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Dylan Alcott is named the 2022 Australian of the Year for his inspiring work with disabled Aussies.

The wheelchair tennis star and commentator, 31, gave an emotional acceptance speech sharing how he once ‘hated’ himself for being different and now feels like the luckiest guy in the world.

He also said that front line workers battling the Covid-19 pandemic over the past year deserve the award more than ‘a guy who hits tennis balls for a living and likes talking’.  

His humility and humour was on full display from the very moment he took the stage and received the nation’s highest honour from Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

‘I thought I was no chance until I got here and I saw this really good looking ramp. And I thought – I might have a chance here,’ he said the raucous applause of the Canberra crowd before touching on his heart-wrenching story of how he became the person he is today. 

Dylan Alcott is named the 2022 Australian of the Year for his inspiring work with disabled Aussies

Dylan Alcott is named the 2022 Australian of the Year for his inspiring work with disabled Aussies

Dylan Alcott is named the 2022 Australian of the Year for his inspiring work with disabled Aussies 

Full list of awards: 

AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR

Dylan Alcott is named the 2022 Australian of the Year for his inspiring work with disabled Aussies. 

SENIOR AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR   

Val Dempsey (ACT) has dedicated her life to the St Johns Ambulance donating thousands of hours of her time becoming one of the ACT’s longest-serving volunteers with more than 40 years.

YOUNG AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR

Dr Daniel Nour (NSW) – The founder of Street Side Medics – an not-for-profit service dedicated to ensuring people experiencing homelessness have direct access to free medical care

AUSTRALIA’S LOCAL HERO

Shanna Whan (NSW) – For her work in the community helping rural Australians in their fight against alcoholism with her organisation Sober in the Bush.  

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‘I was born with a tumour wrapped around my spinal cord that was cut out when I was only a couple of days old,’ the Victorian explained. 

‘I’ve known nothing but having a disability. If I’m honest with you, I can’t tell you how much I used to hate myself. I used to hate having a disability. I hated it so much, I hated being different and I didn’t want to be here anymore.’

He said the pain of feeling different was magnified even more by the everyday messaging he received on the TV, the radio or in newspapers.

Alcott explained that as a youngster the only time he would ever see someone in a wheelchair was in a road safety ad where someone drink drives, has a car accident and is left paralysed.

‘There would be someone like me in tears because their life was over and I thought to myself, that’s not my life but I believed that was going to be my life,’ he said. 

‘But I’m so lucky that I had the best family, some of the best friends, my beautiful partner and my whole team who told me that I was worthy. And that I was allowed to be loved.’

‘It wasn’t until my teen teenage years he started seeing people like me.’ 

The wheelchair tennis star and commentator, 31 (pictured with partner Chantelle Otten), gave an emotional acceptance speech sharing how he once 'hated' himself for being different and now feels like the luckiest guy in the world

The wheelchair tennis star and commentator, 31 (pictured with partner Chantelle Otten), gave an emotional acceptance speech sharing how he once 'hated' himself for being different and now feels like the luckiest guy in the world

The wheelchair tennis star and commentator, 31 (pictured with partner Chantelle Otten), gave an emotional acceptance speech sharing how he once ‘hated’ himself for being different and now feels like the luckiest guy in the world

Now he’s works tirelessly in the community leveraging his status as a professional athlete with 15 Grand Slam wheelchair tennis titles and three time Paralympic gold medals to change the perception around Aussies living with disabilities. 

‘I love my disability. It is the best thing that ever happened to me,’ Alcott said. 

‘I love the person that I am and the life I get to live and I’m the luckiest guy in this country, easily.’

He also sent out a powerful message to Aussie workers who have been doing extremely tough over the past year.

‘To our frontline workers, our nurses, doctors, people running our vaccine clinics, our ambos, our firefighters you deserve this way more than a guy who hits tennis balls and likes talking,’ the athlete said. 

While it was a star-studded night worthy of celebration, Alcott won’t be doing any partying.

In just 36 hours, he’ll take centre court in Melbourne in the hunt for his 8th Australian Open trophy against The Netherlands Sam Schröder.

It will sadly be the Alcott’s last tournament with the Aussie set to focus his attention on his widely successful commentary career. 

Dylan Alcott (pictured with his partner Chantelle) take a selfie with their beloved pooch

Dylan Alcott (pictured with his partner Chantelle) take a selfie with their beloved pooch

Dylan Alcott (pictured with his partner Chantelle) take a selfie with their beloved pooch

Alcott's (pictured) humility and humour was on full display from the very moment he took the stage and received the nation's highest honour from Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Alcott's (pictured) humility and humour was on full display from the very moment he took the stage and received the nation's highest honour from Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Alcott’s (pictured) humility and humour was on full display from the very moment he took the stage and received the nation’s highest honour from Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Eight finalists, one each from Australia’s states and territories, were nominated for the role, ranging from sports stars, scientists and community activists. 

Since its induction in 1960, the award conferred by the National Australia Day Council aims to honour exceptional Australians who reflect the nation’s unique identity and values.

Over the decades, the prestigious award has offered insights into Australia’s ever-changing multicultural society and the special status of First Nations Peoples.

