A CYBER safety educator and campaigner is this year's winner of the 2022 WA Australian of the Year award.
Former police officer Paul Litherland was announced as the WA winner at a lavish function at The Westin Perth last Thursday night.
He was one of four local winners who will now go on to represent WA in the national Australian of the Year awards that will be announced on January 25 next year, on the eve of Australia Day.
In the last five years of his career as a police officer in Western Australia, Mr Litherland worked in the force's Technology Crime Unit.
While there, he became acutely aware of just how vulnerable children were on the internet.
He also felt frustration at the lack of legislation available to help fight internet crime.
In response, Mr Litherland began conducting cyber safety presentations at schools.
By 2014, he'd turned his passion into a business - founding Surf Online Safe to educate teachers, students and parents about internet awareness and safety.
Today he's one of Australia's leading experts in the field.
A highly sought-after speaker, the 49-year-old has spoken at more than 550 schools and organisations across the country, sharing his cyber safety educational presentations with upwards of 250,000 people.
Mr Litherland experienced a terrible motorbike accident in 2004 where he was initially told he would never walk or work again.
Despite this, he defied the odds and has gone on to be an inspiration to many.
Janice Standen, president of Grandparents Rearing Grandchildren WA (GRGWA), is the 2022 WA Senior Australian of the Year.
In this role, she advocates passionately for grandparent carers - a crucial but often ignored community in Australia.
Ms Standen joined GRGWA in 2013 when her three grandchildren came to live with her.
She knows the day-to-day battles that grandparents experience as primary carers, having lived them herself.
Against significant obstacles, Ms Standen has driven the rapid expansion of GRGWA.
She created a structure for the organisation and secured a fit-for-purpose premise, raising GRGWA's profile and increasing membership and outreach by more than 40 per cent.
More than two-thirds of grandparent carers live in poverty.
Under Ms Standen's stewardship, GRGWA offers free legal and counselling support, a food bank pick-up centre, a donations distribution service and an op shop providing free clothing and toys.
GRGWA also connects new grandparent carers to services and community.
Authentic, passionate and egalitarian, the 73-year-old has made an outstanding contribution to the WA community.
The 2022 WA Young Australian of the Year is Kendall Whyte, the founder/chief executive officer of Blue Tree Project, a grassroots charity making an impact across Australia.
Its mission is to help spark difficult conversations and break down the stigma of mental health, by giving dead trees 'a blue lease on life'.
The Blue Tree Project is inspired by the tragic loss of Kendall's brother, Jayden, who took his own life in 2018.
The blue tree that was once painted as a practical joke now acts as a beacon of hope for those struggling, with more than 700 trees now painted across Australia and the world.
Within just two years, Blue Tree Project has helped facilitate better understanding of mental health, while providing free education seminars and creating engaging community events within regional WA.
Ms Whyte's work is helping spread the message that "it's OK to not be OK".
By speaking openly and authentically, the 28-year-old is helping break down the fear of judgement that stops people seeking help for mental illness.
Founder and chief executive officer of Short Back & Sidewalks Craig Hollywood is the 2022 WA Local Hero.
In 2015, he pitched the idea of offering free haircuts to the homeless to the team at Westons Barbershop in Perth.
Calling it Short Back & Sidewalks, it has since grown into a national initiative that's gone from strength-to-strength.
Since the days of heading to car parks in the Perth suburb of Northbridge with a couple of barbers, Short Back & Sidewalks now has about 250 volunteers on its books.
Over the years it's given out about 6400 free haircuts, regularly operating alongside some of Australia's largest service providers.
Initially set up to help members of the community experiencing homelessness, Short Back & Sidewalks has now expanded its reach.
It also supports young people at risk, women with lived experience of domestic violence and remote communities where a haircut isn't easily accessible.
By giving free haircuts, the 38-year-old is creating positive connections with vulnerable and marginalised community members - ultimately building a stronger and more inclusive community.
Auspire - Australia Day Council WA chairman Bradley Woods congratulated the recipients on making history.
"The four recipients have earned their place alongside an impressive and distinguished list of past Australian of the Year recipients," Mr Woods said.
"We thank them for their dedication and contribution to our State and nation."
National Australia Day Council CEO Karlie Brand added her congratulations to the award winners.
"The WA award recipients have taken action where they've seen a need and are advocating to improve the lives of others," Ms Brand said.
"They are using their skills, their influence or their own experiences to provide support and to make a real difference.
"We look forward to welcoming them to Canberra for the national awards in January."
- For more information on the Australian of the Year Awards go to australianoftheyear.org.au
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