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A lifetime of community service recognised

Recognising a lifetime given to connecting cultures and championing the power of community, Sister Anne Gardiner AM, 85, has been named as Senior Australian of the Year in the 2017 Australia Day honours list.

Senior Australian of the Year in the 2017 Sister Anne Gardiner AM
Senior Australian of the Year in the 2017 Sister Anne Gardiner AM

Sr Anne’s selfless approach to helping others and sense of giving have made a big impact at a grass roots level in her community on the Tiwi Islands, Northern Territory .

When she was just 22, Sr Anne was asked to move to Bathurst Island to live among the Tiwi people. For the past 62 years, she has devoted her life to enriching community, enhancing opportunity and supporting the Tiwi culture.

As the Principal of the local primary school, Sr Anne educated generations of children while also establishing community clubs, from mothers’ groups to Little Athletics. 

She runs regular prayer meetings, founded an op shop and established a café to raise funds to support her much-loved community. Sr Anne’s labour of love, the Patakajiyali museum, shares valuable Tiwi stories, language and traditional customs, while also bringing financial benefit to the people.

In her acceptance speech, she says as persons, our identity is in who we are, not what we are. “I pray that all people in our wonderful country Australia regardless of language, culture, skin colour or religious belief may stand tall as proud Australians,” she says.

Seniors advocacy body, Council of the Ageing (COTA) Australia has congratulated Sister Anne Gardiner AM on her award and COTA Australia Chief Executive Ian Yates says Sister Anne Gardiner AM was an extremely worthy recipient.

“Sister Anne Gardiner accepted the award on behalf of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart and the Tiwi people. This modesty is typical of older Australians who dedicate themselves to improving the lot of others and continue to give back to community,” he says. 

“Sister Anne Gardiner’s message tonight that we should be judged on ‘Who we are, not what we are’ is ever salient. It is a powerful and valuable message from this inspiring leader – which all who aspire to lead in our nation should themselves learn from.”

“On behalf of COTA Australia and all older Australians I am extremely pleased to congratulate this amazing advocate for peace, love and the culture of First Australians. We thank her for her years of dedication and service,” says Mr Yates, “All the finalists for Senior Australian of the Year had made remarkable contributions to the Australian community in diverse roles.”

The Australian of the Year award was presented to biomedical scientist Emeritus Professor Alan Mackay-Sim in recognition of a lifetime of dedicated research and international leadership, which has led to ground breaking advances in the treatment of spinal cord injuries.

Through his decades of work, this 65-year-old inspirational scientist and international leader in stem cell research has given hope to thousands of Australians and people across the world with spinal cord injuries.

“COTA Australia also extends its congratulations to 2017 Australian of the Year and pioneering scientist Emeritus Professor Alan Mackay-Sim - who is also an older Australian who continues to give back to his community - for his enormous and continuing achievements in addressing vital medical challenges for our ageing population.”

Acclaimed South Australian fashion designer and businessman Paul Vasileff was named Young Australian of the Year 2017 and Vicki Jellie was named Australia's Local Hero for her community fundraising work bringing cancer services to South West Victoria.

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