Body image positivity campaigner Taryn Brumfitt has been named 2023 Australian of the Year.
The 44-year-old activist, writer, director and public speaker was crowned as our top Aussie at a glittering ceremony in Canberra on Wednesday night for her work with the Embrace Body Image Movement, which she founded in 2012.
The movement teaches people to love and appreciate their bodies and has spread far beyond her hometown of Adelaide – where she was also awarded the South Australia of the Year – and sparked a global phenomenon reaching more than 200million people.
Tarryn Brumfitt (pictured), 44, has been named as the 2023 Australian of the Year
The former body builder and mother-of-three (pictured) founded the Embrace Body Image Movement in 2012 which has gone global
Senior Australian of the Year was awarded to Professor Tom Calma AO from the ACT who is an Indigenous human rights and social justice campaigner whose work was the foundaion for the Close the Gap campaign.
He is already an Order of Australia recipient in recognition of his work as an inspirational advocate for human rights and distinguished service to the Indigenous community,
Young Australian of the Year went to Socceroo and Barefoot to Boots charity founder Awer Mabil.
Originally from Kenya before moving to SA he founded the charity with his brother to promote health, education, and gender equality outcomes for refugees using football as an doorway to connect.
The 27-year-old also scored one of the penalties that secured Australia a place in the World Cup, saying that scoring the crucial goal was ‘the only way to say thank you to Australia on behalf of my family’.
The 2023 Australian Local Hero award went to Amar Singh from NSW who through his Turbans for Australia charity has tirelessly helped thousands in the community.
Founded in 2015 his charity delivers food hampers to those in need and has helped victims of bushfires and floods which have plagued the country in recent years with food and accommodation relief.
Soccer star 27-year-old Awer Mabil (pictured) was awarded Young Australian of the Year for his work with the charity he founded Barefoot to Boots
Winner Ms Brumfitt is one of Australia’s most in-demand keynote speakers and her work in questioning the pervasive image of perfection fed to women and girls through social media and airbrushed advertising has earned her recognition from UN Women.
In her acceptance speech on Wednesday night, Ms Brumfitt said body image shaming had become an epidemic.
‘Australia, it is not our life’s purpose to be at war with our body,’ she said.
‘Collectively we are facing some of the most challenging environmental, humanitarian and social issues of our time.’
‘What if instead of spending our days consumed by hating our bodies we could invest our time together to solve these challenges?’
‘What if instead of spending their precious time and energy at war with their bodies our young people were free to become the leaders, big thinkers and game changers the world needs more of right now?’
‘It is not our bodies that need to change, it is our perspective.’
Her 2016 documentary titled simply Embrace followed her own path to body acceptance and was picked up by Netflix and seen by people in 190 countries.
The mother-of-three followed that up with Embrace Kids in 2022 which is aimed at children between nine and 14-years-old to teach them to respect, move, appreciate and nourish their bodies.
She has also written four best-selling books and created Embrace Hub which offers parents, children, teachers and communities free research based information of fostering body positivity.
The movement has attracted the attention of Hollywood superstars such as Drew Barrymore (pictured) and Rebel Wilson along with talk show host Rebel Wilson
Ms Brumfitt (pictured) previously wrote for Daily Mail Australia that mums should let their daughters see them naked so they learn to accept what normal body image is
Ms Brumfitt previously wrote for Daily Mail Australia that every young girl should see her mother naked to learn what normal bodies look like and that perfection does not equal happiness.
‘A mother is a girl’s very first and strongest role model – if she sees her embracing her body, seeing it’s imperfections as the marks left by life’s experiences rather than things to despair about, then she’ll stand a much better chance of having a positive relationship with her own,’ she said.
‘This is a message I feel deeply about, not least because I used to loathe my body, so much so that at my lowest ebb, I considered surgery, in the desperate hope it would make me happy.
She after her daughter Mikaela’s birth in 2009, she became obsessed with getting back to how she had looked before she became a mum.
‘I was struggling psychologically to live comfortably with my saggy tummy and droopy boobs. My husband kept telling me that he loved me for who I was rather than the body I was in, but I couldn’t feel that way about myself. He found me beautiful, but I didn’t.’
