Victorian Senior Australian of the Year 2016 final four
Jack Charles, 72 - Indigenous elder and role model
One of the nation’s most respected and enduring actors, Jack Charles is a member of Australia’s stolen generation. Removed from his mother as a baby and raised in a Salvation Army boys’ home, Jack knew nothing of his Indigenous heritage as a child. At 19 he began a career as an actor, but his life was plagued by personal demons. His addiction to heroin and a life of crime saw him jailed. Despite his struggles, he co-founded Australia’s first Indigenous theatre group, Nindethana, meaning ‘place of corroboree’, at Melbourne’s Pram Factory in 1971. His first play, Jack Charles is Up and Fighting, was a runaway hit. Jack has appeared in several movies, including the landmark film, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, and more recently Pan alongside Hugh Jackman. He has also toured his own one-man stage show locally and internationally. Now calm and centred, Jack is a strong role model for a new generation of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
Father Kevin Dillon, 70 - Community advocate and supporter (Geelong)
For more than two decades, Father Kevin Dillon has spoken for those who can’t speak out and acted for those who are crippled, particularly those affected by church-related sexual abuse. A long-serving Catholic priest at St Mary’s in Geelong, Father Dillon received standing ovations during his testimony at the parliamentary inquiry into abuse within religious and other organisations. With strength, courage and perseverance, Father Dillon has publically advocated for and privately counselled more than one hundred survivors and helped them to rebuild their lives. In 2013, he established Lifeboat Geelong to provide practical and pastoral support for victims of church-related sexual and child abuse. Humble and faithful to his priestly calling, Father Dillon’s work goes above and beyond the call of duty and his advocacy has at times been in conflict with the church hierarchy. A man of integrity, intelligence and fortitude, his actions have served to strengthen the resolve of many and to help pave the way towards healing, hope and justice.
Peter Hitchener, 69 - Newsmaker and volunteer (Docklands)
Few people in the news business have more experience, credibility and integrity than Peter Hitchener. ‘Hitch’, as he is affectionately known, has been bringing Melburnians their news for more than 35 years, and he celebrates five decades as a newsmaker in 2015. When he’s not reading the news each weeknight, Peter devotes many waking hours to community service activities. A patron for Able Australia for more than a decade, Peter has also volunteered his time as patron or ambassador of many animal welfare, health and community service groups including Dogs Victoria and Barwon Health. He speaks at countless Rotary and Lions club events each year, spends hours coaching media students at universities, and inspires hundreds of primary and secondary students to dream big. Turning 70 in 2016, Peter continues to make enormous contributions to the community, and his actions demonstrate an abiding belief that working together can help us all lead better lives.
Father Bob Maguire, 83 - Community Leader (Albert Park)
One of Australia’s best-loved priests, the irrepressible Father Bob Maguire has devoted his life to upholding the dignity and social rights of our most vulnerable citizens. Through his many social investments – Open Family Australia, Emerald Hill Mission, Beyond Care and the Father Bob Maguire Foundation – Bob has selflessly helped thousands of people each year. Today, Father Bob’s Hope Mobiles feed the hearts and stomachs of people around Melbourne, while his dedicated team provides welfare services inspired by Bob’s revolutionary approach to social justice. It was standing room only at his last church service in January 2012, but Bob has no plans to retire. Since then, he has worked tirelessly as the Chairman of his Foundation, has had his life immortalised in the documentary, In Bob We Trust, and hosts a weekly show on national youth radio station Triple J. Giving a voice to the voiceless, Bob remains determined to build a nation that gives everyone a chance at a good life.