Top NSW accolade for ex-rural fire chief

Gus McCubbing
·2-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 statewide 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.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said working alongside Mr Fitzsimmons during the bushfire season was an "unforgettable experience".

"In times of devastation and great heartache, he remained authentic and excelled in his role both operationally and emotionally," she said in a statement on Monday.

"The people of NSW trust and respect Shane and he is worthy of being our Australian of the Year."

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 in 2016 appointed as an inaugural member and chair of the Stolen Generations Advisory Committee.

Ms Reid 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.

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.