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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3366


Mrs GASH (Gilmore) (10:30): Last week, in Parliament House Sydney, I was a very proud pollie as my constituent Brittany Joyce, from Nowra, was awarded the prestigious Tom Harvey Award together with a cheque for $2,000 from the Australian Youth Trust. It was presented on Commonwealth Day 2012, the theme of which was 'Connecting Cultures'. The award was presented by Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir. I would like to record in our House today extracts of what Brittany had to say:

I am a 20 year old aged care nurse from Nowra; I don't see myself as special; I am just an average person dreaming of an above average future, for myself and everyone else. I believe in equality, and hope, and that everyone deserves a chance. I am passionate about making a difference and helping people.

I'd like to start by thanking those people who have supported me with this project; Sir Ian Turboss, Chairman of the Australia Youth Trust and the Commonwealth Day Council for awarding me this and making me feel like my project is worthy.

Joanna Gash, who saw my story in a local paper and believed in my project so much that she sought me out to nominate me for this award.

A big crazy loving family; especially my brothers and their partners, my mum and dad, who always let me dream. My gorgeous partner Bernie, who supports me in my dreams even though they are so different from the life that he imagined for himself before he met me.

I have always valued my family. I was raised with an open mind, brothers who took care of me, spoilt with love and encouraged to be creative, compassionate and unique.

I have lived in Nowra since I was 14, completed year 12 in November 2009. I started work in Osborne House Nursing Home as a Trainee Aged Care Nurse 4 days after finishing school. I love working with people and caring for them.

I have always wanted to travel, but had never been overseas, but I was definitely drawn to Africa. Jacinta and Antipas from Melbourne, have founded the 'Suluhisho Trust', a Kenyan based NGO that helps people living in poverty in the Kisumu area, encouraging people like me to volunteer and experience firsthand what it is like. In Kisumu, I met Mary and the kids.

Africa, to put it simply, is a beautiful chaos. Its like being inside a living organ-ism, there is constant movement and a sense of genuine togetherness. I spent 3 weeks staying at Mary's orphanage and working in local schools and hospitals. I was awed by the display of raw community everywhere I looked and the openness and trust between the locals and visitors.

Mary, the wonderful woman who opened the orphanage with her late husband, is an inspiration, and has become my personal hero. As a woman suffering HIV, and having lost her husband to the disease, Mary decided to start an organisation to support and educate local men, women and children with HIV. Here, people come together to learn their strengths and weaknesses, to share their experiences and help each other. Mary then opened the orphanage and now lives in the home with 22 children, including 2 of her own. These incredible people have nothing. No possessions—not even good health—but they are the happiest, most giving people I've met. To provide for Mary and the children I only needed to raise $550 a month, quite achievable! This provides food, clothing, education, medicines and a small amount for wages for Mary's staff.

I am continually amazed and elated by the support I have been given when people hear my story. My dream is to support people in finding their independence and in doing that find equality improve their way of life.

A truly amazing young Australian, Brittany has been sending $550 each month since August 2011. (Time expired)