NEWS Driven by poverty, powered by youth- The Age
Hugh Evans - Young Australian of the Year
Young Victorian aid worker Hugh Evans, a battler against poverty abroad, yesterday won accolades at home as Young Australian of the Year.
The 20-year-old, a Monash University law/science student, has, since the age of 14, been devoted to fighting poverty.
He created Australia's first youth-operating aid organisation, the Oaktree Foundation.
Last night, a clearly excited Mr Evans bounded to the stage in front of thousands of people at Parliament House and pumped the hand of Prime Minister John Howard before delivering his Australia Day message to young Australians.
"We are fortunate to live in Australia and because of our abundant prosperity we have a responsibility to be a generous nation," he said.
"I've got a message for young Australians in particular - I just want to encourage them to have a vision, and not to let other people discourage them in that.
"I think all young people, in fact all Australians, have a responsibility to work to fight for justice in our world."
Mr Evans's determination to combat poverty abroad began seven years ago when as an exchange student to the Philippines, he spent a night with a starving family in Manila's Smokey Mountain slum.
"With the stench of the garbage and cockroaches crawling around us I didn't sleep a wink that night, and along with a new understanding of the severity of poverty, that night changed my outlook on life forever," he recalled last year during a Melbourne forum.
Later, he travelled to South Africa's starving Embo Valley as a World Vision ambassador, where he helped to build a community library and worked in an AIDS orphanage.
The Australian of the Year Council said Mr Evans's "sincerity, humility and genuineness are what have inspired so many people, young and old, towards helping those less fortunate".
Mr Howard, in announcing the awards, said he was happy to "join 20 million of my fellow Australians in rejoicing in the privilege of living in the best country in the world".
"The purpose of these awards is to remind all of us of the incredible excellence of this country, to remind us that we are not only a vibrant democracy and a very diverse society, but also to remind us that we excel in so many fields."