Four outstanding women have swept the board at the 2021 Australian of the Year awards.
Sexual abuse advocate Grace Tame has been crowned with the nation’s top honour, making her the first Tasmanian in the award’s history to win.
For nine years, Ms Tame was silenced by state gag laws, which prevent all sexual assault survivors from self-identifying in media.
But the courageous rape survivor, whose fight has resulted in legal reforms, has now been given Australia‘s biggest platform.
“All survivors of child sexual abuse – this is for us,” Ms Tame, 26, declared triumphantly after winning the award.
“I lost my virginity to a paedophile.
“Australia, we’ve come a long way but there’s still more work to do in a lot of areas.”
Ms Tame was 15 years old when she was groomed and raped by her 58-year-old high school maths teacher.
He was found guilty and jailed for his crimes. But Ms Tame, unlike the perpetrator and the media, was not allowed to speak out about the incident.
That was until August 2019 when Ms Tame won her Supreme Court bid to publicly self-identify as a rape survivor.
This made her the fourth person in the state to be able to speak out using her real identity.
Ms Tame was awarded Australian of the Year for her “extraordinary courage” and for using her voice to raise public awareness about the effects of sexual violence and institutional abuse.
The Hobart woman said she would use the year to empower survivors and promote education as a primary means of prevention.
“Discussion of child sexual abuse is uncomfortable but nothing is more uncomfortable than the abuse itself,” she said.
Ms Tame recounted to the ceremony her teacher telling her: “Don’t make a sound”.
“Well hear me now, using my voice, amongst a growing chorus of voices that will not be silenced,” she said.
“Let’s make some noise, Australia.”
Ms Tame also thanked journalist Nina Funnell for News.com.au’s groundbreaking #LetHerSpeak campaign.
The Senior Australian of the Year award went to Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann, Young Australian of the Year to Isobel Marshall, and Australia’s Local Hero was Rosemary Kariuki.
National Australia Day Council chair, Danielle Roche, said all four winners were committed to changing attitudes and lives in our society.
“They are strong, determined women who are dedicated to breaking down barriers and advocating for people’s rights – particularly the rights of women and children,” Ms Roche said.
“They epitomise the Australian values of respect, tolerance, equality of opportunity and compassion.
“Because of them, others get a fair go.”
The winners will attend the National Flag Raising and Citizenship Ceremony in Canberra on Tuesday before returning to their home states.
Prominent Australians nominated for the top gong included former chief medical officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, and former NSW fire commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons.
HOW THE NIGHT UNFOLDED
AND THE WINNER OF THE 2021 AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR AWARD IS …
Tasmanian Grace Tame, 26.
THE NOMINEES FOR AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR WERE
ACT – Professor Brendan Murphy: Former chief medical officer for the federal government
NSW – Shane Fitzsimmons: Ex-NSW fire commissioner, leader of Resilience NSW
NT – Dr Wendy Page: Global expert in Aboriginal health
QLD – Dr Dinesh Palipana: Advocate for doctors with disabilities
SA – Tanya Hosch: Leader, changemaker and visionary
TAS – Grace Tame: Advocate for survivors of sexual assault
VIC – Donna Stolzenberg: Founder and chief executive of the National Homeless Collective
WA – Professor Helen Milroy: Australia’s first Indigenous doctor
ADVANCE AUSTRALIA FAIR
The Australian National University Contemporary Choir has performed the national anthem. However, guests were not allowed to sing due to COVID protocols.
AND THE WINNER OF SENIOR AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR IS …
Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann.
The 73 year old of Daly River in the Northern Territory is an Aboriginal elder from Nauiyu.
Dr Baumann became the NT’s first fully qualified Aboriginal teacher in 1975 and advocated for art to be included in every child’s education.
She was a Catholic school principal and held a position on the federal government’s National Indigenous Council.
Dr Baumann has been recognised for her commitment to cultural independence for Indigenous Australians and advocating for their worldview.
She founded the Miriam Rose Foundation in 2013 to lead reconciliation between the Aboriginal culture and mainstream society at a grassroots level.
Dr Baumann holds a Member of the Order of Australia medal and an Honorary PhD in Education from Charles Darwin University.
“For years, we have walked on a one-way street to learn the white people’s way,” she said.
