Since 1960, the Australian of the Year Award has recognised outstanding achievements for our community of heroes and amazing individuals that give us a strong identity of our Australianness.
It’s part and parcel of the true multiculturalism of Australia that we all embrace as one.
I am equally delighted to point out that one of the lines of our national anthem has changed to, “For we are one and free”.
This past weekend, I was watching an ABC news report that caught my full attention. This year’s Australian of the Year was awarded to Miss Grace Tame. She gave a powerful speech at the podium as an advocate for sexually abused victims across the country.
She went through terrible ordeals due to her 58-year old mathematics teacher who groomed and raped her at the tender age of 15. She then had to endure the indignity of sexual assault gag laws in Tasmania that silenced her.
Grace has such a powerful message to tell and let all the world know about the vulnerable victims of sexual abuse. She is raising awareness so that these serious crimes are not allowed to be swept under the carpet anymore.
Most victims are embarrassed to come forward due to shame, emotional turmoil and a self-conscious complex that develops after experiencing such trauma. These young victims deserve safety and strong support so they can follow their dreams in schools and workplaces. They need empowerment so they can be able to stand tall in their communities.
Beyond her story of Aussie empowerment, I have been reflecting deeply on Bruce Woodley’s work, which I thoroughly admire. He’s an amazing musician from The Seekers – Aussie music icons.
Whenever there is an Aussie event, I typically take my guitar and sing a story by Woodley titled, “I am Australian”. This beautiful ballad celebrates multiculturalism from migrants fleeing wars and famine seeking a better life through to the most important custodians of the land – our indigenous folks. Indeed, over 50,000 years old, the original music of Australia makes our skin tingle with the ripples of the haunting sound waves from those sacred didgeridoos.
Thinking of Tame’s story, Woodley’s deep music, and those spiritual didgeridoos, I’ve been truly tipping my hat this week to the 2021 Senior Australian of the Year Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM. She is a member of the Order of Australia and an Aboriginal teacher whose advocacy promotes visual arts for every child’s early education. She has dedicated her entire life to education, and this is remarkable.
Dr Miriam’s leadership and creative activities bridge the gap of mainstream and indigenous culture. She does so tirelessly with her Miriam Rose Foundation and the diligent work as the Principal of the Catholic School in her home community. She was also appointed to the National Indigenous Council, a strong advisory body to the Australian Federal Government.
Through her professional and creative life, Dr Miriam has remained dedicated to maintaining the cultural independence of her people and serving as a spokesperson for the Aboriginal worldview.
Going back over sixty years, the Australian of the Year Award has toasted extraordinary individuals working in healthcare, the arts, as entrepreneurs, as athletes and in all walks of life.
They do this not for a colourful medal, ribbon or trophy with flowery wordings to recognise them as role models – they only seek to celebrate the impact they have on their communities.
Our Australian of the Year Award highlights their noble causes and recognises their efforts. It’s truly an award system for all Australians.