2019 ACT Australian of the Year award winners named

Virginia Haussegger
Virginia Haussegger

Journalist and women’s advocate Virginia Haussegger is the 2019 Australian of the Year for the ACT.

For more than 25 years, Ms Haussegger has built a career as a television journalist, writer and commentator. 

She is also recognised as a leading advocate for women and is a sought-after speaker on women’s rights, gender equality and the media.

She is a Patron of Canberra’s Rape Crisis Centre and was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2014.

In 2016, she was appointed to head the University of Canberra’s 50/50 by 2030 Foundation, a gender-equality initiative focused on improving women’s representation in leadership roles in government and public administration.

The 2019 ACT Australian of the Year Award recipients were announced on Monday at a ceremony held at the National Arboretum in Canberra.

The other category winners were:

  • 2019 ACT Senior Australian of the Year – Dr Sue Packer
  • 2019 ACT Young Australian of the Year – Hanna Wandel
  • 2019 ACT Local Hero – David Williams

The ACT award recipients will join other state and territory recipients from around the country as finalists in the national awards, announced on January 25 in Canberra.

More on the ACT winners

Dr Sue Packer

Dr Sue Packer

The 2019 ACT Senior Australian of the Year is 76-year-old paediatrician and child advocate Dr Sue Packer of Lyons.  

Since starting her career as a paediatrician in 1972, Dr Packer has worked tirelessly to advocate for the rights of children in our healthcare system and in the wider community.

She has been involved in child abuse prevention through the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect since its very early days and has treated babies and children suffering terrible trauma from child abuse.

In addition, Sue has championed the importance of early childhood environments for the developing brain, leading to recognition by education and government agencies. Sue was one of the driving forces behind the acknowledgement of the importance of creating child-friendly spaces in hospitals and the value of play in recovery.

Lecturing internationally and volunteering on a number of boards to improve health and well-being of children, Sue stands up for the rights of children at every opportunity and encourages others to do the same.

Hannah Wandel

Hannah Wandel

The 2019 ACT Young Australian of the Year is 29 year old Hannah Wandel of Kingston, a change agent for young rural women. 

Concerned by the challenges faced by young women in regional Australia, Hannah Wandel founded Country to Canberra to help break down gender and geographical barriers to success.

Hannah’s passion for helping others was inspired by the generous response of her rural community when a fire destroyed her family’s home when Hannah was just 13 years old.

In 2018, Hannah’s amazing energy and drive saw her travel over 32,000 kilometres to 80 bush communities nationally, to reach more than 3500 teenage girls to run gender equality, leadership and empowerment workshops.

Hannah has also organised Power Trip camps where young rural women visit Canberra to be mentored by politicians and CEOs, and undertake training.

Country to Canberra seeks to equip girls to become leaders in their communities and reach their potential. Program evaluations overwhelmingly show girls who attend have a greater understanding of equality issues and improved self-confidence.

David Williams

David Williams

The 2019 ACT Local Hero is disability advocate David Williams of Kaleen.  

For people with an intellectual disability, it can be challenging to have their voices heard. But David Williams is helping these people to speak up for themselves, instead of relying on others.

David founded the Confident Speakers program 22 years ago, providing participants with the skills and tools they need to communicate their viewpoint and participate in the broader community. The program combines a structured communication course with social engagement, encouragement and mentoring.

This approach, along with David’s persistence and care, has seen participants who seemed non-verbal, grow in confidence, and deliver presentations to others and the community. Participants have also prepared and delivered papers at international conferences, including the International Down Syndrome Congress and the 2013 World Down Syndrome Day at the UN.

David’s dedication to people with disabilities has included co-ordinating five fundraising balls for the ACT Down Syndrome Association, assisting in the Annual Buddy Walk and delivering the ACT’s Athlete Leadership Program for Special Olympics over six years.

  • For more information on the Australian of the Year Awards visit australianoftheyear.org.au.