Do you know a true community champion?

Is our next Australian of the Year someone you know?

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Nominate a community champion by July 31.

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Donna McWilliam, left, with Donna Smith and Will Smith. Picture: National Australia Day Council

Donna McWilliam, left, with Donna Smith and Will Smith. Picture: National Australia Day Council

Will Smith and Donna McWilliam, who nominated him for a 2020 Australian of the Year Award

The day before nominations closed last year for the 2020 Australian of the Year Awards, Donna McWilliam resolved to nominate an inspiring young man.

She'd followed his achievements since he was a student at the high school where she was deputy principal.

Her nominee, youth worker and police officer Will Smith, went on to be named Tasmania's 2020 Young Australian of the Year.

"Will kept coming to mind" whenever she saw the National Australia Day Council's advertisements asking "Do you know someone you could nominate?", Ms McWilliam recalled of her decision to put his name forward.

"I put it off and I put it off and the day before nominations closed, I looked into it and it was not that difficult," she said.

The nomination was anonymous, but Mr Smith soon figured out who had been singing his praises.

"She was the assistant principal at my school, so she never actually taught me," he said.

"But I did visit her office a few times. I haven't interacted with Donna much over the past 10 years. I'm so humbled and privileged to not only catch up with her, but to share the experience of the awards with her too.

Will Smith went to Syria last year to set up youth soccer teams in ISIS recruitment areas. Picture: Scott Gelston

Will Smith went to Syria last year to set up youth soccer teams in ISIS recruitment areas. Picture: Scott Gelston

"It's nice to be nominated by someone that you know, but someone that you don't really know.

"It's nice to see that someone's following what you're doing because the whole purpose of what I do is trying to impact people."

Mr Smith is the director of JCP Youth, a company that works to improve the lives of at-risk youth through school- and community-based leadership coaching seminars and personal development and empowerment programs.

The Launceston police officer is also an organiser of Edmund Rice Camps Tasmania, which connects police officers to act as role models for vulnerable young people.

Last year he went to Syria to set up youth soccer teams in ISIS recruitment areas.

Ms McWilliam said people were eager to support her nomination of Mr Smith.

"They kept saying 'why has no one nominated Will before?'," she said. "I'd been following what he had been doing, and I just decided it was me who needed to do it."

The pair are encouraging Australians to nominate someone they know for the 2021 awards.

"It's just been fabulous for people to see Will's story and for him to get that platform," Ms McWilliam said.

"I would encourage all of you to think about the stories of people and close to you or further removed. So I say - be that person for next year."

WHO WILL YOU NOMINATE?

Go to australianoftheyear.org.au by July 31 to nominate someone for 2021 Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year (65 years+), Young Australian of the Year (16-30 years) and Australia's Local Hero.

  • ACM, publisher of this newspaper, is a proud supporter of the Australian of the Year Awards.

They kept saying 'why has no one nominated Will before?' - Donna McWilliam

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