Joe and Fiona Riewoldt, the founders of Maddie Riewoldt's Vision, are among the 17 nominees for Tasmania's 2021 Australian of the Year Awards.
The parents of retired AFL star Nick Riewoldt are in the running to be named the state's next Tasmanian Australians of the Year.
After their 26-year-old daughter Maddie died in 2015 of aplastic anaemia, a bone marrow failure syndrome, the husband-and-wife pair, together with their sons Nick and Alex, founded Maddie Riewoldt's Vision.
It funds medical research towards a cure for bone marrow failure syndromes, and through the tireless efforts of the Riewoldts, has managed to secure funding from the Victorian government to establish the first National Centre of Research Excellence in Bone Marrow Biology in the Asia Pacific region.
The other Tasmanians in line to be named the state's Local Hero, Young Australian, Senior Australian or Australian of the Year include an advocate for survivors of sexual assault, a popular scout leader and a respected volunteer ambulance officer.
Named alongside the Riewoldts in the Australian of the Year category is Launceston-based George Razay, a world-leading researcher in the treatment and diagnosis of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
The 64-year-old Dr Razay's research formulated the Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus process for diagnosing and treating a form of dementia, now used across the globe. Dr Razay provides his research to doctors and clinics for free, which makes it easier for them to diagnose different forms of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Among the fresh-faced nominees lauded in the Young Australian of the Year category is an 18-year old solo flight record-holder.
At just 16, Kindred's Robert Bramley attempted to become the youngest person to circumnavigate Australia solo by plane. After coming close to losing two friends to suicide, Bramley was determined to raise awareness and funds to prevent youth suicide. Forming an organisation called Surviving Turbulence, his advocacy has generated significant funding for Beyond Blue through attracting private donations and corporate sponsorships.
Tasmania has such a wealth of achievers and contributors who are focused on how they can help others or how they can make a mark. What an extraordinary group of people, all of whom are an inspiration.National Australia Day Council CEO Karlie Brand
In the Senior Australian of the Year category, Northern Tasmanian residents Owen Tilbury and Derek Benson are among those nominated.
Mr Tilbury is known for his brainchild, the Tasmanian Breath of Fresh Air Film Festival, which, through thought-provoking films and detailed discussions, inspires positive change. Most recently he has spearheaded the Great Regional City Challenge, helping fund 12 new initiatives to enhance the Launceston community.
The 90-year-old Mr Benson, meanwhile, is a volunteering stalwart who lends a hand at the City Mission store at Youngtown three times a week for four hours each day.
Ravenswood's Toni Johnstone is nominated in the Local Hero category for her commitment to the Tasmanian Lost Pet Register, which tracks down missing pets. Ms Johnstone has helped return up to 3000 lost animals since taking management of the register as a Facebook page in 2012.
Tasmania's award recipients in each category will be announced at an October 30 ceremony co-hosted by Governor Kate Warner and Premier Peter Gutwein and live-streamed from 1.15pm on the websites of The Examiner and The Advocate. Publisher ACM, the owner of the mastheads, is Australian of the Year Awards media partner.
The winners will then join other state and territory finalists in the annual national awards announced on January 25, 2021.
National Australia Day Council CEO Karlie Brand said Tasmania's nominees were among 128 people being recognised nation-wide as part of the awards, which began in 1960.
"Tasmania has such a wealth of achievers and contributors who are focused on how they can help others or how they can make a mark," Ms Brand said.
The 2021 Tasmanian award nominees are:
Australian of the Year
Dr Madeline Green - Marine scientist and founder of Otlet
Dr George Razay - Leading researcher in dementia and Alzheimer's disease
Joe and Fiona Riewoldt - Founders of Maddie Riewoldt's Vision
Grace Tame - Advocate for survivors of sexual assault and #LetHerSpeak campaigner
Senior Australian of the Year
Derek Benson - Volunteer at City Mission
Nel Smit - Educational leader and sustainability advocate
Owen Tilbury - Tasmanian Breath of Fresh Air Festival Director
Brian Williams - Scout leader and mentor
Young Australian of the Year
Robert Bramley - Solo flight record-holder
Rulla Kelly-Mansell - Footballer and founder of Make Runs Maxi
Toby Thorpe - Advocate for youth empowerment and climate action
Luke Williams - Founder of Lend A Hand To Hugo
Tasmanian Local Hero
Toni Johnstone - Team Leader of the Tasmanian Lost Pet Register
Eva Mackinley - Founder of The Last Straw Australia
Edna Pennicott OAM - Founder of Kingborough Helping Hands
Suzanne Smith - Volunteer Ambulance Officer for Ambulance Tasmania
Get to know Tasmania's nominees
The following biographies and photographs of the 2021 Australian of the Year nominees from Tasmania have been supplied by the organisers of the annual awards, the National Australia Day Council.
