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The 54-year-old won the Kiwibank Local Hero of the Year Award, at the New Zealander of the Year Awards in Auckland last week, for her work in helping people with severe disabilities find meaningful employment.
But her values, which led to the award, were instilled in her when she was growing up in Otaio, a farming area in South Canterbury.
Her father was a ''proud'' and hard-working farmer, who showed her ''it seems to be good for people to be proactive''.
The positive experiences people could take out of meaningful employment led her to help disabled people find employment which suited their situations, she said.
The people she worked with were the ''real heroes'' as they took the risk of trying something new.
''Helping people is good, but it's much better to provide the tools so people can help themselves,'' Mrs Sullivan-Grant said.
She had ended up in the work ''quite by accident''.
''My skill seems to be finding ways to do things differently. That number-8-wire technology.''
That came in handy when she was on the Dunedin Mayor's Taskforce for Jobs. Mrs Sullivan-Grant was instrumental in helping put apprenticeships back on the careers map.
The taskforce introduced graduation ceremonies for apprentices in Dunedin, which was a New Zealand first, and helped raise the profile of apprenticeships at a time when they were being overlooked.
She had achieved all of her success, while keeping her own health struggles in check, as she was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in the 1980s.
She downplayed the condition and said: ''When I'm well I don't think about it''.
But it had given her some appreciation of the difficulties those with disabilities faced when it came to having the energy to work.