Two Australian of the Year finalists have India connections

New Delhi, Dec. 7 (ANI): An Indian-born doctor, who has made Darwin, in Australia's Northern Territory, her home, and an anti-poverty campaigner who founded an NGO in Mumbai to support the education of young Indian children from less privileged backgrounds, are among the finalists of the Australian of the Year Awards 2013.

"The Australian of the Year Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements and contributions of Australians in various fields. I am pleased that this year's finalists include two Australians who have deep India connections. They are role models for all Australians," said Acting Australian High Commissioner, Dr Lachlan Strahan.

"Through their achievements, the recipients inspire us to make our own contribution to society" added Dr Strahan.

Dr Sadhana Mahajani is a Senior Australian of the Year 2013 National Finalist from the Northern Territory.

Indian-born, Dr Mahajani has worked tirelessly as a community physician for the past 40 years in Darwin. In 1974, she helped establish Darwin's first community health centre only to see it destroyed by a cyclone. Undeterred, she continued to provide medical services from a demountable building, before later opening another six health centres.

Dr Mahajani's career includes working in drug and rehabilitation services, women's cancer prevention, breast screening and sexual assault services. Over the past 25 years, she has also devoted her considerable energy and time to the care of the elderly particularly in the diagnosis and treatment of dementia.

Ms Hayley Bolding is an anti-poverty campaigner and a Young Australian of the Year 2013 National Finalist. At age 23 and working as an intern with a non-profit organisation in Mumbai, she founded an NGO, Atma, to support local groups in their efforts to give children a better chance at life through education. Her work began in a local cafe where she worked on her laptop, raising funds and establishing partnerships. Since then the foundation's work has supported thousands of children and young adults through school, health and nutrition programs, education programs for night school students, and a kindergarten and skills centre in Dharavi, Mumbai's biggest slum.

Hayley's business acumen has expanded Atma which has partnered with 15 organisations that impact the lives of over 11,000 students. With Atma's support, a partner organisation, Muktangan, grew from operating one school to seven. Six years on, Hayley is a well-respected leader in her field in India, while also working tirelessly to mentor others and, at the same time, raise awareness in Australia.

The Australian of the Year Awards provides all Australians with the opportunity to recognise someone who makes them proud in four categories:

Australian of the Year

Senior Australian of the Year (those aged 60 years or over)

Young Australian of the Year (ages 16 to 30)

Australia's Local Hero

The Awards operates at two levels - state/territory and national. State and territory selection committees select four finalists for each award category, with one of these finalists becoming the state/territory award recipient. State/territory award recipients then become the national finalists for the awards. The prestigious year-round program culminates in the announcement of the national award recipients in Canberra on Australia Day Eve.

The Australian of the Year Awards is a program of the National Australia Day Council. (ANI)