“Thank you Australia for this honour,” AFL hero and exemplary campaigner against racism Adam Goodes said after being announced the 2014 Australian Of The Year by the National Australia Day Council in Canberra last night.

The veteran Sydney Swans star cemented his role as one of Australia’s most noble sporting figures after being subjected to racial abuse from a 13-year-old girl during a game at the MCG, and turned the subsequent media frenzy into an opportunity to educate Australians about the nation’s existing culture of racism, and raise awareness for the #Racismitstopswithme campaign for which he’s an ambassador.

Goodes told the National Australia Day Council, “My hope is that we as a nation can break down the silos between races, break down those stereotypes of minority populations. I hope we can be proud of our heritage, regardless of the colour of our skin and be proud to be Australian.

“The ultimate reward is when all Australians see each other as equals, and treat each other as equals.”

Earlier Paralympic gold medallist Jacqueline Freney was named the Young Australian of the Year, for those aged 16 to 30.
The 21-year-old swimmer was the star performer at the London Games finishing undefeated in all of her events.

Born with cerebral palsy, Freney was eligible for the S7 division which included swimmers with full use of their arms and trunk with some leg function and swimmers with coordination problems or weakness on the same side of the body. 50m Freestyle 100m backstroke, 200m individual medley, 100m freestyle, 50m freestyle and 50m butterfly finals, and team golds in the women’s 400m freestyle relay and 4×100 metres medley.

Congratulations to the Australians, young and old, who continue to inspire the rest of us to be better.

Photo: Michael Dodge via Getty