By Nick Sinis

INVERLOCH’S Gaye Hamilton was excitedly announced as the 2022 Victoria Senior Australian of the Year last week.

The announcement was made on Wednesday, November 10, after Gaye was nominated as a finalist for the award.

Gaye has had an incredible passion for improving the lives of many in Melbourne’s West, whether as Deputy Chancellor of Victoria University, Chair of the Western Bulldogs Community Foundation, or Director of the Victorian Government’s State Sports Centres Trust.

Last year, Gaye helped navigate Victoria University through the extreme challenges of the pandemic, with the university going on to be voted number one in Australia for employability.

Meanwhile, as Chair of the Western Bulldogs Community Foundation, she has supported and guided the organisation to redirect all programs to digital creative platforms.

Gaye spoke with the Sentinel-Times following her award announcement and how she was taking it all in.

“To be announced as the winner took my breath away, I was just totally blown away, Sadly, they had huge technical issues… for a start it was online and it was about an hour late.

“I was sitting there thinking maybe I’ve got the password wrong for Zoom or maybe my connection is not working,” she said.

“Then they finally got it together and everything was just pushed into a much smaller timeframe.

“So A, it was very nerve racking, and B, then it was all over.”

The Victorian winners will head up to Canberra in January next year to join awardees from other states, for the announcement of the national awards.

“That’s pretty exciting, to be in rare air among some extraordinary people is an incredible privilege and what an opportunity to meet some incredible people. It’s all an exciting journey really.”

While most of Gaye’s working career has been in the west, she grew up locally on a dairy farm in Mardan and attended Mirboo North High School.

After retiring from full-time work, Gaye took on the role of Deputy Chancellor in 2020 at Victoria University.

“We changed the whole way of teaching into what we call the ‘Block Model’,” she said.

“Rather than when you go to university and normally do four subjects all at once throughout the year, we revised the curriculum across every subject in every one of our nine colleges, to be taught at one subject at a time in four-week blocks in classes of about 30.”

Gaye said the model enabled students to focus on individual subjects at a time, and that the results were remarkable.

She is also involved with the Western Bulldogs Community Foundation, which faced a number of challenges due to the pandemic.

“We run, for example, health programs that attract men who won’t go to the doctor but go to the footy club,” she said.

“And again, that has been done face-to-face for 7-8 years and we pivoted that to online as well.”

After feeling incredibly humbled to be announced as the finalist, Gaye made sure to thank all those who helped her achieve it, and that it couldn’t have been done without their support.

“The people that I work with at the Western Bulldogs and Victoria University, but also all those I’ve previously worked with on various boards and other organisations,” she said.

“I’ve learnt so much from everybody that I’ve worked with and continue to, but I couldn’t do what I do without the support of amazing teams.

“This is not an award just for me, this is for all those fabulous people who helped me along the way and work with everyday to hopefully make a difference in the community.”

She also thanked her friends and family, as well as those who nominated her for the award.

While preparing for the upcoming national awards, Gaye hopes to continue to improve the health and social outcomes for the community.