I’d like to pause for a moment to reflect on the recent Australian of the Year Awards; especially the strong values, deep sense of personal purpose and achievements shared by each of the winners, which we as Australians can all be proud of.
Firstly, as the Deputy Chair of the National Australia Day Council Board, and as a Board member since 2010, I’ve been fortunate to observe the unique qualities of past recipients, up close.
I take great pride and responsibility in playing such an important role in helping to determine each of these winners and assess their credentials.
This year was no different, with four women standing out from a long list of great nominations and a high-quality field of finalists.
Heading this list was the 2021 Australian of the Year winner, Grace Tame, who is an outspoken advocate for survivors of sexual assault; particularly those abused in institutional settings.
The 26-year-old from Hobart, Tasmania, applied to the Supreme Court for the right to publicly self-identify as a rape survivor and won her case.
Grace has demonstrated extraordinary courage in speaking up and using her voice to push for legal reform, while raising greater public awareness about the impacts of sexual violence.
The Senior Australian of the Year award was presented to Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann; an Aboriginal elder, activist, educator and artist. A true leader who listens with purpose, care and intent.
The 73-year-old from the Northern Territory has spent many years standing up for her cause, helping to bridge the divide between Aboriginal culture and mainstream society, driving reconciliation at a grassroots level.
The Young Australian of the Year award went to 22-year-old social entrepreneur, Isobel Marshall, from Adelaide.
At just 18 years of age, Isobel co-founded TABOO with a school friend, which is helping break down stigmas around menstruation, while providing greater access to hygiene products for women in need.
The Australian Local Hero award went to Rosemary Kariuki who is an advocate for migrant and refugee women.
Rosemary is the multicultural community liaison officer for the Parramatta Police and has used her refuge background to create support networks for other migrants facing challenges such as domestic violence, language barriers or financial distress.
As with the National Australia Day Council Chair, Danielle Roche, we describe the four winners as determined women, dedicated to breaking down barriers, who are all committed to changing attitudes and changing lives.
They epitomise the Australian values of respect, tolerance, equality of opportunity and compassion – because of them, others get a fair go.
As we do in regional Australia, this year’s winners are all about looking out for others and working hard to create strong safety nets which support vulnerable members of their communities.
In a year where we’ve faced and overcome many challenges, including recovery from drought and bushfires and a global pandemic, it’s important to highlight the positive impacts this year’s winners have created for so many.
In his speech to acknowledge the awards and the spirit of the day, Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, spoke about overcoming adversity and the strong character of Australians.
“The story of Australia is of a people who persevere and overcome – who know that reward and effort, enterprise and fairness, justice and hope, accompany each other,” he said.
“Our stories now number more than 25 million Australians, they are all important, they are all respected, woven together to make us strong.
“These awards are an annual reminder of just what Australians can do and achieve.
“Of what we can build together – as a country one and free.”
I am proud to be the Deputy Chair of the National Australia Day Council and ensure our voice from the bush is heard along with all other Australian voices.
By Robbie Sefton
Robbie Sefton has a dual investment in rural Australia as a farmer, producing wool, meat and grains, and as managing director of national marketing communications company Seftons.