Jay Allen was shocked and surprised today to learn he had been nominated for the 2018 NSW Australian of the Year in the local hero category.
The Tahmoor resident and melanoma awareness ambassador never dreamed his name would be among the charity founders, entrepreneurs and social workers who have made up the category since its inclusion in the awards in 2003.
“It’s not something that happens every day,” he said.
“I was quite shocked to find out about the nomination, I have no idea who nominated me.
“I’ve had a look at the other contenders and they are all very worthy nominees.”
Mr Allen is well known in the Macarthur region for his tireless work campaigning for melanoma research.
The former Bradbury local began his work with the Melanoma Institute in 2011 after being diagnosed with the skin cancer in 2008.
“It was an isolating period after my diagnosis and I felt there were gaps in the support available,” he said.
“But the Melanoma Institute was fantastic, and they’ve not only given me a position but a great support system.
“Since I’ve been well I’ve tried to support as many people as I can.”
The former truck driver has since successfully campaigned to have commercial solariums shut down in NSW and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for melanoma research.
Earlier this year he trekked for almost a month from Brisbane to Sydney to raise money and awareness for the Melanoma Institute.
Mr Allen said his time as a melanoma crusader has seen him meet with countless sufferers in some of the worst times of their lives.
“I see people in their final days and I’ve been to too many funerals,” he said.
“If I do win this award, it will be for all of those people that couldn’t be here today.”
Mr Allen said he was taking his nomination as an opportunity to spread the word about melanoma education.
“Everyone should know how melanoma is caused,” he said.
“Don’t worry about getting that tan, it’s just not worth it.
“Love the skin colour you’ve got.
“The cancer only needs to get one millimeter under your skin to travel through your bloodstream.
“Education is so vital.”
Mr Allen encouraged people to make a donation to the Melanoma Institute so vital research could be funded.
The full list of NSW Australian of the Year nominations are:
2018 NSW AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR
Geoff Coombes, Gary Bertwhistle, and Samantha Hollier-James – Cancer fundraisers & Tour de Cure founders (Northern Beaches Sydney)
Professor Peter Macdonald AM – Cardiologist & medical pioneer (Maroubra)
Walter Mikac – Gun control campaigner & children’s champion (Byron Bay)
Professor Michelle Yvonne Simmons – Professor in quantum physics (Sydney)
2018 NSW SENIOR AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR
Reverend Bill Crews AM – Humanitarian (Sydney)
Dr Catherine Hamlin AC – Pioneering surgeon (Sydney)
Brian Myerson – Organ transplant advocate (Rose Bay)
Don Spencer OAM – Singer, songwriter & musical educator (Sydney)
2018 NSW YOUNG AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR
Macinley Butson – Scientist & inventor (Wollongong)
Connor McLeod – Human rights & disability campaigner (Sydney)
Joel Pilgrim – Mental health champion & surf therapist (Sydney)
Ben Wang – Inventor (Sydney)
2018 NSW LOCAL HERO
Jay Allen – Melanoma crusader (Southern Highlands)
Ian Burns – Community supporter (Dubbo)
Alistair Ferguson – Indigenous community leader (Bourke)
Eddie Woo – Mathematics teacher (Sydney)