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A climate action warrior with a unique innovation has been named the ACT Australian of the Year.
Olympia Yarger, founder of agritech start-up Goterra which uses maggots to process food waste, is one of four inspiring residents to take out awards in the capital.
The four winners will join other state and territory recipients as finalists for the national awards announcement on January 25, 2023 in Canberra.
Recipients include the ACT Australian of the Year, ACT Senior Australian of the Year, ACT Young Australian of the Year and ACT Local Hero. Sixteen people were nominated for the annual awards.
The winners were announced during a ceremony at the National Gallery of Australia on Wednesday.

Olympia Yarger is a climate action warrior, a maggot farmer and founder of the Insect Protein Association of Australia. She even had a fly named after her by the CSIRO (Hermetia Olympea, a soldier fly species from the Daintree rainforest).
The founder of agritech start-up Goterra, Ms Yarger is an insect farming pioneer and has developed an innovative waste management system that uses maggots to process food waste and reduce greenhouse gases.
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Her “Maggot Robot” system houses larvae of the black soldier fly inside portable units. Food waste is fed to the maggots and, similar to a worm farm, the larvae’s excretions become fertiliser. The maggots themselves become protein-rich feed for livestock and aquaculture.
It’s already being used by Woolworths and in Sydney’s Barangaroo precinct. So far, the 47 year old’s system has processed more than 35,000 tonnes of waste and saved more than 66,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.
Nominees:
Professor Tom Calma AO is one of Australia’s most respected human rights and social justice campaigners.
The Kungarakan Elder has worked for more than 45 years at local, community, state and international levels championing the rights, responsibilities and welfare of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
His call for Australia to address the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples was the catalyst for the Close the Gap Campaign. He was instrumental in establishing the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples; has led the Tackling Indigenous Smoking program; co-chaired Reconciliation Australia for over a decade; and co-led the co-design of a Voice to Parliament initiative.
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Currently Chancellor of the University of Canberra, the 68 year old is an active volunteer, consultant and the first Indigenous Australian inducted as a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science.
He believes education is the key to advancing Indigenous peoples’ causes and says his father remains his inspiration behind his life’s work.
Nominees
Kofi Owusu-Ansah is a Ghanaian-Australian poet, songwriter and rapper who uses hip-hop music to highlight issues such as racism and depression.
Mr Owusu-Ansah was born in Ghana in 1998. By the time he was two years old, his family had relocated to Canberra, where they continue to reside.
As a shy kid, he was attracted to poetry as a means of self-expression and self-exploration. Now, at 24 and on the cusp of an Australian tour with the Black Dog Band under the name of Genesis Owusu, he gets a similar kind of illumination from making music.
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His 2021 album, Smiling With No Teeth, won four ARIA Awards – Album of the Year, Best Hip Hop Release, Best Independent Release and he shared the Best Cover Art award.
Smiling With No Teeth is a deeply personal record. Throughout, he grapples with two distinct but entwined ‘black dogs’ – racism and depression – to resonant effect.
Nominees
Dr Shamaruh Mirza is a medical scientist, but she knows that feeling connected and having someone to talk to is as important as any medicine for good health.
Originally from Bangladesh, Dr Mirza was seeing a lot of women dealing with depression as she did volunteer work among culturally and linguistically diverse groups in Canberra.
Wanting to give women of diverse backgrounds a safe space in which to discuss their challenges and gain confidence, she co-founded SiTara’s Story in 2017. It would be somewhere women could discuss stigmatised topics without fear, form support networks and empower themselves.
READ MORE: Meet the ACT nominees for the 2023 Australian of the Year

The volunteer-run not-for-profit now organises workshops, talk shops, seminars and creative competitions that support CALD women to discuss mental health, disability, domestic violence, self-care and skill development. In 2021, the organisation was awarded the ACT Mental Health Month award.
Dr Mirza, 44, was herself a finalist in the Canberra Community Spirits Award 2021.
Nominees
ACM, publisher of this newspaper, is Media Partner of the 2023 Australian of the Year Awards.
Hannah is a general reporter with The Canberra Times. She is currently covering the early breaking news shift and is ready to chase your morning headlines. Hannah started as a journalist with The Southern Highland News and The Goulburn Post before moving to the ACT. Twitter: @neale_hannah
Hannah is a general reporter with The Canberra Times. She is currently covering the early breaking news shift and is ready to chase your morning headlines. Hannah started as a journalist with The Southern Highland News and The Goulburn Post before moving to the ACT. Twitter: @neale_hannah
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