Melbourne, January 15: As each year the nation celebrates the achievement and contribution of eminent Australians through the Australian of the Year; proud Indian Australian, Tejinder Pal Singh and Yasmin Khan of Pakistani origin are in running for Australia’s Local Hero award.

The Australia Day awards profile leading citizens who are role models and have inspired others through their achievements and challenges to make contribution to creating a better Australia.

Honouring an exceptional group of highly-respected Australians who ignite discussion and change on issues of national importance, finalists from each state “offers an insight into our nation – the problems we seek to confront, the issues we want to highlight and the ideas we choose to pursue,” said Prime Minister Turnbull.

Both Ms Khan and Mr Singh have been awarded as Local Heroes of Queensland and Northern Territory, respectively and will join recipients from the other States as finalists for Australia’s Local Hero award to be announced on 25 January 2017 in Canberra.

The winners will be chosen by the National Australia Day Council Board from the group of 32 State and Territory recipients.

2017 Northern Territory Local Hero – Tejinder Pal Singh is food van founder, breaking down racial prejudice

For the past four years, Tejinder pal Singh has dedicated the last Sunday of each month to feeding poor and needy locals of northern Darwin.

After a gruelling 12-hour shift driving a taxi, Tejinder spends five hours cooking up a storm in his kitchen, preparing 80 kilograms of vegetarian curry and rice, which he then serves as a free lunch.

After arriving from the Punjab region with his family in 2006, Tejinder endured a racist tirade of abuse while transporting a passenger which inspired the humble man to break down the negative prejudice associated with turbans.

Funding the feast each month from his own pocket, Tejinder attributes his generosity to his deep Sikh faith. His work has inspired three other groups to take up the cause to distribute free food to the homeless on Sundays.

And the hungry and thirsty come flocking when they see Tejinder’s van, emblazoned with the sign “free Indian food for hungry and needy people.”

2017 Queensland Local Hero – Yasmin Khan is a Diversity Champion helping victims of domestic violence

Yasmin Khan
Yasmin Khan – Local Hero QLD

With an Australian heritage stretching back 130 years, Yasmin Khan has created connections and broken down barriers to show how Muslims have made a great contribution to Australia.

In 2005, Yasmin founded Eidfest – the largest Muslim gathering in Queensland to celebrate the end of Ramadhan and to showcase Muslim diversity and cultures.

A well-known speaker, Yasmin works with schools, the media and community groups to share insights into her religion and her life experiences. Yasmin represents her community on multiple reference groups, recently being elected as the Chair of the Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland, and is a multicultural ambassador for the AFL and Asian Cup, and was one of the first female cricket umpires in Queensland.

A vocal commentator on domestic violence in multicultural communities, Yasmin has established a support centre for Muslim women and women from the Indian sub- continent, regardless of their religion.

At the helm of many highly-successful events and community activities, Yasmin continues to demonstrate why diversity makes Australia a stronger nation.

 Victoria’s 2017 Local Hero – Vicki Jellie is also in the running, having worked tirelessly as community fundraising Champion, bringing cancer services to South West Victoria.

Other finalists from Victoria is Paris Aristotle AMRefugee, torture and trauma rehabilitation advocate, running for Australian of the Year; Lois Peeler AMFormer Sapphires singer turned educator, uniting Indigenous values with Western academia, running for Senior Australian of the Year; and Jason Ball – AFL player turned diversity and inclusion champion, running for Young Australian of the Year.

One noteworthy, finalist for Young Australian of the Year 2017 is Queensland’s Taj Pabari. An entrepreneur and inventor of the Fiftysix Tablet Kit, he is the mastermind behind game-changing social enterprise Fiftysix Creations.

Taj Pabari
Taj Pabari – running for Young Australian of the Year 2017

Taj Pabari is a young inventor and social entrepreneur taking the world by storm.

Describing his idea as the ‘LEGO of the 21st century’, Taj cleverly combines hardware, software and education, enabling children to not just consume the world we live in but to create it.

The Fiftysix build-it-yourself tablet and coding kit is as easy as a puzzle and as engaging as a computer game, and is being used in schools around the world.

Taj has partnered with the Foundation for Young Australians to build capacity in disadvantaged communities, and Taj and his team have educated more than 43,000 students in Australia and internationally.

Balancing his education and entrepreneurial endeavours is not easy, Taj waking up at 4am every day before heading off to high school. Taj has big dreams to expand his social enterprise and has set a goal of educating one million kids by 2020.

Shalini Singh

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