Newcorp columnist Andrew Bolt has offered another rebuttal against Ita Buttrose about the Australian of the Year and the idea that it’s been “hijacked” by special advocate groups. While Buttrose denied that this wasn’t the case, according to Bolt, “The Australian” has been told by former nominees that it is:

The Australian of the Year awards has been “hijacked” by activists choosing nominees along political and ideological lines, former winners say, after the latest finalists were announced yesterday.

Included on this year’s list are “social innovators”, “diversity and inclusion champions”, “social entrepreneurs”, “sustainable living advocates” and a “food van founder…”

Former army officer, Catherine McGregor, a finalist last year, said yesterday that the system was “broken”, with award winners being used to promote special interests.

The transgender ex – military figure, last year’s Queensland Australian of the Year, called for the awards to be overhauled.

I think it has been hijacked by activists. It’s unrepresentative of middle Australia and I regret profoundly ever being involved with it”, Ms. McGregor said.

This year’s list of finalists include former political candidates, activists and medical experts, with few leading business, entertainment or sporting figures.

Paris Aristotle, who is Victoria’s nomination for Australian of the Year, currently chairs two federal government councils and is described as a “tireless advocate for refugees and asylum seekers”.

Young of the Australian of the Year finalist Jason Ball, who was nominated by Victoria, ran for the Greens at this year’s federal election and supports the controversial Safe Schools program and same – sex marriage…

Yasmin Khan, chairwoman of the Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland, is Queensland’s finalists for the Local Hero category for her work as a “diversity champion”.

Ms. Khan, a long- term advocate for the Muslim community, has been an outspoken critic of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and warned people on her Facebook page in June to “be careful” not to vote for the party.

Since Tim Flannery was named Australian of the Year, in 2007, (sic) there has been an ongoing criticism of the award being handed to recipients doing their specific jobs or, or being rewarded for pushing pushing a specific issue.

Using the Australian of the Year for this sort of activism doesn’t do the awards or the causes any good. The last few years has seen the AOTY awards become the laughing stock and has, frankly, I think done harm to the causes the former winners supposedly stood for. For example, I think it was a bad idea for former Sydney Swans footballer, Adam Goodes to be awarded it in 2014 purely just for calling the – then 13 – year – old girl for racial abuse. While I don’t think it was Goodes’ fault that it panned out the way it did (the girl being dragged out by the police, etc) and it did spark a conversation on the experiences of racism and alienation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, I think Goodes being awarded because of that, rather than his football career, or his work with Indigenous children was a mistake and it unfortunately created a backlash against him.

2015’s Rosie Batty could’ve been a great spokesperson for tackling domestic violence and fixing the family law system. Instead, she too faced backlash over the way she handled it.The fact that she was a Greens supporter took precedence, rather than the cause she was trying to shine a light on.

Former Senior Officer for the Australian Defence Force (ADF), ended up being  a big disappointment. After the video of him condemning sexism in the army went viral, his whole cover ended up being blown. His handling of so – called “Jedi” e – mail scandal came under fire one of the servicemen who were disciplined, known only as “Ken” accused Morrison of abandoning the members of the ADF without assistance while they were suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Furthermore, Morrison became a laughing stock when he admonished the public for using the word “guys” saying that it was a form of sexism – even when the term is often used colloquially to address both men and women. Even ABC’s Virginia Triolli couldn’t hold her shock when she interviewed him, although she tried to cover it up. Then he tried a “walk in her shoes” style campaign where he wore high heels to supposedly shine a light on sexism and violence toward women. While I don’t condemn Morrison or Batty for wanting to expose issues like sexism and family violence, I don’t the the AOTY was the best platform for such a cause. Also, the causes need to be dealt with in a way that is factual and doesn’t risk alienating members of the public.

 

I’ll talk about the one nominee that is concerning to me and close to my heart – Jason Ball, the former first openly gay footballer and ex – Greens candidate. His coming out sparked this year’s “Pride Round” between St. Kilda and Sydney Swans (where Saints were thumped… again). That game itself, rather than garnering support for the LGBTQ+ community, received backlash from commentators and members of the public alike. Rita Panahi also slammed the Swans for hypocrisy when it was revealed that they were doing a sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways. On talk back radio station 2GB, I heard callers complaining to Steve Price and Andrew Bolt about the feeling that AFL fans were being lectured to. While I have applauded and still commend them for making an open statement that the AFL is inclusive to members of the LGBTQ community, I can’t get rid of this fear that anymore pushing will end up backfiring on the LGBTQ community. If the Australian of the Year is seen as a platform for preaching for another year, I don’t think it’s going to do anyone – the public, the reputation of the AOTY or minority groups or political causes any good. I truly think it would be best for everybody if the Australian of the Year went back to its roots and was about inspirational Australians that all people could get behind. Not be used as a lecturing platform that will end up decreasing support for causes, not increase them.

What do you think about the Australian of the Year? Should it be scrapped? Changed? 

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