Teen parent advocate named Tasmanian Australian of the Year

Bernadette Black
Bernadette Black

An advocate for teenage parents has been named the 2019 Tasmania Australian of the Year.

Bernadette Black, of Blackmans Bay, herself a mother at 16, went on to found the BRAVE Foundation, which supports and representis 8300 expectant and parenting teens each year. 

The 2019 Tasmanian Australian of the Year Award recipients were announced at a ceremony at Government House in Hobart, with women taking all four titles.

The winners are:

  • 2019 Tasmania Australian of the Year – Bernadette Black
  • 2019 Tasmania Senior Australian of the Year – Sally Wise
  • 2019 Tasmania Young Australian of the Year – Kirby Medcraft
  • 2019 Tasmania Local Hero – Vicki Purnell

The Tasmania award recipients will join other state and territory recipients from around the country at the national swards on January 25, 2019, in Canberra, where the four Australians of the Year will be announced.

This year, after more than 12 years of lobbying federal ministers and National Human Rights Commissioners, Bernadette Black’s BRAVE Foundation was awarded $4.4million to run a nationwide trial connecting 350 expecting and parenting teens to education and support opportunities.

With a strong sense of destiny, Bernie overcame adversity to finish her education and become a qualified nurse. With upskilled corporate governance capacity, she was appointed to boards and was able to use her influence to highlight acceptance and care around every person facing teenage pregnancy and parenthood, so that they can grow a healthy family.

Bernie has been awarded Barnardos Australian Mother of the Year and Telstra Tasmanian Woman of the Year.

Sally Wise

Sally Wise

The 2019 Tasmania Senior Australian of the Year is 67-year-old cookbook author, Sally Wise of Molesworth. 

Sally Wise is a kitchen guru, author and media presenter who is dedicated to equipping everyday people to prepare nourishing food with accessible ingredients.

Sally learned cooking from her Grandma and then taught others how to cook on a volunteer basis.

Sally’s skills became widely recognised and in 2006 she received a request from ABC radio in Hobart, seeking a presenter to lead a discussion on jams and preserves. This led to Sally’s book A Year in a Bottle which sold tens of thousands of copies; the first of 15 popular cookbooks.

Sally launched a program at Risdon prison to teach soon-to-be released inmates cooking skills. She also speaks to community groups to promote better nutrition using accessible ingredients.

In addition, Sally helps new businesses in the food sector to optimise their recipes and techniques on a pro bono basis.

She has built a business from her farm at Molesworth where she demonstrates the integration of food production and cooking.

Kirby Medcraft

Kirby Medcraft

The 2019 Tasmania Young Australian of the Year is 29-year-old assistant principal, Kirby Medcraft of Hobart.  

Passionate about maximising parent engagement in their child’s learning, assistant principal Kirby Medcraft at Windermere Primary School is an innovator.

Kirby’s Bedtime Stories Afternoon inspired more 200 parents to attend school to read with their child. Her work building strong partnerships with families has seen a distinct shift in the school culture.

Kirby works closely with early childhood teachers, mentoring and modelling best practice. She is responsible for leading the implementation of a play-based, inquiry approach across the early years and bringing about educational change.

She embraces opportunities for professional learning and in April 2018 attended an international study tour to Reggio Emilia, Italy to further develop her understanding of this approach to education. 

Kirby’s dedication and successful teaching practices have made her a role model with teachers and peers at other schools. Kirby won the prestigious University of Tasmania, Faculty of Education Teaching Excellence Award in the 2018 Tasmanian Young Achiever Awards and the 2014 RBF Department of Education Awards for Excellence.

Vicki Purnell

Vicki Purnell

The 2019 Tasmania Local Hero is volunteer and founder of Bridie’s Blossoms, Vicki Purnell of Devonport.

When the daughter of a friend gave birth to a stillborn child in 2013, Vicki Purnell found a unique and compassionate way to help. Another friend had told her how, when her daughter had lost a tiny baby, the hospital simply did not have the resources to present it to her in a compassionate way.

With her talent for sewing, Vicki formed Bridie's Blossoms, creating beautiful outfits for stillborn babies and keepsakes for parents. Since 2013, she has delivered more than 460 Bridie’s Blossoms packages to six Tasmanian hospitals and funeral homes. The garments are designed for ease of dressing fragile little babies.

Vicki’s service is unique in Tasmania; everything is handmade, with materials purchased from her own pocket.

Vicki has expanded into creating personalised memory quilt keepsake packages and until recently worked with a local woodwork guild to fit-out and line hand-crafted wooden coffins.

Vicki uses her skills to ease the trauma for parents of stillborn babies and help farewell them with love and dignity. 

National Australia Day Council CEO Karlie Brand said the Tasmania award recipients were extraordinary women working to make a real difference for people.

“The Tasmania award recipients are immensely caring and compassionate people, sharing their skills to help others and their own experience to affect change,” Ms Brand said.

“We look forward to welcoming them to Canberra in January for the national awards.”

For more information on the Australian of the Year Awards visit australianoftheyear.org.au.