Australian of the Year Presentation @ Parliament House

25 January 2017

One of the first official celebrations of an Australian of the Year I attended was at the then Lakeside Hotel (now QT) in 1977 for Alan Bond. I remember it well, especially the larger than life and deliciously flamboyant ‘Red’, his then wife, and her clutch of dazzling diamonds.

 Well we know the back story now of course but reflecting on the way the awards have changed and evolved does endorse fresh thinking for the presentation and celebrations and probably the selection process that seems to go on forever. Change is good, if it’s for the right reasons.

Last year, with the storm that was according to the weather bureau an absolute, the drenching for the PM, presenters and recipients made for a bedraggled bunch of pictures hastily organised at the back of the stage where the concert for those who stuck it out was short circuited before Jimmy Barnes was also struck by the inevitable. It was a sad finish but created the opportunity to have a think about another option. That became the inside option at Parliament House in the Great Hall this year where the ABC could create a presentation fitting the event, while the crowds who filled the front lawn in years past would be dumped in favour of an invited selection of prominent to grace the marble foyer and fill the seats as an audience.

Entertainment was not going to be raucous, though choosing Jonathon Welch’s ( Australia’s Local Hero 2008) magnificent Choir of Hard Knocks to perform was inspired, and the live to air aspect kept everything neat and tidy. But something was missing. I’m still trying to find that elusive magic moment in this production so will cogitate on it for a little longer.

But after a couple of days of mixing and mingling with the past, current and soon to be awarded Australians of the Year I’m in awe of the extraordinary talents, determination, innovation and achievements of all of them. Congratulations.