IN each of the three years since my nomination for Australian of the Year the arrival of the official-looking envelope with the window has caused my heart to take a little leap. Oh, I think when I see the insignia of the Australian of the Year Awards, my mother has nominated me again! Or maybe it was our longtime friend Mrs Mac. And there was a reader once who . . ..
But no. As a previous nominee whose ‘‘ingenuity, leadership and dedication’’ has been highlighted by the awards, I have just read in the letter from chairman Adam Gilchrist, I know how it feels to learn that someone has taken the time to put my name forward, and so he’s inviting me to nominate someone for the next awards.
I suspect, by the way, that former cricketer Adam Gilchrist does not send these letters himself, in view of my widely appreciated columns on the tedious death of cricket.
So, who to nominate. It can be, Mr Gilchrist tells me, a family member, friend, work colleague or someone I’ve never met, and so I could nominate my wife, and not just because she’s married to me. She’s borne five law-abiding, productive and empathetic children, and isn’t she the Australian Australia needs more of?
What about the two young men who threw themselves at Rottweilers mauling a 10-year-old boy at Toronto last week? Luke Self and Steve Rebesco were bitten as, bare handed, they dragged the two escaped guard dogs off the boy, and I especially liked Mr Self’s comment to this paper, ‘‘Everyone would have done what we did’’. I don’t know about everyone, but certainly every Australian who deserves to be Australian of the Year would have.
Now, I don’t have anything against the current Australian of the Year, Geoffrey Rush, even if he doesn’t have anything for me. But how it is that someone can be chosen as an example to us all because he is good at pretending to be someone else is beyond me! I am happy to believe that Mr Rush is a fine human being, but when he throws himself at a vicious Rottweiler to save what may well have been a child’s life I’ll think much more of his appointment. Err, I mean throws himself at the dog in real life, not in a movie, even if many Australians don’t grasp the difference.
And I am suspicious that political correctness plays a greater role than should be the case, given that most Australians are not politically correct. Should it be the PC Australian of the Year Award? Take the current crop. For Australian of the Year there’s the white male (Rush), for the Senior Australian of the Year the female Aboriginal (Laurie Baymarrwangga), for Young Australian of the Year a woman of Asian descent (Marita Cheng), and for Australia’s Local Hero the white woman (Lynne Sawyers).
The National Australia Day Council makes no bones about manipulation when it states on its website that during the 1990s the council ‘‘was a strong promoter of multiculturalism and reconciliation’’ in an attempt to encourage what it describes as unified national celebrations, which means that it wanted all Australians to be right thinking on at least those issues.
‘‘The award offers an insight into Australian identity, reflecting the nation’s evolving relationship with Britain and the world, the role of sport in Australian culture, the impact of multiculturalism, and the special status of Australia’s indigenous people.’’ The evolving relationship with Britain, by which is meant moves for an Australian republic, is another of the award council’s causes, and the council would do well to swap a shovelful of its correctness for sensitivity next time it wants to refer to Aboriginal Australians as special.
In some ways my hope for an extraordinary ordinary Australian for us to admire is met with the award introduced in 2003, Australia’s Local Hero, which is for ‘‘extraordinary contributions made by Australians in their local community’’. But the local hero is on the lowest pedestal, when I believe these people have qualities that go much more to being Australian than sports stars, actors and others who seem often to be chosen to foster right thinking.
Who would you nominate for Australian of the Year? Why?