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Western Australia’s Young Australian of the Year 2016: The finalists

Catherine Hughes from Claremont.
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Catherine Hughes, 28 – Immunisation champion (Claremont)After her youngest child Riley died from whooping cough, Catherine Hughes became an ardent campaigner for vaccination. One month old Riley was too young to be immunised against the deadly respiratory bacteria, also known as pertussis. Rather than allow her grief to overwhelm her, Catherine has channelled her energy into immunisation awareness. Within days of Riley’s death, she establishedthe “Light for Riley”Facebook page which now reaches more than 70,000 people. As a direct result of Riley’s death, every State and Territory in Australia has implemented free booster shots for pregnant women to provide the best defence against whooping cough in newborn babies. With no thought of reward, Catherine has met with politicians, attended parenting expos,raised over $70,000 for whooping cough research,instigated a viral campaign for the donation of over 45,000 vaccines to UNICEFand shared her story to ensure no other family has to live without their child due to a preventable disease.

Dr Bronwyn Jones from Perth

Dr Bronwyn Jones, 30 – Global health campaigner (Perth)A young medical doctor, Dr Bronwyn Jones is working to overcome health inequities in Australia and around the world. Bronwyn has undertaken voluntary clinical placements in South Africa, Sri Lanka, Egypt and the United States, conducted HIV research at the World Health Organisation headquarters in Switzerland, and improved health literacy in rural Zimbabwe. She recently served the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations as Regional Coordinator for the Asia-Pacific during which time she founded a regional campaign to tackle non-communicable diseases. She is also editor in chief of two global health periodicals: the Pulse and Medical Student International. Back home, Bronwyn has spent a year volunteering in an Aboriginal community clinic in rural Western Australia, worked on the Youth Advisory Board of the WA Red Cross to help Sudanese refugees settle into Australian life and represented the Australian Medical Students’ Association at various international conferences. Despite taking on her own battles with depression, Bronwyn is committed to improving health for all people, everywhere.

Georgia Lowry from Mundijong.

Georgia Lowry, 21 – Cancer survivor (Mundijong)After being diagnosed with leukaemia as a baby and spending 20 years undergoing treatment and rehabilitation, Georgia Lowry now volunteers to help other children who are dealing with cancer. Dubbed a “miracle baby” after surviving a rare form of leukaemia in her first few years of life, Georgia was the youngest ever bone marrow recipient in the country. With incredible resilience, Georgia underwent two bone marrow transplants – courtesy of her sister and brother – and doctors gave her just a two per cent chance of survival. Confounding the experts, Georgia celebrated her 21st birthday in 2015. Despite living with long-term health complications from the intense radiation and chemotherapy, Georgia continues to thrive and is now a passionate leader with the cancer charity Camp Quality. Shining with love, courage and optimism, Georgia uses her experience to inspire a whole new generation of child cancer patients with what one mum has described as the “magic power of hope”.

Dr Vinay Menon from Applecross

Dr Vinay Menon, 28 – Doctor (Applecross)Graduating with First Class Honours in Paediatric Medical Science in 2010 and awarded a Rhodes Scholarship in 2012, Dr Vinay Menon’s academic achievements are well-recognised. Less well-known is his work in malaria research in Burkina Faso, with leprosy patients in India, or in Tanzanian refugee camps. In Australia, Vinay has served homeless people while on Soup Patrol, and volunteered with Aboriginal children through medical clinics in the Kimberley, and in holiday programs in Arnhem Land. In his extensive voluntary work, Vinay was elected the national youth leader of Red Cross for three years, contributed to numerous advisory boards and represented Australian Red Cross overseas. As the co-founder of theRed Cross World Awareprogram, Vinay has helped young refugees from countries including Sudan, Burma and Pakistan start their new lives in Australia. Now a Resident Medical Officer at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, Vinay’s long-term ambition is to create change for children in communities most ravaged by preventable disease.

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