Australian of the Year
Madeline Green (aged 29): Marine scientist and founder of Otlet
Madeline Green is the co-founder of Otlet, a social enterprise that promotes sustainable sharing of biological samples among bioscientists. Each year, researchers collect around 94 million samples from plants and animals, often at considerable expense and effort. At the end of the project, these are usually discarded, preventing others from benefiting from their use. As a marine scientist, Madeline recognised the need for a tool that enabled safe and collaborative sharing between researchers. She established Otlet with two goals in mind: to increase efficiency of sample use and to lessen the number of animals sacrificed to science. Otlet provides an online database where scientists can submit a record of their sharable research samples, search those from other teams, and request samples from colleagues around the world. By creating a catalogue of available samples, scientists can save the time and expense involved with their own sample collection, while reducing waste and the impact on animals and plants.
Dr George Razay (aged 64): Leading researcher in dementia and Alzheimers disease
Dr George Razay is a world-leading researcher in the treatment and diagnosis of dementia and Alzheimers disease. In 1998, George established the Launceston Memory Disorders Clinic and the Dementia Research Centre. His research formulated the Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus process for diagnosing and treating a form of dementia, which is now used around the world. Georges groundbreaking research improves the quality of life for patients with dementia and Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, helping them to return to old hobbies, be cured of incontinence, and walk without a frame. His publications are now used as core literature at multiple research centres in the medical field. George is dedicated to sharing his knowledge and regularly presents his personal and professional findings. He also provides his research to doctors and clinics for free, making it easier for them to diagnose forms of dementia and Alzheimers disease. He is a Clifford Craig-funded researcher in recognition of the way he is transforming patients lives.
Joe (66) and Fiona Riewoldt (63): Founders of Maddie Riewoldts Vision
On 24 February 2015, Joe and Fiona Riewoldt lost their 26-year-old daughter Maddie to aplastic anaemia, a bone-marrow failure syndrome. Five short months later, with sons Nick and Alex, they founded Maddie Riewoldt's Vision (MRV) to honour Maddies legacy. MVR funds medical research towards a cure for bone-marrow failure syndromes and acts as a voice for the fifty per cent of young Australians who do not survive their fight. In 2018, Joe and Fiona secured Victorian State Government funding to establish the Asia Pacific regions first National Centre of Research Excellence in Bone Marrow Biology, a centralised contact point for researchers. The centre has provided much-needed infrastructure for the nationwide effort towards finding a cure. Since then, they have also secured two federal government grants through the Medical Research Future Fund which have funded the first clinical trials. Since 2015, MRV has raised more than $9 million to fight bone marrow failure syndromes, including funding 24 critical research projects.
Grace Tame(aged 25) - Advocate for survivors of sexual assault and #LetHerSpeak campaigner
Grace Tame is an outspoken advocate for survivors of sexual assault, particularly those who were abused in institutional settings. From age 15, Grace was groomed and raped by her 58-year-old maths teacher, who was found guilty and jailed for his crimes. However, under Tasmanias sexual-assault victim gag laws, Grace couldnt legally speak out about her experience despite the perpetrator and media being free to do so. Working with the #LetHerSpeak campaign, Grace applied to the Supreme Court to win the right to publicly self-identify as a rape survivor becoming the first Tasmanian woman to do so. Grace has demonstrated extraordinary courage championing the #LetHerSpeak campaign using her voice to push for legal reform and raise public awareness about the impacts of sexual violence. She is a regular guest speaker for high-profile events and television programs and uses her media profile to advocate for other vulnerable groups in the community.
Senior Australian of the Year
Derek Benson (aged 90): Volunteer at City Mission
Derek Benson volunteers for City Mission in Youngtown, generously giving four hours of his day three times a week. Derek was previously a volunteer for Meals on Wheels for 15 years. At the age of 83, when he started to lose his vision, Derek decided to look for other volunteering opportunities. He got in touch with City Mission and told them he was willing to work in any area where they needed help. Since then, Derek has spent the past seven years sorting through cages of donations. His valuable role helps City Mission transform the lives of more than 10,000 northern Tasmanians by providing a wide range of community assistance and support programs. These include youth services, crisis accommodation, healthcare, and drug and alcohol recovery. Now 90 years old, Derek has become a part of the City Mission fabric. He is an inspiring example of how Tasmanians can make a vital contribution to their communities at any age.
