Dylan Alcott – the tennis champion, Paralympic and disability advocate – has been named Australian of the Year 2022.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement Tuesday night at an event in Canberra after Alcott qualified for the Australian Open final where he will try to win his eighth title.
It is the first time in the 62-year history of the annual awards program that a person with a visible disability has been named Australian of the Year, the award managers said.
Victoria, 31, has won 15 singles grand slam titles and eight more in doubles. In 2021, he became the first man in history to win a gold slam: all four major singles titles and gold at the Paralympic Games.
Alcott, a wheelchair user, has been open about his experiences of bullying and discrimination related to his disability, especially in his youth. He was born with a tumor around his spinal cord, which was successfully removed when he was three weeks old, but left him with a spinal cord injury.
In 2017 he founded the start-up Get Skilled Access for disabled and accessibility training. He is also the founder of the Dylan Alcott Foundation, which provides scholarships and grants to Australians with disabilities.
In addition to his athletic achievements, Alcott has a storied media career, writing an autobiography, Able; host of a show on youth channel Triple J; and appeared in numerous commentator and presenter roles on television, radio, and podcasting.
In 2009, Alcott was awarded the medal of the Order of Australia at the age of 18.
Alcott announced last year that he plans to retire from tennis after this year’s Australian Open.
The awards for Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Australia’s Local Hero were also announced on Tuesday evening.
St John Ambulance volunteer Valmai Dempsey, 71, from Canberra, was named Senior Australian of the Year. She has volunteered with St John Ambulance for over 50 years, including during the summer black fires.
The Young Australian of the Year was awarded to Daniel Nour, 26, of NSW, a physician who founded Street Side Medics, a non-profit organization that provides free mobile medical services to the homeless.
Shanna Whan, 47, from Narrabri in NSW, was named Australia’s local hero. Whan is the founder and chief executive of Sober in the Country, a charity that provides peer support to those who give up alcohol, as well as education and advocacy about the harms of alcohol, particularly to rural communities.
National Australia Day Council chair Danielle Roche said Alcott was an “inspiring Australian on and off the tennis court”, whose foundation gave young underprivileged Australians “the promise of a brighter future”.
“Dylan Alcott is a champion who rose to the top of the world rankings through sheer courage and determination. His gold stroke is an incredible achievement, the first for a male tennis player,” said Roche.
Alcott takes over as Australian of the Year from Grace Tame – a sexual assault survivor, activist and critic of the Australian government, most notably handling the rape charge of former Liberal operative Brittany Higgins, who is now the subject of criminal proceedings.
A meeting between Tame and the Prime Minister at the Lodge for Australian of the Year celebrations on Tuesday went viral after photos were taken of Tame looking unimpressed.
Alcott, who attended Tuesday night’s ceremony in Canberra, will immediately return to Melbourne to continue his last-ever professional tennis match – the Australian Open quad wheelchair singles final on Thursday.