis studying mobile phone networks. The work undertaken in the project was critical in ensuring that networks can operate efficiently in the face of increasing phone numbers and applications. This is important as mobile phone use continues to grow rapidly in Australia. Katherine has recently become a spokesperson for women in engineering and earlier this year was awarded as the 2003 Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Women in Engineering Scholarship. In addition to her hectic work schedule, Katherine volunteers her time to the Salvation Army, Brisbane Private Hospital and Mercy Private Hospital. An inspiration to women of all ages, Katherine has shown that determination and persistence will enable you to succeed even at the age of 21.

Paul Booker

Paul has demonstrated leadership from the beginning in his role as a Recreational Officer at the Pine Rivers Community Care Unit. Mental Health Service is an area often filled with despair and hopelessness but Paul has always showed optimism and understanding. He has been instrumental to the organisation in obtaining valuable funding for the residents’ group and setting up vocational programs. Paul’s commitment to helping those less fortunate than himself goes beyond his work. As the Youth Leader at Christian City Church Bayside, Paul champions the youth initiatives. This includes an outreach service for youth experiencing substance and alcohol abuse, and presenting drug free events. Australia is lucky to have young leader like Paul Booker.

Alice Chang

A tireless advocate of positive images of young people, Alice Chang is an exceptional young Australian. Currently studying medicine in Townsville, she contributes to the community and the youth of both Queensland and Australia in various forums. Alice has been a participant in the National Youth Roundtable 2003, member of the State Advisory Council and Queensland Community Jobs Board, whilst also volunteering for several health-based organisations. Alice, aged 22 years old, is the youngest person to be appointed to the Queensland Heritage Council and was recently named 2003 Young Queenslander of the Year. A quiet achiever, humble yet confident in her community involvement, Alice is an inspired young Australian who leads by example.

Marayke Jonkers

Paralympian Marayke Jonkers is a 21 year old full time university student who aims to win gold in swimming for Australia at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games. Marayke has used a wheelchair since becoming a paraplegic in a motor vehicle accident as a small child. She has never believed however that her disability was a barrier to success. Currently she is ranked second in the world for 50m breaststroke and 150 metres individual medley and holds 56 Australian age records in her classification. Marayke seeks to lead by example in raising awareness about spinal injuries. She coordinates swimming activities for children with a disability and gives presentations at primary and high schools. Marayke is an outstanding role model who greets every challenge in life with a positive attitude and a smile.

South Australia

Amy Beal

Amy Beal is an active young environmentalist seeking to raise community awareness of important environmental issues. In 2001 Amy was awarded the National Future Leaders of the Environment Award and announced as one of the four Australian winners. As a member of the Youth Environment Council, Amy championed the Youth for Environmental Action Conference in August 2003. As part of her pursuit to educate young Australians about the importance of the environment, Amy is organising a conference for two hundred South Australian Primary School children on the Murray River’s plight in Term 2 2004.
Amy is determined to make a difference. To assist her in this goal she is currently studying Environmental Management at Flinders University.

Matthew Hutchinson

Educated at home by his parents, Matthew commenced his Bachelor of Medicine/Surgery at the University of Adelaide Medical School five years ago. Since then Matthew has been associated with the Adelaide Medical Students’ Society; President in 2002 and currently the Vice-President. Matthew has always been committed to helping those in need in Australia and overseas. Earlier this year Matthew visited India with Steve Waugh where he distributed medical aid to children affected by Leprosy. With the support of the Australian Medical Student Association Matthew is now advocating for a national program for medical students to travel to the Third World as part of their training. He is also passionate about helping children in rural/remote areas of Australia and ensuring more doctors take up work in country areas. Matthew is an outstanding ambassador for the youth of Australia and an
inspiration for all Australians who meet him.

Jennifer Schulz

Jennifer Schulz is a community minded young Australian. Since a young age Jennifer has been committed to working with the local service communities including St Johns, UNICEF, Austism Association and many sporting clubs. For 12 years Jennifer has dedicated her time to St Johns Ambulance. She is currently training to become a corporal with St Johns and training in emergency driving of the first aid units. Jennifer is a gold award recipient in the prestigious Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme. It is the highest award in the scheme, which encourages and motivates young people to become involved in voluntary self-development activities. Along with all Jennifer’s community participation, she works hard to raise awareness about people with disabilities by helping the community to learn about all people including those with a disability. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Applied Science (Special Education) at the Flinders University of South Australia to assist her with this goal.

Nicole Vasilakis

Nicole Vasilakis, commenced violin studies at the Elder Conservatorium, Adelaide at the age of 12. Over the next four years she won every major state competition including the Elder Conservatorium Concerto Competition. At 16 Nicole moved to Sydney to pursue her dream of becoming a concert violinist. Today she is in a final year of Bachelor of Music in Performance and her academic results are outstanding. Nicole is now fulfilling her dream and this year has performed with both the Sydney and Melbourne Symphony Orchestras, including the 30th Anniversary of the Sydney Opera House in October 2003. As the Artist-in-Residence at St Andrews Cathedral School she is a mentor and inspiration for young students. Suffering dyslexia, Nicole shows Australians that you can achieve anything with determination and spirit.

