Sat, 28 May 2022

Tennis champ Dylan Alcott is 2022 Australian of the Year

The Conversation
25 Jan 2022, 20:38 GMT+10

Dylan Alcott, wheelchair tennis star and leading advocate for people with a disability, is the 2022 Australian of the Year.

With 23 quad wheelchair Grand Slam titles, including singles and doubles, Alcott, from Melbourne, last year became the first man, in any form of tennis, to win a Golden Slam.

He won the singles titles at the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. He also won the singles gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics.

On Thursday Alcott, 31, competes to his eighth straight Australian Open quad wheelchair singles final, playing Dutchman Sam Schröder. He has said he will retire from professional tennis after the Australian Open.

In earlier years he played in the Australian men's national wheelchair basketball team, The Rollers. He was a member of the Rollers team that won gold at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.

Alcott, a motivational speaker, founded the Dylan Alcott Foundation to provide scholarships and grant funding to marginalised Australians with a disability, and co-founded Get Skilled Access.

Ability Fest, Australia's only completely inclusive and fully accessible music festival, was his brainchild. He has a widely-based media profile.

Alcott made a flying visit to receive the award from Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Canberra on Tuesday night.

This is the first time in the 62 years of the award that a person with a disability has been named Australian on the Year.

Chair of the National Australia Day Council Danielle Roche said: "Dylan is an inspirational Australian on and off the tennis court. Through the Dylan Alcott Foundation, he is giving young Australians facing disadvantage the promise of a better future."

Receiving the award, Alcott said that as Australia opened up from the pandemic, "we've got to think about and prioritise people with disability - some of the most vulnerable people in our community. We've got to get them the vaccines and the tests and whatever else they need so they can get out there and start living their life.

"If a person with a disability needs a free daily RAT test so they feel confident going out and doing things that we all might take for granted, they've got to get that RAT test. We've got to keep improving more employment opportunities for people with a disability as well."

Earlier on Tuesday, at a morning tea for finalists at The Lodge, Grace Tame, outgoing Australian of the Year and passionate advocate for victims of sexual abuse, set off an intense social media debate when she delivered a very deliberate snub to Morrison.

Her face was grimly unsmiling as she posed with Morrison and his wife Jenny, with her side-eying of the PM clear in the photos. Tame has been highly critical of Morrison at times over the past year.

The Senior Australian of the Year is Val Dempsey, 71, from Canberra, a St John Ambulance volunteer for more than half a century, starting as a cadet volunteer while at primary school.

Young Australian of the Year is Dr Daniel Nour, 26, from Sydney, founder of Street Side Medics, a not-for-profit, GP-led mobile medical service for homeless people. It has 145 volunteers and four clinics across NSW.

The 2022 Australia's Local Hero is founder and CEO of Sober in the County, Shanna Whan, 47, of Narrabri, NSW.

Author: Michelle Grattan - Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra The Conversation

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