Conferred by the National Australia Day Council – a not-for-profit Australian Government–owned social enterprise – part of the reason for the award is to showcase Australian role models to inspire others living Down Under to become fully-fledged citizens. 

A passionate Mr Morrison explained during the lavish ceremony what the Australian of the Year award means to him.

‘For me, this ceremony is about more than an award on a mantelpiece, as I’m sure it is for anyone here. It’s a touchstone of what this country is about. What makes us tick, why we keep going as we do,’ the Prime Minister said.

‘You see the strength of Australia, the wonder of Australia – is ultimately the Australian people. 

‘A generous, open-hearted, practical people who look out for each other, care for each other, care for their community and their country and simply get on with it. This is what these finalists here embody.’  

AUSTRALIA’S LOCAL HERO – Shanna Whan 

Australia's Local Hero award went to Shanna Whan (pictured) for her work helping farmers and rural Aussies fight alcoholism

Australia's Local Hero award went to Shanna Whan (pictured) for her work helping farmers and rural Aussies fight alcoholism

Australia’s Local Hero award went to Shanna Whan (pictured) for her work helping farmers and rural Aussies fight alcoholism

Australia’s Local Hero was awarded to Shanna Whan who runs the initiative Sober in the Bush, helping farmers and rural Aussies fight alcoholism.

After facing her own struggles she now urges rural Aussies to ‘choose bush sunrises over handovers.’   

‘Let’s be honest about the fact that Australia’s got a bit of a drinking problem and I reckon we need to tackle this conversation front-on,’ Ms Whan explained.

‘I dream of the day that everyone in the bush knows that it’s OK to say ‘no’ to a beer.’

Ms Whan created the initiative after her own years-long battle with alcohol.   

‘I do it because someone had to go first. I do it because somebody sharing their truth with me saved my life. And I do it because every single one of you knows my story is not unique,’ she told the crowd during her acceptance speech.

‘You can never question the God-given right of someone enjoying a few beers in the bush but as a mate, you can respect someone’s choice to say, ‘No, thank you,’ or ‘Not today’.’

YOUNG AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR – Dr Daniel Nour

The Young Australian of the Year award was presented to Dr Daniel Nour (pictured with Scott Morrison) who started the not-for-profit service Street Side Medics to help homeless people get medical care

The Young Australian of the Year award was presented to Dr Daniel Nour (pictured with Scott Morrison) who started the not-for-profit service Street Side Medics to help homeless people get medical care

The Young Australian of the Year award was presented to Dr Daniel Nour (pictured with Scott Morrison) who started the not-for-profit service Street Side Medics to help homeless people get medical care

The Young Australian of the Year award was handed out to Dr Daniel Nour for his inspiring work offering medical services to Australia’s most vulnerable. 

His not-for-profit service Street Side Medics is dedicated to ensuring people experiencing homelessness have direct access to free medical care.

‘Unfortunately, many of these Australians face significant barriers which limits their ability to access the healthcare service that we are all so lucky to have available to us. As a result of this, they suffer in silence. 

‘There are 116,000 people and growing experiencing homelessness and they deserve better. 

‘Many die of conditions which could be treated and avoid interventions which could have improved quality of life.’

He is striving to improve this issue, heading out on the streets to night after night to help others.  

SENIOR AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR – Val Dempsey 

Senior Australian of the Year went to St Johns Ambulance volunteer Val Dempsey (pictured with the Prime Minister)

Senior Australian of the Year went to St Johns Ambulance volunteer Val Dempsey (pictured with the Prime Minister)

Senior Australian of the Year went to St Johns Ambulance volunteer Val Dempsey (pictured with the Prime Minister)

After four decades of service, Val Dempsey was honoured as Senior Australian of the Year.

She has dedicated thousands of hours of her life to the St Johns Ambulance in ACT becoming one of the territory’s longest-serving volunteers.

‘My family was forever changed by a car accident more than three decades ago where people came to help but didn’t know what to do and a very precious life was lost,’ Ms Dempsey said.

She now advocates for society-wide first-aid training. 

‘As a nation, we can rethink our approach to those critical minutes between life and death at a road accident. To make members of our community part of the solution.

‘So from this humble senior Australian, nurse, wife, mother, granny, great grandma, surviving patient and brand proud St John Ambulance volunteer, there is no greater gift to our nation and our humanity than saving lives.’ 

WHO WERE THE NOMINEES FOR AUSTRAIAN OF THE YEAR?  

ACT Australian of the Year: Patrick (Patty) Mills. Basketball player and Indigenous rights advocate.

NSW Australian of the Year: Professor Veena Sahajwalla. Founding Director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology at the University of New South Wales.

NT Australian of the Year: Leanne Liddle. Director of the Aboriginal Justice Unit.

Queensland Australian of the Year: Sue and Lloyd Clarke. Founders of Small Steps 4 Hannah.

SA Australian of the Year: Professor Helen Marshall. Vaccination researcher.

Tasmania Australian of the Year: Craig Leeson. Documentary filmmaker and journalist.

Victoria Australian of the Year: Dylan Alcott OAM. Athlete, paralympian, philanthropist, media commentator and advocate.

WA Australian of the Year: Paul Litherland. Cyber safety educator and campaigner.

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Source: Daily Mail

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