The ACT's Young Australian of the Year 2016: The finalists

Dr Kate Eisenberg
Dr Kate Eisenberg

Dr Kate Eisenberg, 29 - Doctor, science advocate and volunteer (Holt)

Determined that new Australians get the best possible start in life, Dr Kate Eisenberg has made an immense contribution to her community. As a former support worker for Karinya House for Mothers and Babies, Kate has made a positive impact on the lives of many children, pregnant women and parents in crisis. As a doctor at Calvary Hospital, Kate’s steadfastness and reliability ensure the best possible outcomes for her patients. As a published author, she’s emphasised the importance of gender awareness in medicine and as a communicator at Questacon – the National Science and Technology Centre, Kate’s enthusiasm for science has inspired young women to change their career paths. Kate has won many awards and she was recognised for leading a project to reduce clinical waste within hospitals. From her work in community theatre to her commitment to care for rescued animals, there can be no doubt that Kate is a powerhouse, driven by a desire to make a real difference in her community.  

Sophie Hope

Sophie Hope

Sophie Hope, 23 – Multi-dimensional volunteer (Casey)

Famous for her ‘endlessly positive’ attitude, Sophie Hope describes herself as an advocate for youth, mental health, refugees, human rights and animal welfare. Sophie’s first foray into volunteering was as a teenager, when she began fostering kittens from the RSPCA. Since then the 23 year old neuroscience student has volunteered at youth mental health initiative Headspace, as well as for Lifeline Canberra’s telephone crisis support. She is a member of the ACT Refugee Action Committee, continues to provide foster care for animals at RSPCA ACT and played a significant role in the Youth Coalition of the ACT’s consultations with young people about mental health. Sophie has undergone competitive selection processes for many of her volunteer positions and says volunteering is more rewarding than paid work. She has learnt more about psychology and science from volunteering than in any lecture theatre – all the while making the world a better place.

Leonard Weiss

Leonard Weiss

Leonard Weiss, 22 – Musician (Forrest)

A talented conductor, composer and performer, Leonard Weiss is driven to make music more accessible, inclusive and enjoyable for all Australians. Giving his own time and talents to many local community groups, Leonard is the musical director of eight local ensembles, including the National Capital Orchestra, the Canberra Youth Orchestra and the Canberra Gay and Lesbian Qwire. He was recently appointed guest musical director of the Australian National University’s Choral Society. Leonard supports junior-level music at summer camps and student productions at several schools and volunteers his time to many charity performances and fundraisers. Leonard has brought international music to local audiences and has showcased Australia’s musical talent on the world stage. While he plays many instruments, Leonard has toured the USA and Europe performing on the carillon. The winner of numerous awards and scholarships, Leonard’s true success is his ability to build a professional musical environment and bring music into the community.

Nip Wijewickrema

Nip Wijewickrema

Nipuni Wijewickrema, 22 - Social entrepreneur (Chifley)

A young woman trying to change the world “one flower at a time”, Nipuni Wijewickrema runs a floristry business designed to create employment opportunities for people with special needs. Nip, as she is affectionately known, first established GG’s Florist with her family to ensure her 16-year-old younger sister Gayana would have fulfilling work after graduating from high school. Gayana, who has was born with Down syndrome, is now famous around Canberra for her floral deliveries that always come with a big hug. From a backyard garden shed, Nip has shown other local organisations how to create safe working environments for people with disabilities. As well as working full-time and managing the family floristry business, Nip is a volunteer counsellor with Lifeline and contributes regularly to community initiatives, assisting many young people through her work with the ACT Youth Advisory Council. Passionate, dedicated, driven and incredibly sleep deprived, Nip has developed a socially sustainable business model which is changing the way Canberrans think about inclusion.