Indigenous footballer Adam Goodes named Australian of the Year
For more than a decade Adam Goodes has been part of the Sydney Swans pack and now he’s been recognised for kicking goals off-field as an indigenous ambassador.
The 34-year-old AFL superstar has been named Australian of the Year for 2014 for his leadership in the fight against racism.
“I’m so grateful for this award and this honour, however … the ultimate reward is when all Australians see each other as equals and treat each other as equals,” Goodes said after accepting the award in Canberra.
Goodes says he sees Australia Day as a survival story and a chance to celebrate his Aboriginal culture.
The football player says people should enjoy celebrating what it means to be Australian but also show empathy towards Indigenous people, who may find the day painful.
‘Racism stops with me’
Goodes said that as an Indigenous Australian he has experienced his share of racism.
“My hope is that we as a nation can break down the silos between races, break down those stereotypes of minority populations … I hope we can be proud of our heritage regardless of the colour of our skin and be proud to be Australian,” he said.
“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.”
List of Australian of the Year award winners
Goodes’s Indigenous pride came into the national spotlight in May when he expressed deep distress after being called an “ape” by a 13-year-old girl in the crowd during a match at the MCG.
The two-time Brownlow Medallist has used his football stardom to spread the message that racism in any form is unacceptable.
“I believe racism is a community issue which we all need to address and that’s why racism stops with me,” he said.
Goodes has two AFL grand final wins under his belt. He is a four-time All-Australian footballer, member of the Indigenous Team of the Century, and has represented Australia in the International Rules Series.
In the community the Sydneysider works with troubled youth, including those in detention centres.
He co-founded and is active in the operation of the Goodes-O’Loughlin Foundation – along with cousin and former
teammate Michael O’Loughlin – which promotes education, employment and healthy living among indigenous people.
Goodes’ mother Lisa, a member of the stolen generation, was in the crowd for the announcement.
He has previously said he would use his profile as Australian of the Year to help raise awareness of the push for constitutional recognition of Indigenous people.
Finalists represent the ‘very best of our country’
Prime Minister Tony Abbott paid tribute to scores of Australia Day honours nominees, thanking them for their efforts, which have given other Aussies a fair go.
Speaking from the forecourt of Canberra’s Parliament House on Saturday Mr Abbott said there was “no better place” to recognise Australia’s leading citizens.
Read the inspirational achievements of the 32 Australian of the Year finalists here.
“Two traits are characteristic of our country: the instinct to have a go and passion for a fair go,” Mr Abbott said.
“Tonight we honour those who have had a go so that others might have a fair go. We are a country that salutes those whose talents, gifts and hard work have made Australia a better place.”
The prime minister said the Australia Day weekend is an opportunity to celebrate “our land, our people, our unity”.