Long-serving St John Ambulance volunteer Valmai Dempsey is the 2022 Senior Australian of the Year.
The ACT woman has been recognised for her efforts responding to the Black Summer bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic.
The 71-year-old has dedicated more than 50 years to St John Ambulance after starting as a cadet volunteer in primary school.
She led a team of 40 volunteers supporting bushfire-affected communities in 2020 before throwing herself into making sure her peers were "doing OK" when COVID-19 hit.
"Aunty Val" is one of the ACT's longest-serving volunteers.
"I believe holding out a hand to someone, or taking the opportunities to be kind. make all the difference and come back to you 1,000-fold," she told the Australian of the Year Awards in Canberra on Tuesday night.
Three decades ago, Ms Dempsey started Project Survival, teaching people with addiction issues to help others who overdose.
Ms Dempsey has set her sights on road safety and wants to see first aid training become compulsory for leaner drivers as it is in parts of Europe.
"Our family was forever changed by a car accident more than three decades ago where people came to help but didn't know what to do," she said.
"As a nation, we can rethink our approach to those critical minutes between life and death at a road accident."
National Australia Day Council chair Danielle Roche praised Ms Dempsey as embodying the Australian spirit of volunteering
"She has donated her time to the service of St John Ambulance for more than half a century, helping countless Australians," Ms Roche said.
Other nominees for Senior Australian of the Year included NSW-based Islamic Women's Welfare Association president Abla Tohamy Kadous.
Also nominated was Northern Territory disability services advocate Robyne Burridge and Australia's first Indigenous police officer Colin Dillon, who joined the Queensland Police Force in 1965.
South Australian educator, counsellor and author Mark Le Messurier was also nominated alongside Tasmanian agricultural scientist and Food Plants International founder Bruce French.
Grandparents Rearing Grandchildren WA president Janice Standen was also a finalist as well as Victoria University Deputy Chancellor Gaye Hamilton.
Australian Associated Press
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