Tassies Best and Brightest Nominated

Statewide nominations

7 November 2017

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The Nominees for 2018 TASMANIAN AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR AWARDS have been announced.

Community builders, an organic farmer, fundraisers, artists, and educators, are just some of the nominees announced today and in the running to be named Tasmanian Australian of the Year, Tasmanian Senior Australian of the Year, Tasmanian Young Australian of the Year and Tasmanian Local Hero.

The 2018 Tasmanian Award nominees are:


  • Michael Hill – Former chief magistrate & legal reform pioneer (Tranmere)
  • Scott Rankin – Theatre director, writer & arts charity leader (Boat Harbour)
  • Charles Rayner – Community builder & migrant supporter (Invermay)
  • Alison Stone – Educator & children’s champion (Montrose)



  • Romilda Amorosa OAM – Fundraiser for cancer (Hobart)
  • Lynne Price – Music & arts leader, cultural captain (North West Tasmania)
  • Tony Scherer – Organic farmer (Coal Valley)
  • John Ward – Founder of a grandparents’ network (Hobart)



  • Shai Denny – Disability advocate (Ridgley)
  • Dakoda Leary – Mental health volunteer and youth spokesperson (Hobart)
  • Nene Manasseh – Anti-racism campaigner & refugee advocate (Hobart)
  • Dr Jessica Manuela – Dentist helping Indigenous communities (Blackmans Bay)



  • Judi Adams – Breast cancer fundraiser (West Moonah)
  • Joy Cairns OAM – Social entrepreneur & disability services pioneer (Hobart)
  • Helen Hortle – Social justice & human rights educator (Hobart)
  • Craig Machen – Extreme sea kayaker & fundraiser for Motor Neurone Disease (Somerset)


The Tasmanian Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Local Hero Award recipients will be announced on Friday 17 November at Government House in Hobart.

The Tasmanian Award recipients will then join a cohort of 32 State and Territory recipients from around Australia in the national Awards, which will be held in Canberra on 25 January 2018.

National Australia Day Council CEO, Ms Jenny Barbour, said the Tasmanian nominees are among 130 great Australians being recognised at the state level in the Australian of the Year Awards.

"The Australian of the Year Awards allow us to recognise and celebrate the achievements of outstanding Australians – people making extraordinary contributions to our society," said Ms Barbour, adding “The Tasmanian Award nominees are all using their own skills, life experience or ability to overcome their own challenges to help others and make broader contributions. They are ideal examples of human spirit and generosity.” 

Mr Ian Narev, Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Bank, a major sponsor of the Australian of the Year Awards for over 30 years, said "We are proud to support the Australian of the Year Awards, a program that celebrates the achievements of inspirational Australians ... Thank you to all of the amazing nominees for your contribution to our nation.”




Michael Hill

Former chief magistrate and legal reform pioneer

A pioneer of problem-solving approach justice, Michael Hill spent more than 30 years on the bench. In 1985, he was appointed Tasmania's first small claims magistrate, and by 2009 was the state’s Chief Magistrate. Presiding over more than 30,000 cases each year, Michael was determined to stop the “relentless revolving door” of the justice system by looking at the conditions and the person behind each crime. Respectful of people whose lives and circumstances brought them into contact with the justice system, Michael’s leadership has enhanced family cohesion by providing alternatives to custodial sentences. Known for his courage, compassion and circumspect intelligence, Michael introduced a judicial process which gives people an opportunity to change their lives while saving public funds by diverting people from prisons. Since his retirement in 2015, Michael has continued to campaign for his therapeutic approach to justice, and has thrown his weight behind the call to decriminalise illicit drug use in the state.


Scott Rankin

Theatre director, writer and arts charity leader

Motivated by the closure of the Burnie Paper Mill 25 years ago, Scott Rankin embarked on an innovative experiment to explore new ways of dealing with disadvantage. The theatre director and playwright established Big hART, a charity which uses the arts to bring about social justice. As the company’s CEO and Creative Director, Scott leads a passionate team to tell Australia’s most invisible stories, working with over 50 communities in regional, remote and urban Australia. No tale is too tough to tell: domestic violence, incarceration, addiction, homelessness, or intergenerational injustice faced by Indigenous Australians. A multi award-winning writer and director in his own right, Scott’s works have featured many times in major international and national arts festivals with films screening on ABC, SBS and at film festivals around the country. His acclaimed production Namatjira, for example, celebrates the legacy of one of Australia's best loved artists. But Big hART remains Scott’s greatest legacy and selfless contribution to the arts and society.


