The winner of the 2023 Golden Wattle Award, Vanessa Alexander a scriptwriter of Newcastle NSW, has certainly ‘made a statement’ in her work rescuing refugees from Afghanistan. Vanessa Alexander receives the 2023 award for her truly life changing advocacy and activism on behalf of refugees escaping from Taliban-run Afghanistan. Vanessa has been responsible for saving scores of Afghan women and men, whose lives were at risk following the Taliban’s takeover in August 2021.
The Golden Wattle Award, announced each year on National Wattle Day (1 September), is given to an Australian whose outstanding achievements have brought honour and inspiration to their fellow Australians and the nation. The Award invokes the gold of the Wattle blossom in Spring that stands out in the Australian landscape each year at this time. Determination of the award is made by the Wattle Day Association.
Like other Australians, Vanessa watched media reports of people trying to flee Afghanistan, but instead of just thinking “isn’t that terrible”, Vanessa began a campaign and with the help of a group of friends and contacts, was able to extricate scores of people from the country. Her response to this human tragedy was an emphatic demonstration of compassion in action.
L-R Maryam Sadat, Dr Alissa Coons, Vanessa Alexander, Tooba Azami
Vanessa Alexander stands with her writing colleague Dr Alissa Coons and two of the women they brought to safety in Australia Photo: Chris Wensrich
In Vanessa’s words:
“The story of what was achieved is not mine. It also belongs to my partner and family, Susan Hutchinson, the man who wrote Vikings, an orphanage in Sydney, a kiwi in Brazil, the Newcastle ukulele orchestra, and tens of mum friends and writing colleagues who worked to help me. The true heroes are those that actually risked their own lives and families, especially Darwish Ahmadzai, Homaira Homaira and all who had the courage to escape.”
Vanessa’s compassion, initiative and resourcefulness demonstrated the best of Australian values, making her a worthy and inspirational winner of the Golden Wattle Award. Vanessa’s achievements have brought Gold to Australia – just as the nation’s floral emblem, the Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha), brings Gold to the Australian land each year at this time. Vanessa Alexander – a worthy winner of the 2023 Golden Wattle Award.
The Wattle Day Association Inc. is a volunteer not-for-profit community organisation. It was founded in 1998 in Canberra to promote awareness of National Wattle Day as a unifying day for all Australians on 1 September (since 1992) and that the Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) is Australia’s national floral emblem (since 1988). The association’s website and Facebook page provide factual information about National Wattle Day and the Golden Wattle as well as news and details about upcoming wattle day events around Australia each year. For more about National Wattle Day
Previous recipients of the Golden Wattle Award
Previous recipients of this award include the Lismore community NSW (2022), Olympic swimming champion, Emma McKeon (2021), tennis greats Ashleigh Barty and Dylan Alcott, (2019), Craig Challen and Richard Harris, underwater rescuers of the young Thai soccer team (2018), Samuel Johnson and his sister, Connie (2017), Melbourne Cup winning jockey Michelle Payne and her champion strapper brother, Steve (2016), surfers Julian Wilson & Mick Fanning (2015), VC winner Ben Roberts-Smith (2014), Mel Irons a Tasmanian student and community activist (2013), Nobel Prize winner Professor Brian Schmidt (2012) and Tour De France Winner Cadel Evans (2011).