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Health leader named Victorian Australian of the Year

Rachael Ward -

Indigenous health leader Janine Mohamed has been selected as the 2024 Australian of the Year for Victoria for championing culturally safe healthcare and forging pathways for indigenous health workers.

The 49-year-old Narungga Kaurna woman has worked in nursing, health policy and research in the Indigenous community controlled health sector for the last 25 years.

She is the chief executive of the Lowitja Institute in Melbourne and was previously the chief executive of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives.

In addition to being an Adjunct Professor in nursing at the University of South Australia, in 2020 she received an honorary doctorate in nursing by Edith Cowan University in Perth.

The awards body said Adjunct Professor Mohamed was committed to dismantling racism, expanding opportunities for Indigenous health workers and integrating cultural safety through the system.

She is now in the mix to become Australian of the Year, which will be announced in Canberra on January 25.

Animal justice advocate Glenys Oogjes is the state's 2024 Senior Australian of the Year.

The 67-year-old is the chief executive of advocacy group Animals Australia and a board member of the World Federation for Animals.

She is attributed with being a force behind some animal protection laws including a program to phase out battery cages for egg-laying hens.

The Young Australian of the year for Victoria is Bhakta Bahadur Bhattarai, a registered nurse and founder of not-for-profit multicultural organisation Albury Wodonga Multicultural Community Events Inc.

The 28-year-old, who also goes by the name Durga, was raised in refugee camp in Nepal and founded the organisation on the Victoria-NSW border to showcase multicultural communities and organise help during difficult times.

He has also been praised for his work providing supplies during the pandemic in addition to raising money for sick young people people and disability support.

The state's local hero is Betul Tuna, co-founder of the Hijack'd mobile food van and co-founder of Point of Difference Studio which advocates for culturally safe environments in regional Victoria.

The Turkish Muslim-Australian made sure supplies made it to vulnerable communities in emergencies such as the 2022 floods in central Victoria and the 2023 earthquake in Turkey.

She also coordinated the design of a program to prevent violence against women in migrant and refugee communities and was behind a campaign against female genital mutilation.

National Australia Day Council chief executive Mark Fraser said the leadership and dedication of the Victorian award recipients should serve as inspiration for everyone.

"Janine is forging pathways for Indigenous health workers, Glenys is a champion of change for those without a voice," Mr Fraser said.

"Durga's selfless care is creating valuable connection for people and Betul is bringing peace and respect to the community."

Rachael Ward - AAP

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