Adam Goodes, Australian of the Year

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

Youth advocate and footballer Adam Goodes is Australian of the Year for 2014.


Prime Minister Tony Abbott presented Goodes with the award in front of a large crowd outside Parliament House in Canberra.

Zara Zaher has the details.

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Adam Goodes has been honoured for his leadership and advocacy in the fight against racism both on and off the sporting field.

In accepting the award, the 34-year old Indigenous Australian highlighted the importance of education to eliminate racism in Australia.

“Growing up as an Indigenous Australian, I have seen and experienced my fair share of racism. Whilst it has been difficult a lot of the time, it has also taught me a lot and shaped my values and what I believe in today. There are always two ways we can look at a situation – we can choose to get angry or not, we can choose to help others or not, or choose to be offended or not, we can keep our silos or educate ourselves and others about racism and minority populations. It is not just about taking responsibility for your own actions, but speaking to your mates when they take out their anger on their loved ones, minority groups or make racist remarks. We are all equal and the same in so many ways. My hope is that we as a nation can break down the silos between races, break down those stereotypes of minority populations – Indigenous populations and all those other minirotuty groups. I hope we can be proud of our heritage regardless of the colour of our skin and be proud to be Australian.”

Goodes is actively involved with several Indigenous sport and community programs.

The proud Andyamathanha man is a champion Australian Football League player with the Sydney Swans.

He’s been a member of two premiership-winning teams, and has twice won the AFL’s best-and-fairest award, the Brownlow Medal.

Together with his cousin and former team-mate Michael O’Loughlin, Goodes established the Go Foundation which empowers the next generation of Indigenous role models in all walks of life.

He says whilst he is extremely proud and honoured to be chosen as Australian of the Year, the real reward will be to see a nation free of racism.

“The ultimate reward is when all Australians see each other is equals and treat each other as equals. To me everything is about people and the choices we make. I believe it’s the people and the and Interatcions between us that make this country so special. Thank you so much and have a great Australia Day…(cheering).”

Other Australians were also recognised for their achievements during the Australia Day event.

The Senior Australian of the Year 2014, Fred Chaney, has been recognised for his commitment to reconciliation and human rights.

Mr Chaney has been an advocate for Aboriginal rights since the 1960s, and is a founding co-chair of Reconciliation Australia.

He helped to establish the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia, and was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the Fraser Coalition government.

The 72-year-old says he’s pleased there’s political support for current efforts to achieve equality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

“The politicians are behind this. We’ve got a Prime Minister for Aboriginal affairs. We’ve got a situation where the largest number of Australians are joining in this whole reconciliation movement through reconciliation action plans and otherwise. I have one learning that I’ve taken from the past 50 years and that is for the Prime Minister and for all of us to meet our ambitions to ‘close the gap’ and to do the right thing by Aboriginal people. We have to do that with them and not to them. We have to work in partnership with Aboriginal people in what we call reconciliation respectful relationships. And if we do that, then the political firepower that has been directed, the community firepower and the bureaucratic fire power, will enable the Aboriginal people of Australia to have their rightful place in this country.”

The Young Australian of the Year 2014 has been awarded to 21-year-old Paralympic swimming champion Jacqueline Freney, who was born with cerebral palsy.

In 2012, she won a remarkable eight gold medals at the London 2012 Paralympics, becoming Australia’s most successful Paralympian at a single Games.

Beyond the swimming pool, she is actively involved in the wider community, as a motivational speaker to help other people with disabilities reach their potential.

Jacqueline Freney says she hopes her success can inspire other young Australians to follow their dreams despite challenging circumstances.

“I’m one of 34,000 Australians who have been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. I am now the first young Australian with CP to be entrusted with this title. This is a significant day not only for me but for the Paralympic movement as it reflects the unique role Paralympians play in society. Paralympics is not just about winning. It’s about testing the limits of the human spirit, overcoming personal challenges and social acceptance. I’m an example of how a child with special needs can develop and achieve with support, guidance, encourage and opportunity. I ask all Australians to respect each other’s diversity and acknowledge their ability to contribute to this great country.”

Australia’s Local Hero for 2014 is Tim Conolan of Melbourne.

The 44-year-old established the charity TLC for kids in 1998, to support children undergoing medical treatment.

The charity has now assisted more than four-million sick children and their families.

Mr Conolan being chosen is one of the proudest moments of his life.

“The word ‘hero’ for me represents the children, the families and the hospital staff working with the kids in hospital. Every child is very important and they all need love and support, especially those kids in hospital. I believe any child regardless of their illness or their health condition has a right and the opportunity to smile. And I believe that we’re living in the best country in the world and with the enough support and with everyone getting behind us we can all make a difference.”


The Australian of the Year Award recipients were selected from more than 3000 nominations submitted by the public.