Four Women Make History By Dominating The ‘Australian Of The Year’ Awards


January 26 is celebrated as Australia Day each year, and it is a time when the nation takes time out to reflect on their achievements of the past year, as well as celebrate the extraordinary things everyday citizens are doing to represent the land down under.

It is also the day the ‘Australia of the Year’ awards are presented to men and women who are making a difference in their communities and in other Australian’s lives.

This year became more than just the standard celebration, because it was an historical event unlike any other in the past. Why? Because for the first time in its 55-year history women have taken out top honors in all four award categories of Senior Australian of the Year – author Jackie French, Young Australian of the Year – hearing impaired advocate Drisana Levitzke-Gray, Local Hero  – entrepreneur Juliette Wright, and the big one, Australian of the Year – domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty.

“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,” said the chairman of the National Australia Day Council, Ben Roberts-Smith.

“Most of all, they are admired and respected by their fellow Australians – they are people we can be proud of and look to as examples of the good in us all.”

They were presented their awards by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and attended the initial ceremony at Parliament House in the capital Canberra, before moving onto other events in Sydney and Melbourne.


Local hero award winner Juliette Wright was lauded for her entrepreneurial contribution to many Australian people during natural disaster. In 2009 she created a website called GIVIT which allows people to donate goods to those who need it most. Her site was used a lot during the disastrous floods which struck the state of Queensland in 2011.

According to the website, over 126,000 disadvantaged people have been the recipients of GIVIT donations, including 30,000 affected by the QLD floods.

“The simple act of giving … builds a bridge between the haves and the have nots,” said Juliette during her speech where she also pointed out that her site allows every person to be a local hero.

The 41 year old has also launched a kids version of the site where children can donate pre-loved toys that will be re-distributed to other kids less fortunate.


Author Jackie French, 61, has published 140 books for both adults and children in 32 languages and received more than 60 literary prizes. A sufferer of dyslexia, Jackie believes a book can help children with learning difficulties and give them the power to dream and change the world for the better.

“Every book a child reads creates new neurons in that child’s brain,” she said. “If you want intelligent children give them a book. If you want more intelligent children give them more books.”

Her tireless advocacy of literacy around the country made her a standout in this category. How awesome to see women like her using their creative skills for the betterment of other young people.


21 year-old Drisana Levitzke-Gray won the Young Australian of the Year award for her advocacy around the world for deaf rights. Hearing impaired herself, Drisana travels around the world educating people on the need for more deaf resources, and also advocates for deaf children to have access to Auslan – the sign language of the Australian deaf community – from birth.

In 2013 she became the first Auslan user to be accepted for Jury Duty, and although her number didn’t end up beign called, her presence has certainly paved the way for others and broken down a very important barrier between the deaf community and the public justice system in Australia.

One of the key messages Drisana has is access to the right resources, and her visibility winning this award has given deaf people a representative like no other. Drisana is the fifth generation of her family to be born deaf and has deaf parents.

“It’s a human right for deaf children to be able to access their language,” she said upon accepting her award. “When you delay that language, they have a delay in cognitive abilities. I consider myself quite an intelligent person and it’s sad for me to see other deaf children who don’t have those opportunities because they’re denied a language at birth.”

“We need the support of the Australian government to ensure that deaf children have access to Auslan.”


The big winner this year was Rosie Batty, an Aussie mom who was struck by tragedy and has used her pain to advocate for other sufferers. Nearly a year ago her 11-year-old son Luke was playing cricket in a park with his father, where Rosie was waiting nearby.

Without warning, his father Greg Anderson beat Luke with a bat and stabbed him to death. At the time of the murder, Anderson was facing eleven criminal charges and there were two apprehended violence orders out against him. Many media headlines reported on how the justice system had let Rosie and her son down.

It was a tragedy of the most horrific kind, but it did not silence Rosie. Instead she used her story to speak up and speak out against domestic violence in the hope that it would make the Australian public realize the immense danger family members experience.

We have seen many issues of domestic violence around the world being reported in the media in such a way that it has become evident we don’t know enough about victims, about survivors, about perpetrators, and the justice system still has a long way to go to help those in need.

This is what Rosie is campaigning for. She doesn’t necessarily blame the police, but the culture of domestic violence that isn’t explored in enough depth.

“Being a mother was the most fulfilling role I’ve ever had in my life,” said Rosie dedicating her award to her son.

“To Luke, you did not die in vain, you will not be forgotten, you are beside me on this journey and with me every step of the way. He is the reason I have found my voice, and I am able to be heard. Family violence may happen behind closed doors but it needs to be brought out from these shadows and into broad daylight.”

“There’s a lot of women speaking out and they’re not being heard. Because of Luke’s death, I was heard. There’s a lot of women speaking out and they’re not being heard. Because of Luke’s death, I was heard.”

She now wants to use her award to amplify her message that everyone has to take responsibility for their own actions, and counts the many Australians who tell her on a daily basis how she inspires them the reason for carrying on her fight.

“Everyone needs to recognize that as a parent you bring up little children into this world and as a parent you influence how they become as adults. We can seek to be better people or we can give in to the worst of ourselves.”

You can read her full speech here, where she shares statistics such as “One in six women has experienced physical or sexual abuse by a current or former partner, including some of those celebrating with us today. At least one woman a week is killed. Indigenous women experience even greater family violence.”

It was certainly a memorable year for recognizing the achievements of ordinary women doing extraordinary and courageous things, but it also highlights the power of the human spirit and what we can accomplish if we support and advocate one another.



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  1. Pingback: Australia Just Launched A $100 Million Initiative To Tackle Domestic Violence

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