Sarah Henderson congratulates Australian of the Year winners and nominees

Federal Member for Corangamite and Assistant Minister for Social Services, Housing and Disability Services, Sarah Henderson, congratulates Richard Harris and Craig Challen on winning the Australian of the Year Award.

Richard Harris and Craig Challen have been recognised for their heroic efforts as part of an international rescue mission to save 12 boys from flooded caves in Thailand.

Ms Henderson also congratulated Victorian nominee, Mark Sullivan, and the two nominees with disability, paralympian Kurt Fearnley AO and model Angel Dixon.

Mr Sullivan, who grew up in Highton (and is a cousin once removed to Ms Henderson) and Mr Fearnley were nominated for the 2019 Australian of the Year, while Ms Dixon was nominated for the 2019 Young Australian of the Year.

The Australian of the Year Awards celebrate the achievements and contributions of eminent Australians, igniting discussion and change on issues of national importance.

Mr Sullivan was awarded the Victorian Australian of the Year for his work in the pharmaceutical development of medicine to treat river blindness in sub-Saharan Africa.

Ms Henderson said, "I congratulate Mark Sullivan, who is a great example to young people in the Greater Geelong area of what can be achieved through their chosen profession."

Mr Fearnley was awarded the New South Wales Australian of the Year and is the first person with disability to be awarded the honour. Kurt is a school teacher whose achievements include winning 13 medals over five Paralympic Games, setting up a centre in Nairobi to educate children and crawling the 96 km Kokoda Track to raise money for men’s health.

"By setting this inspiring example, and through his active advocacy work, Mr Fearnley has made a great contribution in breaking down barriers and creating inclusion for people with disability in Australia over the past 20 years," Ms Henderson said.

Ms Dixon received the honour of being named Queensland Young Australian of the Year. Ms Dixon is an agency signed model, blogger, speaker, advocacy manager, CEO of the Attitude Foundation and designer of an upcoming range of walking canes.

"Angel Dixon is a passionate activist for disability inclusion and human rights and I commend her for challenging the public perceptions of people with disability in her work both on and off camera," Ms Henderson said.

"This is a great distinction for Mr Fearnley and Ms Dixon, and we strongly welcome the recognition for the extraordinary achievements and contribution people with disability are making in Australia."