Ability Fest founder, Paralympian and disability advocate Dylan Alcott has been named Australian Of The Year for 2022.
Alcott received the honour at yesterday’s (January 25) ceremony in Canberra, making him the first Australian with a disability to receive the award.
The 31-year-old was recognised for his advocacy and community work, having launched the Dylan Alcott foundation in 2017, which provides funding and scholarships for Australians living with a disability. He also co-founded a disability inclusion consulting organisation, Get Skilled Access, and established Australia’s first and only inclusive, fully-accessible music festival, Ability Fest.
Alcott was also acknowledged for his outstanding achievements in sport, with the Paralympian being the only male in tennis history to win a Golden Slam. He’s also won 23 quad wheelchair Grand Slam titles during his career, and received a Newcombe Medal.
“I’ve been in a wheelchair my whole life… I’ve known nothing but having a disability,” Alcott said in his acceptance speech. “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 being different.”
“And, whenever I turned on the TV or the radio or the newspaper, I never saw anybody like me. And, whenever I did, it was a road safety ad where someone drink drives, has a car accident and what’s the next scene? Someone like me in tears because their life was over,” he continued.
“I thought to myself, ‘That’s not my life’, but I believed that was going to be my life. But I’m so lucky that I had one of the best families, some of the best friends, my beautiful partner and my whole team who told me that I was worthy.
“I’m honestly so honoured to be up here and it’s because of them and everybody in my life that I sit here as a proud man with a disability tonight.”
Alcott also acknowledged 2021 Australian Of The Year Grace Tame in his speech, saying: “You have done so much for your cause and if I could be one-eighth of the Australian of the Year that you were, I think I’ve done my job.”
Tame, an outspoken advocate for survivors of sexual assault, made headlines earlier in the day for not smiling in photos with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who she has criticised for his party’s handling of sexual assault allegations, such as those made by survivor and former Liberal staffer, Brittany Higgins.
The cold exchange drew criticism from conservatives, such as Liberal senator James McGrath, who called Tame’s behaviour “childish”, while others applauded her refusal to conform to social niceties.
“Respect is earned” – Grace Tame
Grace @TamePunk is the only person in this photo who lives her life with honesty, integrity & empathy
Grace’s courage -to speak truth to power & to call out abuse of power has earned her the enduring respect & trust of a nation. ❤️#auspol pic.twitter.com/wqURJQlWvB
— Julia Banks (@juliahbanks) January 25, 2022
“Grace @TamePunk is the only person in this photo who lives her life with honesty, integrity & empathy,” tweeted former Liberal MP Julia Banks.
Alcott’s third Ability Fest took place in 2021, after the 2020 iteration was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Last year’s instalment took place in Melbourne’s Alexandra Gardens, and featured sets from Confidence Man, KYE, Alex The Astronaut, Illy, Nina Las Vegas and What So Not, among others.