Nel Smit (aged 68): Educational leader and sustainability advocate
Nel Smit is a committed, passionate educational leader, mentoring today's youth to create tomorrow's sustainable future. She has initiated and developed outstanding environmental education projects across Tasmania for more than 30 years, recently focusing on energy literacy and biodiversity through STEM. As sustainability coordinator at Huonville High School, Nel manages the Future Energy Team -winning the prestigious Global High Schools Zayed Future Energy Prize in 2017. Nel used the prize to install 125 solar panels and established the Huon Energy Hub, a community resource. Passionate about connecting people to nature, Nel's role as education manager at Greening Australia, based at the Sustainability Learning Centre, links education and the environment - promoting action to address biodiversity and climate change. She facilitated the Tasmanian Youth Climate Leaders Program that was nominated Australian winner of the Energy Globe Award 2020. Nel's contributions have been recognised with the Tasmanian STEM Secondary Teacher of the Year Award (2018) and Tasmanian Achievement: Teaching Excellence Award (2019).
Owen Tilbury (aged 74): Tasmanian Breath of Fresh Air Film Festival Director
Owen Tilbury is director of the Tasmanian Breath of Fresh Air (BOFA) Film Festival, which uses thought-provoking films and in-depth discussions to inspire positive change. BOFA has become a highly popular event and went online in 2020 - reaching 27,000 viewers nationwide. As well as encouraging personal change, the festival has been a catalyst for the Innovative Tasmania Awards, a TV series and an industry body: Fermentasmania. Owen has built a highly effective national network to complete a variety of projects that provide financial, cultural and social benefits to business and the broader community. These include developing clipguide.net, an open access process for fast-tracking grass roots projects, which has helped Launceston become Australia's first Giga-Bit City. He has also partnered with major community agencies to create launcestontogether.com.au, a free online hub for personal, group and regional action. As president of the Great Regional City Challenge, Owen helped fund 12 new initiatives to enhance community life in the Launceston area.
Brian Williams (aged 73): Scout leader and mentor
Brian Williams has devoted more than 50 years to Scouts and has been a highly respected mentor to thousands of youth. Under his leadership, the Blackmans Bay Scout Group has become one of the largest and most successful in Tasmania. Brian organised the inaugural Australian Venture in Launceston, bringing together young people from around Australia and overseas for 12 days of fun and activities. Due to the success of this event, the state has been invited to run several additional national events. Brian is deputy chair on the committee for A Day on The Beach, a local Australia Day celebration of Australian life and culture. His efforts mean his scouts can participate in these local events, gaining valuable community engagement and life experience. Since 1983, Brian has been on the state training team, where he has trained and nurtured more than 100 leaders in the Venturer Scout Section - ensuring the ongoing success of the organisation.
Young Australian of the Year
Robert Bramley (aged 18): Solo flight record-holder
At age 16, Robert Bramley attempted to become the youngest person to circumnavigate Australia solo by plane. After almost losing two close friends to suicide, Robert was determined to raise awareness and funds to prevent youth suicide in Australia, particularly in regional areas like his hometown, Kindred. He formed an organisation called Surviving Turbulence and began planning his mission - to fly around Australia to promote positive discussions around mental health in rural communities. Robert completed his first solo flight in 2018 and the following year took off on his 15,000km unassisted journey around Australia. His advocacy has been instrumental in bringing public attention to youth mental health and generating significant funding for Beyond Blue through private donations and corporate sponsorships. Robert shared his passion for flight by developing the first aviation training program for Scouts in Tasmania. He also became the youngest person ever appointed Tasmanian State Coordinator for Scout Air Activities.
Rulla Kelly-Mansell (aged 28): Footballer and founder of Make Runs Maxi
Rulla Kelly-Mansell is a proud Tulampunga Pakana man, State League footballer and the director of Make Runs Maxi, a charity that promotes positive mental health. Having struggled with depression, anxiety and attempted suicide, Rulla uses his experience to help other young people to navigate the challenges of life. He founded Make Runs Maxi in honour of Isaac Maxi Walters, who took his own life at age 16. Rulla had coached Maxi in football at St Patrick's College in Launceston. Rulla works with schools, sporting clubs and community groups to help Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Tasmanians enhance their emotional wellbeing and to give people a sense of purpose and fulfilment. In 2020, Rulla was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive type of testicular cancer (T2 Embryonal) and underwent nine weeks of intense chemotherapy. He has been able to showcase resilience and his passion for football since returning to play once treatment finished.
Toby Thorpe (aged 18): Advocate for youth empowerment and climate action
Toby Thorpe is a passionate advocate for youth empowerment and climate action. Through his initiatives, Huonville High School became the second Australian winner of the international Zayed Sustainability Prize - launching Tasmania as a global leader in renewable energy innovation. Toby organised the first state-wide climate leaders' conference in three Tasmanian cities, attracting more than 350 student participants. Now in its third year, the Global Energy Award-winning program empowers young people to lead sustainability projects that will contribute positively to the environment and their communities. Toby has twice led the Tasmanian Youth Delegation, as part of the United Nations Climate Change Conference. He worked tirelessly to enable students to meet with Australian Government representatives as well as international changemakers such as Greta Thunberg. Toby is executive director at the Climate Justice Initiative, which runs in-school workshops to help young people understand their power to make a positive impact and connects them with activists around the world.