Charles Rayner

Community builder and migrant supporter

Handing over the keys of his century-old pub each Sunday, Charlie Rayner has created the Community Kitchen to build bridges and empower new migrants. Working with Tasmania’s Migrant Resource Centre, Charlie lends the Inveresk Tavern to one of seven ethnic groups each week. People from Bhutan, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Sudan, Sierra Leone and the Congo take turns cooking a feast of traditional dishes from their homeland. All profits from the Community Kitchen go directly to the migrant community preparing the meal. Charlie’s vision for the Community Kitchen is to create opportunities for new migrants to broaden their social and support networks and to share their stories through food while raising cross-cultural awareness in the broader community. Charlie’s innovative approach to community building, and his open and accepting attitude to others, presents a new model to help people to connect, learn practical skills, practice their English and carve out a future in their new community.


Alison Stone

Educator and children’s champion

Working for many years with children and families in some of Tasmania’s most disadvantaged communities, Alison Stone is the driving force behind the All Stars Club. Gathering children from the Glenorchy area, Alison delivers a range of out-of-school activities, from drama to drumming, swimming to boxing, and from karate to circus skills. More than 370 children are part of the All Stars Club, which charges parents a gold-coin donation for each lesson. Working voluntarily in partnership with community groups, Alison builds self-esteem, health and wellbeing in children, as well as social capital within families and the broader community. Other programs enhance literacy and parenting skills. The first member of her family to gain a university degree, Alison is now working on her PhD. As a member of Tasmania’s Aboriginal community, Alison continues to quietly drive a strong justice agenda based on equity and opportunity. The All Stars Club is one of Alison’s many vehicles to make a practical difference in the lives of vulnerable young people.




Romilda Amorosa OAM, 71

Fundraiser for cancer

Known as the ‘Queen of Morning Tea’, Romilda Amorosa has raised more than $250,000 to fight cancer. After 30 years working in the kitchens of Hobart’s Drunken Admiral, Romilda turned her hand to fundraising in retirement. From 2003, Romilda and her husband Mario began selling homemade biscotti to shops and restaurants around Hobart, donating all the money they raise to the Cancer Council. The traditional Italian sweets are only a small part of the culinary delights whipped up in the couple’s small kitchen each week. Romilda and Mario seek donations for raffle prizes, bake cakes, make jams, flip pizzas and host annual events to raise funds for the Cancer Council’s Biggest Morning Tea. While Romilda promised she’d retire from fundraising when she hit the magic $250,000 mark, the tireless community champion continues to work hard for a cause close to her heart, and hopes one day a cure for cancer will mean there’s no need to sell biscotti and host morning teas.


Lynne Price, 74

Music and arts leader, cultural captain

With a record of voluntary contribution stretching back five decades, Lynne Price has helped to transform Burnie from an industrial town into a cultural centre. A teacher who migrated from the United Kingdom in the 1960s, Lynne has contributed to multiple music boards and regional arts groups, and has been president of the Burnie Arts Council, non-sequentially, for 14 years. With a passion for music education, Lynne established the Stringalong program in 2007, encouraging hundreds of students from schools around Burnie to experience the challenge of string instruments. Thanks to mentoring from Lynne, the Burnie Youth Choir has thrived for over a decade, while the Cradle Coast Orchestra goes from strength to strength. Renowned in equal measure for her talent for securing funding and her ability to bring people together, Lynne continues to coordinate many community projects, and her exceptional organisational skills and contagious enthusiasm for her community have built a flourishing cultural landscape for future generations.


