Newly minted Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott has vowed to use his title to improve the lives of people living with disabilities. But first, he has another tennis grand slam to win.
Born with a tumour wrapped around his spinal cord, Alcott grew up hating his disability and “didn’t want to be here”.
Now, the seven-time Australian Open champion thinks it’s the “best thing that ever happened to me”.
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“We have to have greater representation of people with a disability absolutely everywhere,” Alcott told the Australian of the Year Awards in Canberra on Tuesday night.
“In our boardrooms, in our parliaments, in our mainstream schools, on our dating apps, on our sporting fields, in our universities, absolutely everywhere.”
Alcott received the honour fresh off a win at Melbourne Park before rushing back to try to secure an eighth Australian Open title.
“I really hope I make you proud out there. But winning grand slams and gold medals isn’t my purpose,” the 31-year-old said.
“It’s, like, the 30th priority of my life. My purpose is changing perceptions so people with people like me can get out there and live the lives they deserve to live.”
He called for free rapid antigen tests for people with disabilities, after the federal government announced they could be purchased through people’s National Disability Insurance Scheme funds.
“We have to fund the NDIS, first and foremost. And listen to people with lived experience and ask them what they need so they can get out and start living the lives they want to live,” Alcott said.
Alcott praised his Australian of the Year predecessor Grace Tame, who used her platform to advocate on behalf of fellow childhood sexual abuse survivors.
“You are fierce and I love it and you have done so much for your cause,” he told her.
“And if I could be one-eighth of the Australian of the Year that you were, I think I’ve done my job.”
© AAP 2022