‘Two Australians of the Year: highlights reel’, Honest History, 1 August 2015
Adam Goodes, AFL footballer and Indigenous activist, was Australian of the Year 2013. Rosie Batty, mother and domestic violence activist, was Australian of the Year 2014. Both have been and are active in fields which often slip from the view of many Australians. When accepting their awards both made speeches which described what they saw as attributes of and issues affecting Australia and Australians.
Given current controversy surrounding Goodes in particular the words of the two speeches are worth considering in full. Goodes’ speech goes beyond sport. Batty’s speech goes beyond the law relating to assault and murder within families. They both have something to say about people like us. Extracts follow.
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. I believe racism is a community issue, which we all need to address, and that’s why racism stops with me.
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 our their anger on loved ones, minority groups or make racist remarks. It means treating people the way you want to be treated, whether that’s your manners, the way you talk to people, whether they are your loved ones or the people serving you dinner. It’s about how you choose to give back and make a difference to those around you — your community or your country — that goes outside of just yourself …
There was a lot of anger, a lot of sorrow, for this day [Australia Day] and very much the feeling of invasion day … But in the last five years, I’ve really changed my perception of what is Australia Day, of what it is to be Australian and for me, it’s about celebrating the positives, that we are still here as indigenous people, our culture is one of the longest surviving cultures in the world, over 40,000 years. That is something we need to celebrate and all Australians need to celebrate.
Whilst we celebrate the wonderful country that we live in today, there remains a serious epidemic across our nation. No matter where you live, family violence exists in every pocket of every neighbourhood. It does not discriminate and it is across all sections of our society. Family violence may happen behind closed doors but it needs to be brought out from these shadows and into broad daylight. One in six women has experienced physical or sexual abuse by a current or former partner including some of those celebrating with us today. One in four children and at least one woman a week is killed.
Indigenous women experience even greater family violence. The statistics are unacceptable, indisputable and, if they did happen on our streets, there would be a public outcry. To our government, we need your strong leadership to change these rising statistics and your investment into both preventing the violence and long-term secure funding to our specialist women services to deliver the intensive support so desperately needed.
To the Australian people, look around. Do not ignore what you see and what you know is wrong. Call out sexist attitudes and speak up when violence against women is trivialised. 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.