Tony Scherer, 75

Organic farmer

A pioneer of the organic farming movement, Tony Scherer has promoted sustainable farming methods for more than 50 years. Tony started organic farming in California in the 1970s. Moving to Australia in 1990, Tony introduced several organic methods, including the first machinery to convert Sudan grass into organic compost. By passing his knowledge to other organic farmers, he’s helped the agricultural industry cut millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while growing healthy food. A founding owner of Frogmore Creek Wines, Tony demonstrated that organic viticulture was possible and profitable, with the winery’s Pinot Noir winning multiple awards. Tony has since led a groundswell of interest in sustainable and low pesticide grape production. In 2012, he co-founded the not-for-profit Sprout Tasmania to expand organic and sustainable farming. And as the president of the Pinot Noir Forum, Tony has helped to build Tasmania’s reputation as a world leader in this wine style, creating jobs and supporting a new industry.


John Ward, 78

Founder of a grandparents’ network

As a grandparent who raised his own grandchildren, John Ward has used his own life experiences to help other grandparents. John and his late wife Ruth raised five grandchildren over a period of 25 years. Understanding the unique issues that grandparents face, John was a founding member of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and established the Grandparent Advisory Council eight years ago. John now travels around Tasmania to help other support groups get off the ground. He has successfully fought for policy and legislative changes both in his state and nationally, and has worked closely with advocacy and community groups to give grandparents the financial and emotional support they need. Whether it’s practical advice or a listening ear, John has become a 24-hour support line for any grandparent who is doing it tough. Loved and respected by those in his community, John is also a Friend of Rotary at the Rotary Club of Moonah.




Shai Denny, 23

Disability advocate

A tenacious advocate and role model for people with disabilities, Shai Denny hasn’t let being born with Down syndrome define her or stop her from achieving great things in her young life. Striving to realise her dreams, Shai co-directed and choreographed PULSE, an arts program for people with disabilities, in 2016. Shai created and taught most of the choreography and assisted in all production decisions. She completed her Certificate III in Childcare and is undergoing practical training at Stepping Stones in Ulverstone. Employed with Family Based Care Association, an organisation that helps people with disability and the frail aged, Shai also volunteers at Leighland Christian School. A keen dancer, singer and childcare worker, Shai shares her story with others to demonstrate why a disability is no barrier to making a positive contribution and enjoying a fulfilling life. With passion and persistence, Shai is paving the way for other people with Down syndrome to do their best.


Dakoda Leary, 19

Mental health volunteer and youth spokesperson

Drawing on his own lived experience of mental illness, Dakoda Leary is reducing stigma and supporting other young people through their toughest times. Living with his grandmother from the age of two, Dakoda has faced significant hurdles. After the national youth mental health foundation Headspace supported him, Dakoda chose to give back. At the age of 19, Dakoda is already a seasoned volunteer. He is an advocate and advisor for Headspace in Tasmania, raising awareness of youth mental health through a range of events, including RUOK Day and Wear it Purple Day. He is a youth leader with the Glenorchy City Council's Youth Task Force, and has played a role in the development of several events and resources. As a volunteer youth consultant for the Youth Network of Tasmania, he is developing strategies to maximise the participation and engagement of young people in the community. Dakoda continues to juggle speaking engagements and advocacy with his studies at the University of Tasmania.


Nene Manasseh, 26

Anti-racism campaigner and refugee advocate

Growing up in a refugee camp after her family had to flee their homeland of South Sudan, Nene Manasseh knows what it feels like to not quite belong anywhere. To build a sense of community and connection in her new home of Hobart, Nene established a group, Students Against Racism. Nearly a decade later, Nene has told her story – of facing violence, hunger and the death of family members and the heartbreak of leaving siblings behind – countless times to primary school students and community groups. Her work is building trust and understanding in the community and has helped other refugees share their stories. Nene’s program has now expanded across Tasmania, and she has travelled interstate to encourage other schools to start their own groups. When she is not tackling racism, Nene works at the Hobart Women’s Shelter supporting women who have escaped domestic violence. Her dream is to help people, and she’s doing just that.


