Awards finalist with a long-time world vision
By LUIS FELIU
ELANORA resident Michael Fawsitt, a longtime World Vision campaigner, has been named as a finalist in this year's Queensland Australian of the Year awards.
He is one of 12 Queensland finalists nominated, with the state winners to be announced in Brisbane next Thursday, December 1 by Premier Peter Beattie and the State award winners will then go to national selection.
National award recipients will be announced on January 25 next year on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra.
Mr Fawsitt, a former Queensland manager and national operations manager of World Vision, recently left his work with the organisation's head office in Melbourne because he did not want to relocate his young family there ? ending an 18-year association with the charity.
The nomination for the award was the first such honour in his career and he admitted he was absolutely stunned when he heard he'd been nominated.
"I first thought it was a hoax and rang the Australia Day people back to check if it was legitimate," he said.
"I take it as an enormous tribute to the team of volunteers I've worked with ? it's also an important opportunity to highlight once again issues of poverty ... if this helps someone sponsor a child or take action then it's all very worthwhile."
The issue of poverty, he said, became personal after trips to several African countries.
"I've always worked to address issues of social justice ... but when you come face to face with the poor, the names are real and the faces become personal ? I came back a changed person, especially as I'm a parent of two young girls, I look at how privileged they are to live in this country," he said.
Director of the National Australia Day Council Warren Pearson said Mr Fawsitt's 18 years of community service demonstrated his passion for serving the poor of this world and addressing the underlying causes of poverty.
"He cares about grassroots sustainable development and touching Australian hearts with concern for our global neighbours," Mr Pearson said.
"Michael has done much in his work for World Vision, from organising 40 Hour Famine appeals to co-ordinating Queensland's response to the Boxing Day tsunami.
"He is the visionary behind many of World Vision's successes, in particular he created what is now known as the Global Leadership Conventions, which bring student leaders to meet experienced speakers and raise awareness of the issues around poverty.
"They return to their communities well placed to inspire and educate their friends, teachers, parents and communities ? through his stewardship, Michael has made an outstanding contribution to shaping the world view of tomorrow's leaders," he said.
Mr Fawsitt said he introduced the leadership conventions in NSW a decade ago and it had since grown into a national "roadshow" which has involved 4500 young Australians.
"I recognised, and believed it was important to empower young people to have a voice ? they see the problems of the world and they're concerned about it and are looking at ways to take action," he said.
"High-school students attended these workshops to increase their knowledge on world issues which empowered them and enabled them to educate other young Australians."