Each year, Australia celebrates the achievements of inspiring citizens with the Australian of the Year Awards. The Awards honour highly-respected Australians who ignite discussion and change on issues of national importance.
Since adding a fourth category in 2003, it was the second time (and certainly not the last) that four women made it to the highest awards. It highlights the growth in female representation as role models for social entrepreneurship, advocacy and cultural diversity.
This year’s winners have something else in common: they support other women and disadvantaged people by trying to make their lives better. Let’s take a look at their outstanding contributions:
Australian of the Year, Grace Tame is an advocate for survivors of sexual assault, particularly those who were abused in institutional settings. She was raped by her maths teacher when she was 15, but she couldn’t legally speak out about her experience, due to sexual-assault victim gag laws. Grace used her voice to push for legal reform and raise awareness about the impacts of sexual violence.
Senior Australian of the Year Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM is an Aboriginal elder and a renowned artist, activist, writer and spokesperson for the Aboriginal cultural independence. Miriam-Rose became the Territory’s first fully qualified Aboriginal teacher, advocating for the inclusion of visual art as part of every child’s education. She was later appointed to the National Indigenous Council and established the Miriam Rose Foundation, to bridge the divide between Aboriginal culture and mainstream society.
Young Australian of the Year Isobel Marshall co-founded TABOO at just 18 years of age, to help women around the world by breaking down stigma around menstruation and providing greater access to hygiene products. TABOO sells high quality, ethically sourced, organic cotton pads and tampons, with 100% of net profits going to One Girls – a charity providing education programs for girls and women in Sierra Leone and Uganda. She is also a full-time Bachelor of Medicine (MBBS) and Bachelor of Surgery student.
Local Hero Rosemary Kariuki is the multicultural community liaison officer for the Parramatta Police. She specialises in helping migrants who are facing domestic violence, language barriers and financial distress. Fleeing Kenya to escape family abuse and tribal clashes, Rosemary recognised that isolation is a huge issue for many migrant women, helping them leave their house and meet women in similar circumstances. She also started the African Village Market – a program to help migrants and refugees start their own businesses.
Their stories are a reminder that women can support each other, no matter what challenges they’ve been through and their cultural background. May these four women inspire others in pursuing justice, fairness and a sense of belonging.
References: Australian of the Year, 2019, https://www.australianoftheyear.org.au/