NOT one, not two, but three members of the LGBTI community have been recognised as finalists in the 2016 Victorian Australian of the Year awards.
Human rights lawyer Anna Brown has been listed as a finalist for the Victorian Australian of the Year award and trans* activist Margot Fink has been listed as a finalist for the Victorian Young Australian of the Year award.
[showads ad=MREC]Meanwhile, longtime Melbourne-based Channel Nine news presenter Peter Hitchener, who came out as gay in 2008, was listed as a finalist for the Victorian Senior Australian of the Year.
Brown is the co-convenor of the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby and works as the Director of Strategic Litigation at the Human Rights Law Centre.
She has worked to advance marriage equality, recognise sex and gender diversity, and expunge historical convictions for gay sex offences in various Australian states.
Brown said it was great to see work in the LGBTI community championed on this level.
“I am very humbled and delighted to be nominated, let alone a finalist for these awards,” she told the Star Observer.
“It’s fantastic that members of our community are being recognised in this way, and seeing young trans* community leaders like Margot there makes me really proud of our community and very excited about the future of our movement.”
Brown also said that by highlighting the work being undertaken in LGBTI rights advocacy, it will help many in society become more aware of what needs to be done.
“It’s very heartening to see the recognition of human rights work in the spread of finalists,” she said.
“It’s an enormous help in terms of raising the profile of our work and the need to address discrimination and disadvantage faced by LGBTI people and other vulnerable people in our community.”
Fink works at Minus18, a national organisation for LGBTI youth, where she has played a key role in creating more inclusive schools around the country.
She was the driving force behind the Gender Is Not Uniform campaign, where she encouraged schools to create safer environments for gender diverse students.
Fink said she felt honoured to help represent trans* youth, particularly as she didn’t have a role model growing up.
“Being able to represent LGBTI young Australians at the awards, and especially trans8 young people, is incredibly exciting,” she told the Star Observer.
“Growing up I spent a few years feeling pretty isolated and really needed a trans* role model I could relate to.
“When I joined Minus18 and met other people like me, my whole world opened up and I finally felt able to embrace who I really was.
“To see LGBTI people like myself and Anna Brown being recognised for our work supporting the community is wonderful, and sends a great message to LGBTI young people.”
Fink says her next big project will be All of Us, a project created by Minus18 and the national Safe Schools Coalition.
It will consist of a series of videos and lesson plans mapped to the Australian Curriculum, and will be designed to help ensure all students feel welcome in school, regardless of their sexuality, gender identity, or intersex status.
“It’s something I’ve worked hard on for a very long time, and to finally be able to share it with the world and see it have a positive impact for young people is incredibly exciting,” Fink said.
The winner from each category of the Victorian Australian of the Year awards, once announced, will then go on to represent their state in the Australian of the Year awards in 2016.
The full list of finalists:
2016 VICTORIAN AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR
Anna Brown – Human rights lawyer and equality advocate (Melbourne)
Professor George Jelinek – Leading medical professional (Carlton North)
Julian McMahon – Barrister and human rights advocate (Alphington)
David McNamara – Food relief champion (Yarraville)
2016 VICTORIAN SENIOR AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR
Jack Charles – Indigenous elder and role model
Father Kevin Dillon AM – Community advocate and supporter (Geelong)
Peter Hitchener – Newsmaker and volunteer (Docklands)
Father Bob Maguire AM – Community Leader (Albert Park)
2016 VICTORIAN YOUNG AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR
Margot Fink – LGBTI activist (South Yarra)
Robert Gillies – Social enterprise founder (Canterbury)
Jessica Marshall – Mentor (Haddon)
Lucy Richards – Mental health advocate (Armadale)
2016 VICTORIAN LOCAL HERO
Mark Haughton – Mental health champion (Berwick)
Kon Karapanagiotidis – Asylum seeker advocate (Avondale Heights)
Melanie Raymond – Homeless advocate (Brunswick)
Rebecca Scott – Social entrepreneur (Flemington)[showads ad=FOOT]