As much as I had ‘adored’ carrying children, she said she felt as though her body was somehow broken as a result.
‘So in 2012 I booked myself in for surgery, convinced that it would fix my self-loathing, too.’
‘But one afternoon in the run-up to my operation, I watched Mikaela playing. She was running around in a swimsuit and as I looked at her I realised that despite the changes her body would experience over time, to me it would always be perfect.’
Ms Brumfitt said being healthy was not about images of perfection fed to woman and girl’s through advertising and social media but about genuinely loving and taking care of your body
She also said popular fitness influencers were banking a million-dollar industry off of women’s insecurities.
‘Transformation programs like Michelle Bridges and Kayla Itsines are preying on women’s insecurities and luring them into a false pretence that they will have a body as good as theirs in 12 weeks,’ Ms Brumfitt said.
She claimed one of the main problems with these kinds of programs is that they constantly share information about the diet, weight loss and the transformation but don’t share the reality of an individual’s situation.
‘They tell us about all the success stories, we see the before and after photos but we rarely hear about the kilos that are gained afterwards,’ she said.
‘It’s time to pull in the Weight Watchers, the Jenny Craigs and all the transformation programs out there because they’re putting people on a cycle of dieting, weight loss and weight gain.
‘If the current weight loss solutions that are widely and aggressively promoted actually worked, then why do we have this obesity epidemic?’
‘It’s important that we get the message across that it isn’t about promoting mediocrity and obesity, it’s about forcing women to connect, nourish, move and enjoy their bodies,’ she said.
Another issue that Taryn has with these kinds of programs is that they tend to focus on how you look, how much you weigh, the calories you consume and your BMI.
‘When women chase a body type that’s not naturally theirs by using methods like scales and calories in, calories out, it leads to a route of failure and weight cycling,’ she said.
‘I understand weight cycling because I’ve been there, I’ve done it.’
2023 AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR
ACT – Olympia Yarger (Canberra), insect farming pioneer and founder of Goterra
NSW – Craig Foster AM (Sydney), human rights and anti-racism activist and former Socceroo
NT – Samuel Bush-Blanasi (Beswick Community), chair of the Northern Land Council
Queensland – William Barton, multi-instrumentalist, composer, vocalist and producer
South Australia – Taryn Brumfitt (Cumberland Park), body image activist, director, writer and speaker WINNER
Tasmania – John Kamara (Hobart), humanitarian and co-founder Culturally Diverse Alliance of Tasmania and African Communities Council of Tasmania
Victoria – Dr Angraj Khillan (Essendon), pediatrician and co-founder Health Awareness Society of Australia
WA – Professor Samar Aoun (Bunbury), researcher and advocate for end-of-life care, bereavement and grief support
2023 SENIOR AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
ACT – Professor Tom Calma AO (Chapman) WINNER
NSW – Teresa Plane (Narrabeen, Sydney)
NT – Bernard Tipiloura (Tiwi Islands)
Queensland – Claude Lyle Harvey OAM (Gold Coast)
South Australia – Sandra Miller (Glandore)
Tasmania – Dr Frances Donaldson (Hobart)
Victoria – Professor Frank Oberklaid AM (South Yarra)
WA – Theresa Kwok (Joondanna)
2023 YOUNG AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
ACT – Kofi Owusu-Ansah (Canberra)
NSW – Lottie Dalziel (Bondi Beach, Sydney)
NT – Jahdai Vigona (Darwin)
Queensland – Talei Elu (Seisia)
South Australia – Awer Mabil (Walkley Heights) WINNER
Tasmania – Meriem Daoui (Kingston)
Victoria – Darcy McGauley-Bartlett (Bendigo)
WA – Nagmeldin (Peter) Bol (Thornlie)
AUSTRALIA’S LOCAL HERO
ACT – Dr Shamaruh Mirza (Waramanga)
NSW – Amar Singh (Prestons) WINNER
NT – Sacha King (Darwin)
Queensland – Melissa Redsell (Warner)
South Australia – Christine Robertson (Ridleyton)
Tasmania – Keith Parker (Sheffield)
Victoria – Belinda Young (Sassafras)
WA – James (Jimmy) Murphy (Leederville)