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Western Australia

Alicia Curtis

Since the age of 12 Alicia Curtis has been contributing to the community. Co-founder of ‘Kids Helping Kids’ environment conferences and an active member of the National Youth Round Table and State Youth Environment Council, Alicia is a tireless worker. She strives to promote young people to be not only the leaders of the future, but the leaders for today. Alicia has also established her own business ‘Speaking of Leadership’. Through this she provides motivational speeches and workshops, student council training and tailored leadership workshops to suit the needs of the group. Alicia believes in the beauty of dreams and wants more than anything to see young people from all walks of life succeed in their endeavours.

David Faulkner

At just 24 years of age David Faulkner is the youngest school principal in Western Australia. The school is Marvel Loch Primary School, located 370kms east of Perth. Since becoming principal he has been working with his staff and students to create programs that promote life long learning and has become heavily involved with promoting the school and community. Earlier this year David received the Western Australian Young Leader of the Year Award and was announced as the Western Australian Young Person of the Year. On top of his schooling commitments David also leads youth groups, runs youth camps and represents young people in schools and communities. He is passionate about rural Australia and has become a community leader in rural issues. With an ability to engage, entertain, motivate and inspire the people around him, David’s passion for education and his desire to make a real difference to the young people of Australia, make him an exceptional Australian.

Rafael Niesten

With Western Australia the only state without a youth radio broadcaster, Rafael Niesten set about establishing a youth radio station and applied to the Australian Broadcasting Authority for a license.
Rafael’s vision was for a station that would inform, empower and entertain young people, and provide a forum to explore and express opinions and ideas. After many months of fundraising and working up to seventeen hour days, on July 2, 2002 Groove 101.7 FM was born. Through Groove FM up to 330
volunteers have had a chance to experience and learn about broadcasting. His commitment, creativity and hard work has made his dream come true and has given Western Australia’s youth a voice in the media.

Sandra Spadanuda

Sandra Spadanuda’s commitment to community service, charity and indigenous and ethnic services is outstanding. At present she is volunteering between 25-30 hours of her time each week to community based activities including working with at-risk youth, working full-time as a youth and family support worker with Mission Australia’s ON-TRACK program, tutoring young indigenous people in their homes and assisting them with their schooling. In addition Sandra voluntarily coordinates the Western Australia branch of the National Youth Initiative and sits on eight local committees. At just twenty years old, Sandra’s achievements are outstanding. Her commitment and efforts to help those in need is inspirational


Roger Chung

Neuroscientist Roger Chung, a junior research fellow within the University of Tasmania’s School of Medicine’s Biochemistry Department, led a team of scientists that identified the ability of a family of naturally occurring proteins, named metallothioneins, to influence brain healing following injury. His team has published its findings in the respected Journal of Neuroscience to acclaim from international medical researchers. The breakthrough could lead the world in treating strokes, Alzheimer’s disease and other brain related injuries. The research suggests that it might be possible in the future to increase the amount of metallothionein produced by the brain following trauma as a means of promoting recovery. Such a treatment would be highly beneficial, since it would involve the patient’s own body aiding in its recovery. Hailed by international medical researchers, Roger is an outstanding young Australian.

Kirsty Dunphey

At age 21 Kirsty Dunphey launched her own real estate business, becoming the youngest licensed real estate manager and owner in Tasmania. In just 18 months M&M Real Estate had sold close to $20 million in real estate and the company continues to flourish in the Launceston property market. Since its inception Kirsty has broken records and implemented innovative and exciting marketing ideas. She was named the National Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year for 2002. She is currently undertaking a major charity project – the St Giles House of Dreams. This fundraising project involves the purchase, renovation and auction of a home. Her business acumen, drive and willingness to assist other young Australians makes Kirsty stand out from the crowd. She is a role model for all young Australians.

Ling San Lau

Ling San Lau, aged 17, has an enduring love for the environment and its conservation. She is committed to conservation having researched the environmental factors affecting tadpoles and the long-term water quality of a local waterway. She is currently studying the innate immune response of Tasmanian Platypuses at the University of Tasmania. The parasitic fungus of her study is Mucor Amphibiorum believed to have been introduced from Queensland in the early 1980’s. She has received seven national science awards including two prestigious Eureka Prizes. Her studies, projects, papers and subsequent awards showcase Ling’s exceptional qualities, and determination to succeed. Ling is modest, but her natural enthusiasm and sense of humour is inspirational to all her peers.

