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When Cecilia Sullivan-Grant was presented with the Local Hero of the Year Award, she was merely accepting it on behalf of those with whom she had worked, she told the Otago Daily Times.
The Mosgiel woman was yesterday still coming to terms with the ''surprise'' of winning the award. .
''I was enormously flattered for being nominated, but I don't consider myself a hero,'' she said.
''The people I have worked with over the years, who haven't been afraid to step out and try something different, they are the real heroes.''
Mrs Sullivan-Grant (54) was presented with the award at the New Zealander of the Year Awards in Auckland on Wednesday night, for helping those with severe disabilities into work and for her work in promoting apprenticeships.
Her work with the disabled - a word she dislikes - was ''very, very, very interesting work'' and something she was passionate about.
''I like to call it the ability sector,'' she said.
Every person had talents and limitations and deserved to be treated as individuals, a philosophy imparted to her by her grandmother, she said.
''When a person ... lives in a wheelchair, their creative thinking abilities are quite sharp and lend themselves quite well to small business,'' she said.
''My role was to help them find their talents and, if it was a viable business, to help them set up their business and run it.''
She was also an original member of the Dunedin Mayor's Taskforce for Jobs and was involved in returning apprenticeships to prominence.
''We got the graduation ceremonies for apprentices up and running, which was a Dunedin initiative.''
Winning the award was ''quite surreal'' considering the other nominees.
''I was really quite surprised when they called my name out,'' she said.
She had more community-minded work ''in the pipeline'' and the awards ceremony had presented some opportunities, which she was not yet able to discuss, Mrs Sullivan-Grant.
Dr Lance O'Sullivan, of Kaitaia, was named New Zealander of the Year for his leadership, vision and advocacy in healthcare.
His low-cost health clinic, Te Kohanga Whakaora, made basic healthcare more accessible for people in the Far North.