"Books give hope."
When Corey Tutt heard school libraries in the NSW South Coast villages of Cobargo and Quaama were devastated by summer's bushfires, he knew he had to send an emergency care package.
NSW's Young Australian of the Year for 2020 has made it his personal mission to ensure kids at remote schools have access to books and other resources he calls "mind sparkers."
Books to bind us 📚📖💝— NSW DoE (@NSWEducation) February 25, 2020
Corey Tutt created @DeadlyScience to impact remote and indigenous communities. Now, in the wake of the devastating bushfires affecting communities on the South Coast, he is donating books to school libraries to help schools and students heal. @corey_tuttpic.twitter.com/YyykSqYHdm
"It could be a book, it could be a bug net, it could be a telescope," he said.
"But no matter where you come from, you should be inspired to ask questions about the world around you."
Mr Tutt, a proud Gamilaroi man, was born and raisded on the South Coast between Nowra and Bulli.
He remembers being drawn to animals wherever he could find them, and still remembers his first-ever reptile book.
That book - and chasing lizards as a kid - clearly made an impression.
"Growing up on the South Coast was formative for me becoming a budding citizen scientist," he said.
He continued to pursue his love of animals, first volunteering at the Shoalhaven Zoo before becoming an alpaca shearer.
Despite having a cheekbone broken by an alpaca on his first day, Mr Tutt's passion for animals was undiminished.
His other passion is for education, and this passion took him to the University of Sydney.
Mr Tutt was a volunteer mentor to Indigenous high school students, and noticed the kids had a real enthusiasm for science-related talks.
He wondered if students at remote schools were getting the same opportunities as their counterparts in the city.
"I cold-called them, and was mortified by the lack of resources and opportunities for these kids to be scientists," he said.
"I packed up every science book I owned and sent them to a school with only 15 books."
He hasn't stopped sending books, and was "shocked" to learn he had been nominated for an Australian of the Year award.
"You feel like a bit of an imposter," he said.
"I think I was the most relaxed person in the room [at the ceremony]. I didn't think there was any way I would win, I was just happy to be in the same room as this group of inspiring people.
"When they read my name out I was in complete shock.
"It's not why you do it. So it comes with a great responsibility to keep going, to empower others."
Nominations are already open for Australian of the Year Awards 2021 - the deadline is July 31. One nomination is all it takes to recognise an unsung hero. Any Australian can nominate another Australian.
An expert panel in each state and territory selects one recipient in each of the four award categories. The state and territory recipients are awarded and go through to the national judging process before the four national recipients are awarded on Australia Day eve in Canberra.
ACM, the publisher of this website/newspaper, has been a sponsor of the Australian of the Year Awards.
Nominate online at australianoftheyear.org.au - for Local Hero or Young, Senior or Australian of the Year.
The story Join the hunt for Australia's next crop of bright sparks first appeared on South Coast Register.