Australians of the Year fight for equality and accessibility

Posted 2 years ago by Anna Christian
Dylan Alcott OAM is the Australian of the Year for 2022. [Source: Supplied]
Dylan Alcott OAM is the Australian of the Year for 2022. [Source: Supplied]

Dylan Alcott OAM has been announced as the Australian of the Year for 2022 after spending hundreds of hours of work in the disability advocacy space.

A Paralympian, philanthropist, media commentator and advocate, Dylan is the first person with disability to receive the national Australian of the Year title.

He also recently became the first man in the world to collect the Golden Slam – wins in all four major tennis competitions as well as a gold medal in the same year.

With 23 quad wheelchair Grand Slam titles, a Newcombe Medal and Paralympic gold medals in wheelchair basketball as well as tennis, Dylan is a highly successful athlete.

But he says, “I would be wasting my life if I won 20 grand slams and that’s all I did. I love the ability to help people. I don’t get out of bed every day to play to win a tennis tournament…it provides me with a platform to do what I really want – to continue to change the perceptions around disability.”

He founded the Dylan Alcott Foundation to provide mentoring, scholarships and grant funding to young Australians with disability, removing barriers to them achieving their dreams in sport and study.

Dylan also co-founded Get Skilled Access, which advocates for a truly inclusive society through accessibility training, and runs Australia’s first and only inclusive and fully accessible music festival AbilityFest.

For years, he has appeared across media on TV, radio and podcasting advocating for people with disability and equality.

He received his Order of Australia Medal in 2009 at the young age of 18.

Several other nominees for various Australia Day awards were also recognised for their work in the disability sector.

Robyne Burridge OAM – NT State Recipient Senior Australian Of The Year 2022

Robyne Burridge OAM was in the running for Senior Australian of the Year 2022 after being announced as the Northern Territory winner in the category.

As the Founder of Focus-A-Bility, which she established in 1997 to provide advocacy, case management and information to individuals with disability; a founding member of Integrated DisAbility Action, and a member of the governance committee of the Northern Territory Primary Health Network, she advocates for greater equality, accessibility and quality of life for people with disability.

Robyne, who has cerebral palsy, also served as an Alderman with the Darwin City Council for 20 years and was Deputy Lord Mayor for one year.

Using her lived experience of cerebral palsy and expertise in disability advocacy, Robyne is a leader in the sector, mentoring many other executives.

She was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 2020 for her advocacy service for people with disability.

Mark Le Messurier – SA State Recipient Senior Australian Of The Year 2022

Mark Le Messurier received the SA Senior Australian of the Year 2022 award for his dedicated work as an educator and counsellor, as well as an author of several books and an important literacy education program.

He has a passion for encouraging students’ self-worth, wellbeing, mental health and positive life outcomes, particularly children who need support, such as those with disabilities or global development delays.

As a mentor he influences the lives of children, parents and teachers and he has authored many books for both teachers and parents, including co-authoring What’s the Buzz?, a social and emotional literacy education program. This program has become a standard course in the training of teachers and other professionals in over 90 countries.

Dr Trudy Lin – SA State Recipient Young Australian Of The Year 2022

Another SA representative, Dr Trudy Lin, was nominated for the Young Australian of the Year award in recognition of her passion and efforts to promote equality in oral health care.

At the age of 28, Trudy is the youngest of only 20 practising Australian specialists in the field of special needs dentistry.

She provides oral healthcare to people with disability, psychiatric illness, complex medical issues such as cancer, and people experiencing homelessness and domestic violence.

Trudy completed her research thesis on the use of a triaging tool to make oral healthcare more accessible for people with disability.

“Every person has the right to eat, speak and smile. The mouth is the gateway to our bodies and our general health, and our smile is the gateway to connecting with others and being included in society,” says Trudy.

“Plaque inhalation is a silent killer of our loved ones with disability. Australians with a disability are dying 20 years younger than the general population. I don’t want Australians to be dying from something that’s so preventable. Australians, use your voice, spread the word that brushing teeth saves lives!”

Aside from focussing on achieving the biggest positive impact she can with her career, Trudy has also volunteered in the community – delivering dental and humanitarian aid overseas with Australian Health Humanitarian Aid, providing dental care in remote communities with the Royal Flying Doctor’s Service, assisting Camp Quality and fundraising for the Cancer Council and Leukaemia Foundation.

Monique Bareham – SA State Recipient Local Hero 2022

In the Local Hero category SA State Recipient Monique Bareham was recognised for her determination to see a compression garment subsidy program introduced in her State.

Monique was diagnosed with cancer ten years ago and the treatment left her with lymphoedema, a chronic condition caused by damage to the lymphatic system which involves soft tissue swelling.

While lymphoedema is incurable, the use of compression bandages is vital to management of swelling.

However, Monique discovered SA was the only State without a compression garment subsidy program to allow people with lymphoedema to access the medical items they needed.

She joined the Lymphoedema Association SA Inc. and has been the President for several years now, using lived experiences of people with lymphoedema to lobby the State Government until a subsidy scheme was announced in July 2020.

Monique now monitors the roll-out of the scheme to ensure equity and accessibility.