Former Queensland police officer and LGBTQIA+ domestic violence campaigner Ben Bjarnesen is a 2024 Australian of the Year Award nominee for Queensland.
In July, Ben left the Queensland Police Service after 15 years. The high-profile, well-known gay police officer was regional coordinator of the QPS’ LGBTIQ+ Liaison Officer program.
Ben worked on numerous initiatives to improve police services for the state’s queer communities, including for domestic violence survivors.
A survivor of domestic violence himself, Ben is now a campaigner and educator on the issue within LGBTIQ+ communities, calling for more awareness and support services.
Ben has presented education sessions to over one hundred government and non-governement organisations and holds numerous volunteer positions.
Ben Bjarnesen is one of four Queenslanders vying for state contender of Australian of the Year in January.
Sixteen distinguished Queenslanders in total are nominated. The four categories are Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year, Local Hero.
Mental health advocate Grace Scholl up for Young Australian of the Year
One of the four nominees up for Young Australian of the Year is LGBTQIA+ mental health advocate and aspiring psychologist Grace Scholl.
Grace (pictured below) sits on the Queensland LGBTIQ+ Roundtable. She’s also a youth advocate with the Queensland Family and Child Commission.
The 21-year-old holds a Bachelor of Psychology and is completing a Master of Suicidology. She wants to use her lived experience of mental illness and suicide to help others.
Grace has worked on government and non-government advocacy programs including at Queensland Health, Headspace, Beyond Blue, and Roses in the Ocean.
Queensland winners revealed on November 8
Queensland’s sixteen nominees will be up for the four state awards, which will be announced on November 8. The ceremony in Brisbane is livestreamed at australianoftheyear.org.au.
Each successful Queensland nominee from the four categories will then contest the national Australian of the Year award. The National Australia Day Council announces the winners in Canberra in January.
National Australia Day Council CEO Mark Fraser said the Queensland nominees “come from all walks of life and many different areas of endeavour and contribution.”
“They remind us all of what we can do when we make a decision to take action, make a stand, lend a hand or strive for a goal,” he said.
“They remind us we are all capable of being extraordinary.”
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