An Indigenous campaigner, a period poverty activist, a champion for migrant and refugee women and a sexual assault survivor have secured the four 2021 Australian of the Year awards, just the second time the honours have gone to all women in the institution’s 60-year history.
The Australia's Local Hero, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Australian of the Year awards were handed out alongside hundreds of Order of Australia awards Monday. The respective titles are bestowed this week every year to Australians who promote fairness and tirelessly work to make a difference in the lives of others.
Grace Tame was 15 years old when she was first groomed and raped by her 58-year-old maths teacher.
The now 26-year-old 2021 Australian of the Year recipient was legally barred from talking about her struggle under her real name due to Tasmania's sexual-assault victim gag laws. The media and rapist, however, were free to discuss the case.
After years of campaigning and bringing her story to the Supreme Court, in 2019 Tame became the first women in Tasmania to be granted the legal right to openly self-identify as a rape survivor. Tame also helped form the #LetHerSpeak campaign, which, alongside journalists, lawyers and equality organisations, successfully overthrew Tasmania's archaic gag law in 2020.
"I remember him saying, 'Don't tell anybody.’ I remember him saying, 'Don't make a sound’,”' Tame said during a powerful acceptance speech Monday, according to news.com.au. "Well, hear me now. Using my voice, amongst a growing chorus of voices that will not be silenced."
The gang's all here! What a night to celebrate our amazing Aussies. We needed that! Thank you for tuning into our 61st Australia of the Year Awards. pic.twitter.com/6ZIU1fJLCP— AusoftheYearAwards (@ausoftheyear) January 25, 2021
Twenty-three-year-old Young Australian of the Year Isobel Marshall is the co-founder of TABOO. The organisation sells high quality, ethically sourced period products to Australians, with all net profits presented to education and menstrual health programs in Sierra Leone and Uganda.
Marshall also helps provide free pads and tampons to vulnerable women in South Australia.
Nauiyu elder Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann was recognised as the Senior Australian of the Year, earning praise for her work as the Northern Territory's first fully qualified Indigenous teacher and dedication to advancing Indigenous cultural independence.
Australia’s Local Hero winner and Kenyan refugee Rosemary Kariuki has been recognised for helping female migrants adjust to life in Australia. Through her role as the multicultural community liaison officer for the Parramatta Police, Kariuki helps women facing gender-based violence and financial difficulty.
Chair of the National Australia Day Council Danielle Roche said all four women are spectacular.
“Grace, Miriam-Rose, Isobel and Rosemary are all committed to changing attitudes in our society and changing lives. [They] are dedicated to breaking down barriers and advocating for people's rights,” Roche said in a media release. “They epitomise the Australian values of respect, tolerance, equality of opportunity and compassion.”
Roche added: “Because of them, others get a fair go.”