Dylan Alcott's 2022 - Australian of the Year acceptance speech

Jan 28 , 2022

Julie-Anne Dietz

Dylan Alcott's 2022 - Australian of the Year acceptance speech

26th January 2022 - 

Dylan Alcott made history becoming the first person with a visible disability to be made the 2022 Australian of the Year in the award’s 62-year history.

He’s acceptance speech has been described as “One of the all-time best.”

The day before the Award Ceremony, just after his win in the Australian Open semi-final, he was asked if he thought he had a chance to win the Australian of the Year – He said “I am no chance!”

As the proud owner of this store and with so many aligned messages and personal beliefs so beautifully presented by Dylan, I wanted his words to sit in our store's blog to be enjoyed by everyone that has the chance to read them.

One of the key messages that resonated with me was his message to his family, friends and partner which stated that he basically survived because of their love, care and perseverance.

This has been the case for my family with their enduring love and acceptance of my disabled sister Tricia. There were definitely times of sole searching for us, when caring for her we were wondering if we were making a difference. We wondered if Tricia was going to make it and if she was ever going to be able to live her best life!

How proud must Dylan’s parents, family and partner be of this great Australian.  He finishes off by stating:

“My purpose is changing perceptions about people with a disability, people like me, so they can get out there and live their lives like they deserve to do. It was my purpose yesterday, it is my purpose today and it will be my purpose as your Australian of the Year for the next 12 months and beyond and I hope that I make every single one of you PROUD.”

Dylan Alcott – 2022 Australian of the Year

26th January 2022

I have been in a wheelchair my whole life. I was born with a tumour wrapped around my spinal cord that was cut out when I was only a couple of days old. I have known nothing but having a disability.

And if I am honest with you, I can’t tell you how much I hated myself. I used to hate having a disability. I hated it so much, I hated being different. You know I didn’t want to be here anymore. I really didn’t and whenever I turned on the TV, or the radio or the newspaper, I never saw anybody like me. Whenever I did it was a road safety ad where somebody drink drives and has a car accident and what’s the next thing? Someone in tears like me because their life was over. And I thought to myself “That’s not me life!” But I believed that that was going to be my life.

I am so lucky that I had one of the best families and some of the best friends and my beautiful partner Chantelle and my whole team who told me “I was worthy!” And that I was allowed to be loved.

And when I reached the end of my teenage years, I began to see people like me. I also stand on the shoulders of giants. (Not literally, I still can’t stand 😊). But Paralympic athletes like Louise Sauvage and Kurt Fearnley, Danni Di Toro the people who are the reason that I got into sport. Advocates like Sterling Young. They paved the way so that I could be here tonight. They should have been Australian of the Year as well. And I am honestly so honoured to be up here. And to everybody in my life, I sit here as a proud man with a disability tonight.

I now love my disability – It is the best thing that has ever happened to me. It really is.

And I am so thankful for the life that I get to live. And I get sent stem cell research stuff and honestly you could not pay me enough money to do it, because I love the person that I am and the life that I get to live.

I am the luckiest guy in this country – easily.

But I know that for the 4.5 million people in this country, that is one in five people that have a physical or non-physical disability, that they don’t feel the same way that I do. And it is not their fault. But it is up to all of us to do things so that they can get out and be proud of their disability as well and be the people that they want to be.

We’ve got to fund the NDIS, first and foremost. And listen to people with lived experience and ask them, “what do you need?” so they can get out and live the life that they want to live. And remind ourselves, that it is an investment in people with disabilities, so they can get off pensions and start paying taxes. Just like their carers and their family members as well.

As we start opening up from this pandemic, which is awesome, we got to think about how we prioritise people with disability. They are some of the most vulnerable people in our community. Let’s get them the vaccines and the test so that they can get out there and start living their life. If a person with a disability needs a free RAT Test so they can get out there and do something that we all take for granted, then they have got to get that RAT Test.

We have got to keep improving more employment opportunities for people with a disability as well. Of those 4.5 million only 54% actually participate in the workforce. The unemployment rate is double that of able-bodied people. These figures haven’t moved in 30 years. And guess what? We’re not just ready to work, we’re ready to take your jobs. WE ARE COMING! WE ARE COMING!. But we have got to get those opportunities.

And lastly, we have got to have greater representation of people with a disability everywhere. In our boardrooms, in our parliaments, in our mainstream schools, in our dating apps, on our sporting fields, in our universities, absolutely everywhere so that we have the opportunity to live our lives just like everyone else. And I promise you this, not only will you enrich our lives, but you will enrich the lives of yourselves in the process.

And before I go, I just want to leave you with this. I often get asked – “What is your advice to a young person with a disability or anyone with a disability? So they can start living their life.

And my advice is this “You don’t need my advice.” You know what to do. And you don’t need people telling you what to do your whole life. My advice is to you - Non-disabled people – it is time for you to challenge your unconscious biases, leave your negative perceptions at the door and lift your expectations of what you think people with a disability can do, because it is always more than you think.

Now I have heard that the Australian of the Year After parties are one of the best after parties around but unfortunately, I have an Australian Tennis Open to try and win in the next 6 hours.

I really hope that I make you proud out there, but winning grand slams and Gold Medals really isn’t my purpose. It is like the number 30th priority in my life. My purpose is changing perceptions about people with a disability, people like me, so they can get out there and live their lives like they deserve to do. It was my purpose yesterday, it is my purpose today and it will be my purpose as your Australian of the Year for the next 12 months and beyond and I hope that I make every single one of you PROUD.

Dylan Alcott OAM

2022 Australian of the Year