Ex-fire chief NSW Australian of the Year

Gus McCubbing
·3-min read

Former NSW fire commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has been recognised as the state's Australian of the Year after guiding it through one of the worst bushfire seasons in history.

Mr Fitzsimmons led a state-wide response, including a 74,000-strong crew of mostly volunteers, to the 2019/20 bushfires that devastated many parts of NSW before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 51-year-old stumped up for daily press conferences, liaised with government leaders and consoled the loved ones of deceased firefighters.

"In the terrifying bushfire season, Australians were reassured by the exemplary leadership and empathetic presence of then NSW Fire Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons," National Australia Day chief Karlie Brand said in a statement on Monday.

Mr Fitzsimmons began as a volunteer with NSW Rural Fire Service in 1985, following in the footsteps of his father George - a full-time firefighter who was killed in an out-of-control hazard reduction burn in 2000.

He joined the NSW RFS full-time in 1994, before becoming commissioner in 2007, a role he held for 12 years.

Wiradjuri elder and Stolen Generation advocate Isabel Reid has been declared NSW Senior Australian of the Year.

Ms Reid, 88, is the oldest living survivor of the Stolen Generation.

She was taken on the way home from school, along with her sister Betty and brother Jack.

Their parents had no idea what happened.

Isabel and Betty Reid were both sent to the Cootamundra Domestic Training Home, becoming domestic servants with their wages paid to the NSW government.

Ms Reid was in 2016 appointed as an inaugural member and chairperson of the Stolen Generations Advisory Committee.

She also played a key role in the NSW government offering a $74 million reparation package to those forcibly removed under the Aborigines Protection Act 1909-1969.

The 2021 NSW Young Australian of the Year is Nathan Parker, a pilot and Invictus Games gold medallist.

Mr Parker, 25, was on his way to becoming a fighter pilot when a military bus crash left him badly injured and his left hand amputated.

He was the first upper-limb amputee in the Australian Defence Force Academy's history to graduate.

Mr Parker was medically discharged in 2019 before becoming a commercial pilot.

He represented Australia in the Invictus Games in Canada in 2017 and Sydney in 2018, winning a total of nine medals.

Migrant and refugee women's advocate Rosemary Kariuki has been named the 2021 NSW Local Hero.

Ms Kariuki, who fled Kenya by herself in 1999 to escape family abuse and tribal clashes, is the multicultural community liaison officer for the Parramatta Police.

The 60-year-old helps migrants who are facing domestic violence, language barriers and financial distress.

Ms Brand congratulated the NSW Australians of the Year, who she said all led by example.

"Their efforts are truly inspirational, providing leadership in crises, paving the way for others, showing us what is possible, fighting for what is right and helping those in need," she said.