Australian of the Year Local Hero Award winner encourages people to nnnominate worthy Aussies

Rosemary Kariuki is 2021's Local Hero. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Rosemary Kariuki is 2021's Local Hero. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Rosemary Kariuki says her life has changed dramatically since she was named a local hero.

But she also says that her life has never been better.

The Oran Park resident was named as the recipient of the Local Hero award at the 2021 Australian of the Year Awards.

Now she is encouraging her fellow Aussies to nominate people who go above and beyond to make their communities a better place.

"Nominate those people who do so much and give so much for their community," Ms Kariuki said.

"Nominate the people who never complain, who never tire of doing the work.

"The more recognition people get, the more others can see how valuable it is to help others.

"They can see the benefit of helping to make this country a better place."

The four categories at this year's awards are Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Local Hero.

Ms Kariuki said her life gotten much busier over the past year.

"I have done a a lot of speaking engagements, given a lot of talks and attended a lot of community and church events - I have even gone interstate," she said.

"I have enjoyed it. I am getting to see the change I am making.

"I am getting to know more of my neighbours and talking to more of the community."

Ms Kariuki, 60, arrived in Australia in 1999 after fleeing violence in Kenya. She grew up on a farm in the Kenyan town of Eldoret with 16 brothers and sisters.

She came from a radical background: her father fought British colonial rule and spent seven years in jail.

When she arrived, she knew nobody but had already decided that she was definitely going to make friends so she brought humble gifts from Kenya in her suitcase, along with clothes and a few hundred dollars.

As she accepted her award last year, Ms Kariuki said while Australia was a multicultural country she was worried communities lived in silos.

"We keep [to] our own people, [to] what is familiar, and miss that beautiful sharing of culture," she said.

"I would love to see more Australians, those born here, refugees, migrants, anyone who calls Australia home, [to] open their doors to their neighbours.

"Be open and not scared of any perceived differences because, as humans, we have more similarities than differences."

She encouraged the audience to meet someone new from a different background.

"See what doors open to you," Ms Kariuki said.

"You will possibly be helping that person to experience their new homeland in a new way, and to feel they belong."

More than 400 women now attend the annual African Women's Dinner Dance Ms Kariuki established - which is now in its 14th year.

Ms Kariuki was also the multicultural community liaison officer for the Parramatta Police Area Command.

However she recently transferred to Campbelltown City Police Area Command, where she will continue to inspire hope in those in need.

She said getting to know your neighbours was a gift.

"If you talk with your neighbours and build a community, crime will go down," she said.

"You can meet with each other and come up with ideas or maybe things to do like a picnic or supporting a good cause together."

Ms Kariuki told the Advertiser last year that she loved living in Camden because of its multicultural community.

"People are real, they stop to say 'hi' and want to know more," she said.

"They are friendly and the council engages with the community.

"My neighbours visit me and likewise I visit them. We share food, gardening and celebrate with each other."

Ms Kariuki also said she was grateful to live in Australia.

"I'm very proud that Australia accepted me in their country, to be able to educate my boys and also to fill those gaps that services do not understand through my volunteering with women and the migrant community.," she said.

"I also acknowledge the Indigenous people of Australia for opening this land to us. Thank you for accepting us migrants and refugees."

To nominate a worthy Aussie in your community, visit: www.australianoftheyear.org.au/nominate.

This story Local Hero Award winner encourages people to nominate worthy Aussies first appeared on The Canberra Times.