Luke Williams (aged 21): Founder of Lend A Hand To Hugo
Luke Williams is committed to improving the lives of children living with autism and accessibility challenges. In 2014, after his nephew Hugo was diagnosed with autism, Luke started Lend A Hand To Hugo to help bridge the gap for therapy costs. He obtained corporate sponsorship and set up a charity cricket match with donation boxes in businesses across Hobart. Within 12 months, the charity began helping other families in need - filling the therapy cost gap or acquiring resources for homes and schools. Now, the charities' All Abilities Sporting Programs are the cornerstone of what they do, ensuring every participant is included, celebrated and given the opportunity to develop in an environment that is built around them and not the other way around. To date, Lend A Hand To Hugo has distributed more than $100,000 to families across Tasmania as well as their educators, carers, and health professionals. Luke's mission is to provide better understanding and inclusion of children living with disabilities - while providing opportunities for the autism and disability community to fulfil their potential.
Tasmanian Local Hero
Toni Johnstone (aged 59): Team leader of the Tasmanian Lost Pet Register
Toni Johnstone works tirelessly as a volunteer at the Tasmanian Lost Pet Register, which finds missing pets and returns them safely to their homes. Since taking management of the register as a Facebook page in 2012, Toni has built a community of more than 53,000 members. She singlehandedly leads a team of state-wide volunteers and this role has seen her dedicate six to twelve hours a day, every single day, for the past eight years. Toni also helps manage lost pet registers across Australia and New Zealand, liaising with state councils, community groups, local radio, the RSPCA, shelters and rescues. In the past year alone, she has helped co-ordinate the return of up to 3,000 animals to their homes. Toni is committed to raising awareness about rehoming abandoned animals and educating the community on pet registration, microchipping and desexing - to protect and care for our four-legged friends.
Eva Mackinley (aged 30): Founder of The Last Straw Australia
Eva Mackinley aims to change the use of plastic drinking straws in venues across Australia. She works with businesses and communities to reduce the number of straws being used and helps them transition to a reusable alternative. Since Eva began The Last Straw in 2015, she has encouraged around 1000 Australian venues to change their straw use - saving about 20 million plastic straws from entering the waste system. Her achievements have inspired a network of eco-warriors from around the globe to become advocates in their own communities. Before launching The Last Straw, Eva was a director of Global Partners for Changes, a program that supports young Kenyans to create social change in their communities. She was the first Tasmanian Ambassador for the 2014 One Young World Summit held in Dublin, and a youth delegate to the 2013 Rotary International Peace Conference. Eva is a 2020 General Sir John Monash Scholar and Rotary Peace Fellow.
Edna Pennicott (aged 73): Founder of Kingborough Helping Hands
Edna Pennicott's organisation provides support to people facing financial hardship. Kingborough Helping Hands (KHH) delivers care packages of food and other essential items for community members who have fallen on hard times. Edna collects these goods herself and personally delivers many of the packages. At Christmas, she organises the packing and delivery of around 250 hampers and 300 children's presents for families in need. Through KHH, Edna supports several local women's shelters, providing household essentials, furniture and clothes for women and children who are fleeing domestic violence. She also operates an after-hours mobile van service that offers hot food and support to people who are sleeping rough. The majority of KHH's programs are community-funded, and Edna is the driving force behind all fundraising activities. Edna recently received an inaugural Aurora Energy Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of 40 years of dedicated service to the most vulnerable members of the community.
Suzanne Smith (aged 72): Volunteer Ambulance Officer for Ambulance Tasmania
Suzanne Smith has volunteered for Ambulance Tasmania for 14 years at the Sorell Ambulance Station. As an ambulance officer she attends patients with a paramedic, putting people at ease with her kind and gentle nature. Although it is a physically demanding role, Suzanne works several shifts a month, all over southern Tasmania. For six years, Suzanne has taken on the additional role of volunteer coordinator - looking after volunteers, organising their training and keeping the station running smoothly. She has expertly guided and mentored many trainees through the accreditation processes and ensured their mental and emotional wellbeing. Her training sessions are open to volunteers from all stations, and Suzanne fosters camaraderie and professionalism among ambulance officers. Suzanne also volunteers regularly at the Royal Hobart Hospital to support and reassure patients and families in the emergency department - providing an invaluable service to the busy nursing staff and local community.
For more information on the Australian of the Year Awards, visit australianoftheyear.org.au
- ACM, the publisher of this website, is media partner of the 2021 Australian of the Year Awards