Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Former locals choose Australian of the Year

Two former Deniliquin South School students - Adam Gilchrist and Robbie Sefton - were part of the panel to award Ita Buttrose as Australian of the Year.

ZOE MCMAUGH January 29, 2013 4:34am

Robbie Sefton (third from right) with other Australian of the Year judges, including Adam Gilchrist (fourth from right), and Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Two former Deniliquin South School students sat on the judging panel that selected Ita Buttrose’s as Australian of the Year.

One was Australian cricket hero Adam Gilchrist, who attended the school where his father Stan was also principal, and the other was former local Robbie Sefton.

Ms Sefton, 50, owns a public relations company in Tamworth, where she lives with her husband, Alistair, on a grazing and cropping property.

She has eight staff based in Tamworth, and another five in other areas of Australia.

With a passion for rural Australia, and Deniliquin, Ms Sefton told the Pastoral Times she is confident a resident from Deniliquin and district could win a national honour such as the Australian of the Year award.

Ms Sefton, who returns to her home town as often as she can, said there were many people in Deniliquin worthy of such an award.

She actually revealed that a Deniliquin man came close to being named a finalist in the Australia’s Local Hero award, which was won by Redfern-based Aboriginal rights advocate Shane Phillips.

She said the local nomination was debated strongly, which she said renewed her hope that a local could be recognised for their community efforts at a national level in the ‘‘very near future’’.

But only if they are nominated, she said.

Ms Sefton has been on the judging committee for three years, and said she was pleased to see a Deniliquin connection considered for the prestigious Local Hero award. She said it fits in with her own focus for the panel.

‘‘My passion is to see as many nominations from rural and remote Australia as possible,’’ she said.

‘‘It shows that no matter what you do, there is always an opportunity to contribute to your community.

‘‘People nominated for these awards share their knowledge and are passionate about making a difference in our communities.

‘‘There are so many people like that in the Deniliquin area — it’s full of vital people.’’

Ms Sefton encouraged more nominations from the local area for next year’s awards, which she hopes to help judge.

This is the final year of her three year term, but Ms Sefton hopes to be invited back.

She was originally invited to be part of the judging panel by Gilchrist.

While she said no one really knows how or why they are invited to the role by government ministers, she believes it was because of her involvement with remote and rural Australia.

‘‘I’m sitting as an advocate of rural, regional and remote Australia,’’ Ms Sefton said.

‘‘I was invited by Gilly, who has very fond memories of the town and attending South School, but not because of the Deniliquin connection.

‘‘It has been a really exciting experience.’’

As part of this year’s judging process, Ms Sefton and other panel members met with the 34 finalists of the Australian of the Year category, which was won by media personality Ita Buttrose.

Social functions were also held at Government House with the Governor General Quentin Bryce and at the National Gallery with Prime Minister Julia Gillard and last year’s Australian of the Year Geoffrey Rush.

It ended with the announcement of winners at a special ceremony on Friday night.

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