Kate Talbot

At 23 one of Kate Talbot’s career objectives is to ‘make a valuable contribution to the lives of others’. Her commitment and contribution to humanitarian, community service and charities in Tasmania, nationally and internationally is outstanding. Beginning volunteer work in Year 9, Kate is currently Deputy Chairperson of the National Youth and Education Services Advisory Committee of the Australian Red Cross and she has worked as an Australian Youth Ambassador in Cambodia. Kate is a trained nurse but has taken nursing beyond the individual patient to care for whole communities. She combines journalism skills with her nursing skills in broad range of voluntary activities including Amnesty International, National Youth Week, Australian Forum of Youth Organisations, International Law Community Speakers Program, St Vincent de Paul Society and Talire/Hazelwood Special School. Kate’s passionate outgoing nature makes her a true leader and an inspiration to all those who come in to contact with her.

Australian Capital Territory

Julia Fetherston

Year 11 Canberra Girls’ Grammar student Julia Fetherston was named the best individual speaker at this year’s World Schools Debating Championships. She was also part of the winning Australian team in Lima, Peru. Julia is a high achiever in both public speaking and writing. In 2001 Julia was awarded the Simpson Prize for the Australia Capital Territory for her essay about her trip to Gallipoli and its relevance to contemporary Australian life. She is also a student leader, recently establishing a youth working group with Environment Australia. This group brings young people’s ideas and opinions on environmental education to the National Council for Environmental Education. Julia is an excellent young Ambassador.

Sara Vassallo

Sara Vassallo is a young woman who is actively engaged in many aspects of her community. She is a leader in the Guiding and Scout movements. In 2002 Sara was presented with the Queen’s Guide Award, the highest achievement as a Girl Guide. She is now a Guide leader and is starting a new Joey Mob for the Aranda Scout Group and is establishing the Olave Program in the Australian Capital Territory. This program offers young people the opportunity to further their personal development through actively engaging in training and activities in a peer environment. Sara is involved in many community fundraisers including the St Vincent de Paul Society, 40 Hour Famine, Amnesty International and Daffodil Day. She is also a participant in her church, public speaking and the arts. Sara is a motivated young Australian who is committed to making Australia a great place to live.

Brad Warren

Brad Warren is an astronomy Ph.D. student studying gas-rich dwarf galaxies. Brad is based in Canberra at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, located at Mount Stromlo Observatory, part of the Australian National University. Brad led a recent significant study which changed the way we understand how galaxies are formed in the universe. The breakthrough discovered that galaxies consist mostly of gas, rather than stars. Most galaxies transform gas into stars but the galaxies he has discovered have held back, and it is unclear why. Continuing research into this link will provide valuable insights into how and why galaxies such as our own are formed. Brad presented his research at the 25th triennial congress of the Astronomical Union in July 2003 and received international accolades. He is continuing his studies despite the devastating effects of the January bushfire on the observatory at Mount Stromlo.

Northern Territory

Sarah Chunys

Sarah Chunys is committed to building a stronger and more supportive environment in Alice Springs with focus on the issue of mental health and young people. She has enthusiastically campaigned for community organisations, schools, parents and families to be more aware of mental health issues. During Mental Health Week in 2002, Sarah organised and hosted the first mental health community forum ever in Alice Springs. She has committed many hours volunteering, including working with the Mental Health Team, Life Promotions Unit and Alice Springs Youth Accommodation and Support Services. The current Young Territorian of the Year, she has also published a number of newspaper articles and written a play, which will be performed during National Youth Week. Sarah is committed to informing and assisting people from all walks of life. She is a highly motivated person and is truly an inspiration.

Damien Moriarty

Damien Moriarty has demonstrated a continued quest for excellence in the areas of business, academia and community service. Following his extensive involvement in various forums, Damien was recently elected President of the Ship for World Youth Australia, a unique international cultural exchange program organised by the Government of Japan. It is the most prestigious program of its kind bringing together over 250 youth from around the world to build international cooperation and understanding. Remaining enthusiastic and positive whilst working full time, studying full time, involving himself in the forefront of Youth Enterprise and being so committed to community service is an extraordinary effort. Damien is an outstanding, hard working and highly motivated young Australian.

John Rawnsley

Through his studies and active involvement in indigenous affairs, John Rawnsley is always looking for ways to empower young indigenous people. This year John has become a member of the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Group and was a recipient of the Freightlink Scholarship. In 1999, John successfully completed the Northern Territory University’s Indigenous Pre-Law Program and enrolled in the Bachelor of Laws course. He was heavily involved in student politics at NTU and was elected the Faculty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies representative on the student union. Continuing his law studies at the Australian National University in Canberra, John is now working towards establishing a national group to represent indigenous law students across the country. His passion and persistence, striving to achieve, make John an inspiration to all.

Maria Scaturchio

Maria Scaturchio is employed as the Program Development Officer for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Her role is to encourage young people to take on new challenges and to get involved in their community, to learn new skills and be an active citizen. This job was tailor made for Maria, as this is what she has been doing her whole life. Maria has been involved in the Chief Minister’s Round Table of Young Territorians and this year was runner up as the Darwin Youth Citizen of the Year. She also competes at the national level in water polo and royal lifesaving. Maria is dynamic and full of youthful enthusiasm. She has drive and determination, along with maturity and excellent sense of social responsibility.