Dr Jessica Manuela, 29

Dentist helping Indigenous communities

Dental surgeon, Dr Jessica Manuela is determined to improve oral health in Tasmanian Indigenous communities. As an Indigenous Tasmanian, Jess established her first dental practice three years ago and a second one in 2017. She now has more than 4,000 active patients, but also finds time to speak with school students about oral hygiene and to run community information evenings. Together with the Royal Flying Doctor Service Tasmania and the South East Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation, Jess has established a culturally-appropriate program that helps Indigenous Tasmanians access dental care to improve their health and wellbeing. She was the chairperson for Oral Health Promotion on the Tasmanian Dental Council and has been involved with policy making and regulating the dental profession. She is also lobbying to save important schemes such as the Medicare Child Dental Benefit Scheme. Jess is passionate about educating her patients so that they have the skills to look after their health for a lifetime.



Judi Adams, Moonah

Breast cancer fundraiser

Fourteen years ago, Judi Adams decided to make a difference to breast cancer research. Taking on the voluntary role of chair of the Hobart committee of the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Judi began rallying support, engaging sponsors and hosting events. Since then, she’s staged breakfasts, luncheons and gala dinners, sporting events and car shows, raising a staggering $400,000 profit – with every cent going to breast cancer research. Some of Judi’s events, such as the Lumin8 Hobart soirées, Pink Ribbon luncheons, the Think Pink Cup, and the Shannons Take Your Tops Off for Breast Cancer Research car displays have proven so popular that they are now enduring annual events. In 2017, Judi tackled Spain's Camino de Santiago, raising another $15,000 for her chosen charity. Judi’s committee has no operating budget, and each event represents many hours of voluntary labour. With passion and purpose, Judi has fostered camaraderie, created an inspiring events program, brought the community together and attracted interstate visitors while raising much-needed funds for breast cancer research.


Joy Cairns OAM, Hobart

Social entrepreneur and disability services pioneer

More than 40 years ago, two of Joy Cairns’ children were born with severe intellectual disabilities. Frustrated with the lack of support services available for families like hers, Joy became determined to drive change. She started by organising youth groups, after school and holiday care for children and adults, as well as parent and carer respite. She established COSMOS, the first fully funded disability organisation in Australia, to offer day support, recreational and sporting activities. Following approaches from more parents about unmet need, she founded AURORA Disability Services. Today, Joy manages AURORA with a team of 22 employees and around 50 volunteers. She operates a thriving cottage industry, a catering business, a learning centre  and  two public hospitality facilities – the Car Yard Café and Old Chapel Tearooms. These innovative social enterprises provide ongoing education, training and work experience.  Determined to enhance lives and change attitudes, Joy continues to showcase how people with disabilities can become valuable contributors within their communities.


Helen Hortle, Hobart

Social justice and human rights educator

Returning home after volunteering in disadvantaged communities abroad, Helen Hortle was determined to use education to overcome poverty and injustice in her own community. Since 2003, Helen has been the coordinator of A Fairer World, a provider of education for social justice and human rights in Tasmania. Helen works with schools, workplaces and the community to drive positive social change. Among Helen’s innovative programs is the Hobart Human Library – a library where the books are real people who have been trained to tell their stories. Helen uses the library to challenge stereotypes and build empathy. Are You Making a Difference?, or ruMAD?, engages students in leading social change on issues they are passionate about. In addition, Helen developed a diversity education program, Let’s Get Together, which creates more inclusive school communities by developing ‘diversity competence’ in staff and students. Helen’s work balances strong ideals and practical projects, and is a perfect example of the philosophy ‘think global, act local’.


Craig Machen, Somerset

Extreme sea kayaker and fundraiser for Motor Neurone Disease

Injured in an accident when a brick wall fell on him, firefighter Craig Machen was told he might never walk again. After battling post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic fatigue and severe pelvic injuries, Craig came back from injury to paddle solo around Tasmania on a sea kayak to raise funds for Motor Neurone Disease Tasmania. Prior to his accident, Craig had dreamed of completing a solo circumnavigation of Tasmania. But it was the MND diagnosis of his friend Kirk that inspired Craig to take on the challenge. Setting out on the 1,500-kilometre journey in January 2017, Craig battled sea-sickness, pain and rough weather. Paddling for nine hours a day, Craig enjoyed just four calm days during the gruelling 24-day expedition. But buoyed by the community’s support, Craig was cheered home by a large crowd of locals who gathered on Burnie beach. Craig more than doubled his initial fundraising goal to hand over a cheque for almost $48,000 to help fight this deadly disease.

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