31 October 2023

Meet the 2024 ACT Australians of the Year

| Ian Bushnell
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Build Like A Girl founder Joanne Farrell has championed women in the construction industry. Photo: Australia Day Council.

A woman who has opened up the male-dominated construction industry to female workers has been named the 2024 ACT Australian of the Year at a ceremony tonight (30 October) at the National Gallery.

Jo Farrell founded Build Like A Girl, a not-for-profit program that supports girls and women to work in trades. Build Like A Girl matches females with pre-apprenticeship and entry-level training, then mentors them to secure work in the construction industry.

As the general manager of Kane Constructions ACT, part of the multimillion-dollar Kane Group, 45-year-old Jo has pushed for a better gender balance in the company, and in less than two years, she managed to drive female participation up to almost half.

Kane Constructions ACT went from having just 6 per cent female staff in February 2020 to a 48 per cent female team in December 2022.

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Jo also works closely with government, peak industry bodies, unions, training organisations and building contractors to help them recruit, train and employ women in trade roles.

She led construction of the Strathnairn Charity House, a project designed and built mostly by women, which was auctioned in March 2023, with proceeds distributed to local charities.

Also announced tonight were the Senior Australian of the Year for the ACT, Young Australian of the Year for the ACT and Local Hero for the ACT.

man at radio desk

Multicultural advocate Ebenezer Banful has helped many newcomers settle into Canberra. Photo: Australia Day Council.

Volunteer and multiculturalism advocate Ebenezer Banful OAM is the 2024 Senior Australian of the Year for the ACT.

Ebenezer arrived in Australia more than three decades ago and has dedicated countless hours to helping others understand Ghanaian and African values, and promoting multiculturalism wherever he can.

He offers advice and assistance to newly arrived communities to help them integrate into Canberra, and the Companion House community organisation that he helped found supports survivors of persecution, torture and other war-related trauma.

Ebenezer has volunteered at nearly every National Multicultural Festival and assisted the Ghana High Commission’s participation in the event in 2013.

He also set up Radio Ghana Hour, a community station focused on Ghanaian life and culture, for which he is program coordinator and presenter.

Respected in his community, 66-year-old Ebenezer has helped create harmony and understanding. He gains deep satisfaction assisting Canberra’s new arrivals to settle in and thrive.

woman in front of stairs

Co-chair, Australian Youth Affairs Coalition Caitlin Figueiredo is committed to giving young people a voice in politics. Photo: Australia Day Council.

The 2024 Young Australian of the Year for the ACT is co-chair of the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, Caitlin Figueiredo.

Caitlin is determined to give young people a say in politics and has revitalised and transformed AYAC, which represents 4.5 million young Australians.

In 2015, she worked to bring young people’s voices into parliament through a national youth advisory council. This led to her election to the AYAC board, a volunteer position that she juggled with university work.

She co-founded a political leadership group called Girls Take Over Parliament, which connects young women from all political parties and enables them to receive support and training from a bipartisan lens.

Caitlin has also addressed the United Nations about the Sustainable Development Goals.

She remains focused on making waves and creating more visionary leadership.

Aunty Agnes Shea and granddaughter Selina Walker at the launch of Violet's Park.

Local hero Selina Walker pictured with her late grandmother Aunty Agnes Shea. Photo: Region.

Ngunnawal woman Selina Walker, co-chair of the ACT Reconciliation Council, is the 2024 Local Hero for the ACT.

Selina is a respected emerging elder and leader whose integrity has supported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and reconciliation across the ACT.

The granddaughter of Aunty Agnes Shea – a recipient of the Order of Australia and a former ACT Chief Minister’s Senior Citizen of the Year – Selina continues her grandmother’s legacy of influencing and driving change.

Since 2018, Selina has promoted reconciliation as co-chair of the ACT Reconciliation Council. As a founding member of Yerrabi Yurwang Child and Family Aboriginal Corporation, she helps improve outcomes for Aboriginal families and children, especially those in out-of-home care.

Selina advocates for Indigenous people within the justice system as a member of the ACT Victims of Crime and Justice Committee and has held roles to improve all children’s educational outcomes in the Catholic school system.

A kinship carer, 42-year-old Selina was the Barnardos 2017 ACT Mother of the Year.

READ ALSO Gungahlin is famously ACT’s most multicultural district, and its new ‘Friend of Africa’ knows why

National Australia Day Council CEO Mark Fraser congratulated the ACT award recipients.

“The award recipients for the ACT are remarkable individuals, all committed to empowering others and improving lives,” Mr Fraser said.

“I wish them all the best at the national awards in January when finalists from around the nation gather here in Canberra.”

Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on Riotact.

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