So today is Australia Day, or for Indigenous Australians, Invasion Day. As a result, for me, it was both a day where I can celebrate living in a great country mixed with the knowledge that there is a great deal we need to do for the many Australians who feel disadvantaged, disenfranchised and discouraged.
It is also the day that the 'Australian of the Year' is announced. In the last few years, I have been impressed by the choices made to honour those Australians who stand out for all the right reasons. This year's Dylan Alcott is no exception: his drive and ambition as a disabled athlete and advocate for better circumstances for others whose disabilities make life in Australia difficult, is to be applauded. Then there was the two medicos who risked their own lives to save a soccer team in Thailand, a few years ago. But I want to talk for a moment about last year's winner, Grace Tame.
Today, I watched the episode of Australian Story which featured her, and reflected on some of the media of the last 24 hours 'wrapping up' her year in the role. In that coverage, she was largely vilified for her 'lack of respect' when she met with our Prime Minister. It was with extreme disappointment, bordering on anger that I considered those reports, largely authored by men, who showed that despite Tame's experiences and her fearless advocacy for women who have been wronged, we, as a country, have barely progressed in our attitudes towards women in the last year.
For starters, the whole point of her appointment to the role of Australian of the Year was surrounding the need for women to be able to speak out about their experiences; to contest the powerful voices who want us to pretend that sexual discrimination and abuse doesn't really happen. So why do we get offended when that's exactly what she does? Comments about her being 'rude' or 'childish' smack of the victim-blaming she is seeking to call out. Why do we want her to acquiesce and 'make nice' to a political incumbent that has proven time after time that he doesn't get it? Why does that political figure deserve respect just because of his position, when we expect others, particularly women, to earn that respect by being genuine, caring, professional, intelligent and capable? Plus, Tame has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, which profoundly affects her ability to read or conform to social cues the rest of us consider normal. So I want to say thanks to Grace Tame for her bravery, her sacrifices and applaud her for never giving up. I wish Dylan Alcott the very best in the year ahead, and I admonish the rich white male politicians and their sycophants for their own disrespect and lack of understanding. Please do better.
Gee, it feels good to get that out! ;)