Adam Goodes will use his Australian of the Year honour as another platform to fight against racism.
AFL star and 2014 Australian of the Year Adam Goodes wants to help break down the boundaries between races and won’t rest until all Australians are treated as equals.
The Sydney Swan was named Australian of the Year on Saturday for his leadership and advocacy in the fight against racism, both on the sporting field and in society more broadly.
The 34-year-old made it clear he’ll be using the position as another platform to tackle racial vilification.
“My hope is that we as a nation can break down the silos between races, break down those stereotypes of minority populations,” the sportsman told the crowd at the Canberra ceremony. His mother Lisa, a member of the Stolen Generations, was among those at the event.
“The ultimate reward is when all Australians see each other as equals, and treat each other as equals.”
An indigenous Andyamathanha man, Goodes holds an elite place in AFL history with two Brownlow Medals and two premierships.
He is actively involved with several indigenous sport and community programs, and has spent time working with troubled youngsters, including in youth detention centres.
Together with his cousin and former teammate Michael O’Loughlin, he established the GO Foundation which seeks to empower the next generation of indigenous role models.
Last year, the focus shifted momentarily from Goodes’ outstanding playing ability to racism when a teenage girl called Goodes an “ape” from the grandstand. He turned the incident into an tool to teach indigenous Australians and minority groups to say no to racism.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Goodes was a role model for many Australians, who demonstrated a commitment to fairness and equality both on and off the sports field.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said “Goodesy is a truly remarkable Australian”.
Former federal politician Fred Chaney was also honoured for his commitment to indigenous rights, being named Senior Australian of the Year.
The 72-year-old said he hoped Australia would soon achieve constitutional recognition for indigenous people.
“We have to work in partnership with Aboriginal people,” he said.
“And if we do that then the political firepower that’s being directed, the bureaucratic firepower and the community firepower will enable the Aboriginal people of Australia to have their rightful place in this country.”
Paralympic swimmer Jacqueline Freney, 21, was named Young Australian of the Year.
Cerebral palsy has not stopped Freney achieving sporting success, and at the London 2012 Games she won eight gold medals – the greatest haul by any athlete in the Australian team.
In fact, she won a gold medal for every event in which she competed and set two world records.
“Please understand that I’m just a country girl who was born with extra life challenges,” Freney said.
“I’m an example of how a child with special needs can develop and achieve with support, guidance, encouragement and opportunity.”
Children’s charity founder Tim Conolan was named Australia’s Local Hero for 2014.
The 44-year-old Melbourne man established the TLC for Kids charity, which supports sick kids and their families when they’re facing frightening or distressing times in hospital.