“I’ve learnt to walk in two worlds and live in towns and cities, and even worked in them.
“Now is the time for you to come closer to understand us and how – and to understand how we live, and listen to what needs are in our communities.”
THE NOMINEES FOR SENIOR AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR
ACT – Patricia Anderson: Writer and advocate for the health of Australia’s First Peoples
NSW – Isabel Reid: Elder and advocate for the Stolen Generation
NT – Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann: Aboriginal activist, educator and artist
QLD – Aunty McRose Elu: Advocate for Torres Strait communities and climate change
SA – Professor Richard Bruggemann: Disability advocate
TAS – Brian Williams: Scout leader and mentor
VIC – Bich Cam Nguyen: Founder of Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association
WA – Dr Richard Walley: Champion of Aboriginal culture
CHRISTINE ANU HAS TAKEN TO THE STAGE
Australian singer Christine Anu has paid tribute to essential workers with an emotional rendition of My Island Home.
AND THE WINNER OF YOUNG AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR IS …
Isobel Marshall, 22, for her work fighting against period poverty.
Almost four years ago and barely out of high school, Ms Marshall co-founded menstrual hygiene business TABOO with her friend Eloise Hall.
In 2019, the pair crowdfunded $65,000 to launch a range of high quality, ethically sourced, organic cotton pads and tampons in Australia.
However, 100 per cent of the net profits are given to charity One Girls, which provides education programs for females in Sierra Leone and Uganda.
TABOO has also partnered with Vinnies Women’s Crisis Centre in South Australia to provide free hygiene products for women needing emergency accommodation.
They also support the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council.
Ms Marshall is studying a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery at the University of Adelaide.
THE NOMINEES FOR YOUNG AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR
ACT – Tara McClelland: Advocate for the rights of young people
NSW – Nathan Parker: Pilot, Invictus Games gold medallist
NT – Stuart McGrath: Aboriginal health practitioner
QLD – Daniel and William Clarke: Conservationists for the endangered orangutan
SA – Isobel Marshall: Social entrepreneur
TAS – Toby Thorpe: Advocate for youth empowerment and climate action
VIC – Tayla Harris: Footballer, boxer, respectful relationships ambassador
WA – Grace Forrest: Founder and director of Walk Free
AND THE WINNER OF AUSTRALIA’S LOCAL HERO AWARD IS …
The 60-year-old from Oran Park, NSW, specialises in helping migrants and refugees facing domestic violence, language barriers and financial distress.
It was Ms Kariuki’s own experience of escaping family abuse and tribal clashes in Kenya, only to arrive in Australia in 1999 and feel so alone, that made her reach out and help other migrant women.
Ms Kariuki is the multicultural community liaison officer for Parramatta Police and 14 years ago helped start the now annual African Women’s Dinner Dance attended by more than 400 people.
She also started the African Village Market, which was a program to help migrants and refugees start their own businesses.
“I would like to encourage every one of you to meet someone new from a different background this coming week and see what doors open to you,” she said.
“You will possibly be helping that person to experience their new homeland in a new way, and to feel they belong.”
THE NOMINEES FOR AUSTRALIA’S LOCAL HERO
ACT – Timothy Miller: Founder of Lids4Kids
NSW – Rosemary Kariuki: Advocate for migrant and refugee women
NT – Erica Gibson: Police officer and safer communities advocate
QLD – Natasha Johnston: Founder of Drought Angels
SA – Russell Ebert: Respectful relationships advocate
TAS – Edna Pennicott: Founder of Kingborough Helping Hands
VIC – Dr Kirby White: Founder of Gowns for Doctors
WA – Rebecca Prince-Ruiz: Founder of Plastic Free July
THE CEREMONY HAS KICKED OFF
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has started the evening with a speech to attendees at the National Arboretum.
“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,” Mr Morrison said.
“ The nominees here tonight like the land they are drawn from, are diverse and different.
“Men and women who strive and study, they argue, they give, they engage, they love, they care. Who share a yearning to make a good Australia an even better Australia.”
WHO WAS LAST YEAR’S WINNER?
Dr James Muecke won last year for his work as an eye surgeon and blindness prevention pioneer.
“To the next Australian of the Year I would say: embrace the role, embrace the opportunity and embrace every day of this extraordinary year,” Dr Muecke said.