The 2019 ACT Australian of the Year is Virginia Haussegger AM, for her work as a women’s advocate with the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation.
Ms Haussegger worked for 25 years as a television journalist, writer and commentator, most recently anchoring ABC’s TV News program in Canberra.
In 2016, she was appointed to head the University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis’ 50/50 by 2030 Foundation, a gender-equality initiative focussed on improving women’s representation in leadership roles in government and public administration.
Ms Haussegger said receiving the award was a “tremendous surprise” and she was “standing on the shoulders of the many, many women who have come before me”, noting that all nominees in the ACT Australian of the Year categories were women.
“You only need to look at the nominees here tonight … the fact that we have so many women nominees … I think it’s a wonderful example that women are finally not only being heard but their work is being valued, their contribution, the different life experiences women bring to the table, the negotiating table, to the leadership table, to the cabinet room, is finally beginning to be understood.”
Ms Haussegger also advocates for women through her positions on various boards and committees, including the ACT Government’s Cultural Facilities Corporation and Women in Media Canberra, and is a patron of Canberra’s Rape Crisis Centre.
The 2019 ACT Senior Australia of the Year was awarded to paediatrician and child advocate Dr Sue Packer AM, for her work in advocating for the rights of children in the healthcare system and her involvement in child abuse prevention and early childhood environments for the developing brain.
Joining Ms Haussegger and Dr Packer is the 2019 ACT Young Australian of the Year, Hannah Wandel. Ms Wandel founded Country to Canberra to support teenage girls in rural communities, running gender equality workshops and arranging for rural women to visit Canberra for mentoring from politicians and CEOs.
National Australia Day Council CEO, Ms Karlie Brand, said the ACT nominees are doing “extraordinary work” in the community to help others.
“Whether it be through their professional skills or their voluntary efforts, they are creating change, improving lives and making our world a better place.”
The ACT Local Hero award was also announced on Monday, awarded to disability advocate David Williams for his work in founding the Confident Speakers program, providing participants with the skills and tools they need to communicate their viewpoint and participate in the broader community.
ACT award recipients will join other State and Territory winners at the national awards in Canberra on 25 January.