Director of Celebrate Ageing, Dr Catherine Barrett, was named among five finalists in the running for the 2018 Human Rights Medal for her work in supporting older Australians through her enterprise organisation over the past three years, following a nomination from a ‘highly regarded’ colleague.
Acknowledging the recognition with humility and modesty, Dr Barrett says as an activist in search of social change, she sees being named a finalist not only an honour but also an opportunity to raise awareness around the human rights of older people.
“I left my job at La Trobe three years ago to set up Celebrate Ageing as a social enterprise and i can tell you that was scary stuff,” Dr Barrett recalls.
“But, now the work that I do makes my heart sing every day and I absolutely love the work that I do.
“Because so often for me it’s a case of head down bum up to do the work that I love so much, the recognition has been really unexpected.”
Dr Barrett says she was aware that fellow advocate for older Australians Phillipa Campbell had discussed nominating her for the medal - something she admits ‘moved’ her.
“I think one of the things for me is feeling moved that she actually nominated me,” Dr Barrett says.
“Phillipa has herself worked with older people for a long time and has a strong sense of social justice and passion for challenging ageism, so to have a colleague I value so highly nominate me is something very special in itself.”
Following the announcement of the medal finalists, Ms Campbell took to Twitter to congratulate her friend and colleague.
“So I nominated Dr Catherine Barrett for an Australian Human Rights medal after watching her work from a distance, realising that she was making such a difference for many people. And here she is - a finalist. Of course she is!” she writes.
As well as receiving heartwarming support from colleagues, Dr Barrett says the other support that has really hit home is the congratulations she has received from a number of elders in the community.
“I feel really privileged to do the work that I do and have so much support for it,” she says.
“I get a lot of support day-to-day, especially from elders and even with the cheers I got around the nomination, the ones that sat so beautifully were from the elders that I work with.
“It’s lovely to have the comments and congratulations come through.
“For me it truly makes me feel like we are all in this together.”
Dr Barrett was shortlisted for the medal by a judging panel who evaluated 78 “outstanding” nominations from around the country.
She stands alongside Antoinette Baybrook - for her work in establishing culturally appropriate legal services and support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families; Dr Barri Phararfod - for his work in founding Doctors 4 Refugees; Father Rod Bower - for his advocacy on a broad range of social justice issues; and Peter McClellan and Chrissie Foster - for their work against child abuse.
Australian Human Rights Commission President Rosalind Croucher has shared her support for the work of the finalists, including Dr Barrett.
“It is without a doubt that these finalists, along with their supporters, peers and colleagues, have driven remarkable and lasting change to the lives of thousands of individuals of all backgrounds,” Ms Croucher says.
“Such achievements must be celebrated and acknowledged and what better way to do this than with the Human Rights Awards and of course, the highly coveted Human Rights Medal.”
The winner of the Human Rights Medal will be announced on 14 December 2018.
More information on the awards and finalists can be found online.