Well, for once there’s actually something to celebrate on Australia Day, with this year’s Australian of the Year award been given to anti-family violence campaigner Rosie Batty. And not only that, but the recipients in all four categories— Australian, Senior Australian, Young Australian, and Local Hero—were women! It’s the first time in history (the awards were born in the 1960s) that four women have been awarded what is known as the nation’s top honors.
Batty’s 11-year-old son Luke was murdered by his father in February last year. Since then, Batty has been actively fighting domestic violence and has become the spokesperson for the many unheard victims who suffer violence in their daily lives. “I would like to dedicate this award to my beautiful son, Luke,” she said in her emotional acceptance speech. “He is the reason I have found my voice and I’m able to be heard.”
Batty recognized Australia as a “wonderful country,” but added that “there remains a serious epidemic across our nation.” “Family violence may happen behind closed doors but it needs to be brought out from these shadows and into broad daylight.” She called on men to join in the fight, as well as the government to dedicate long-term funding to fighting this serious issue.
“To men, we need you to challenge each other and become part of the solution. Raise the conversation and don’t shy away from this uncomfortable topic. We cannot do this without you. To the women and children who are unsafe, in hiding or living in fear, who have changed their names, left their extended families and moved from their communities to find safety, you do not deserve to live a life that is dictated by violence,” she powerfully stated (watch her full acceptance speech below).
The annual Australian of the Year awards recognize “the achievement and contribution of eminent Australians by profiling leading citizens who are role models.” And all four women are true inspirations. Jackie French from NSW was named Senior Australian of the Year, Drisana Levitzke-Gray from Western Australia was named Young Australian of the Year, and Juliette Wright from Queensland was named Australia’s Local Hero.
French is an author of 140 books published in 32 languages and the recipient of more than 60 literary prizes. Herself overcoming dyslexia, French is an advocate for children with learning difficulties and travels the country to promote literacy.
Levitzke-Gray is the fifth generation in her family to be born deaf. Although she is only 21 years old, Levitzke-Gray dedicates her life to helping other deaf people and advocating for their rights.
Wright is the founder and chief executive of GIVIT, a portal connecting goods to people in need with the overall aim of alleviating poverty across Australia.
The chairman of the National Australia Day Council, Ben Roberts-Smith, congratulated the winners for not only being great Australians, but also strong role models.
“Rosie, Jackie, Drisana and Juliette remind us of the many ways in which women contribute to our nation—that women are a force for change, a voice for rights, influencers, educators, and the heart of our communities.
What a good start for Australian women this is. For our feature on YWCA in Australia, which advocates for women to become leaders, click here.
Title image source: The Australian