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Taryn Brumfitt’s speech in full, as body image activist named 2023 Australian of the Year

She called on Australians to change their perspectives instead of changing their bodies and provide good role models for children.

Here’s her speech in full:

“I’d like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today and would like to pay my respect to elders past and present.

2023 Australian of the Year Taryn Brumfitt poses for photos after the 2023 Australian of the Year Awards ceremony at the National Arboretum in Canberra. (The Sydney Morning Herald)

“I have to say I’m having a little bit of an out of body experience on live TV with all of you looking at me, but I’m going to take a breath because our bodies are amazing when we do, just so I can articulate my words.

“We weren’t born into the world hating our bodies.

“This is something the world has taught us.

“Body shaming is a universal problem and we have been bullied and shamed into thinking our bodies are the problem.

“And it’s working, because 70 per cent of Australian school children consider body image to be their number one concern.

“We’re facing a paediatric health emergency with rates of suicide, depression, eating disorders, anxiety and steroid use related to body dissatisfaction soaring.

“We now know that young people with poor body image are 24 times more likely to be depressed and suffer from anxiety.

“There is so much despair in this nation for children and adults when it comes to what we think and how we feel about our bodies.

“Australia, it is not our life’s purpose to be at war with our body.

Body-image activist Taryn Brumfitt receives the 2023 Australian of the Year award.
Body-image activist Taryn Brumfitt receives the 2023 Australian of the Year award. (Martin Ollman/Getty Images)

“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?

“And 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’s not our bodies that need to change; it’s our perspective.

“Every adult is a role model to a child and I’m not here to shame you or make you feel bad. I’m here to ask you to shift the way you think.

“Little Aussies describe their bodies as strong and energetic and powerful and they have genuine love for all the things their bodies can do.

Body-image activist Taryn Brumfitt receives the 2023 Australian of the Year award.
Body-image activist Taryn Brumfitt receives the 2023 Australian of the Year award. (Martin Ollman/Getty Images)

“This gives me hope that we can get in early and block the shame and despair, create body-image-safe environments for them to learn, live and play in and let them live their lives as teens and adults with the freedom that comes from embracing your body, not the illnesses that come with hating them.

“And we know that kids and adolescents who have a high appreciation of their bodies and their body image are less likely to smoke, drink or struggle with other addictions.

“This is not about encouraging obesity; this is not what I do. And this issue is not simply about weight or size, it’s about the way that we feel about all of ourselves — our skin colour, our height, our age, our gender, our unique selves — and it’s learning to move, nourish, respect and enjoy our bodies because you can’t look after something you don’t love.

“I often say that body image is a complex puzzle just like a Rubik’s cube. Not sure if you’ve done one lately but they are really tough to do.

Australian of the Year Taryn Brumfitt and partner Tim Pearson.
Australian of the Year Taryn Brumfitt and partner Tim Pearson. (Martin Ollman/Getty Images)

“This year we have the Embrace kids classroom program curriculum for Australian schools and a game-changing documentary, Embrace Kids, which we are providing every school as a free resource.

“It is the most important film that you and your kids will see this year. Our mission is to reach 1 million school children over the next three years.

“Australia, we have 28,000 days on the planet if we’re really lucky and we’re not meant to spend them at war with our bodies.

“When you take your final breath on this earth, what thoughts will be going through your mind? What will you be thinking about?

“And no-one has ever said to me ‘the size of their bum’.

“If we can embrace that perspective now while we are capable, breathing and able, and have the gratitude for our bodies we can all access a more joyous, rich and abundant life.

“There is a lot of work to do and it starts early and it starts with us being role models for our kids by creating empowering environments where they can thrive.

“We’re tired of just talking about it, we are tired of the misery and pain of hating our bodies.

“My goodness Australia, we are ready for change, for ourselves and the generations to come.

“I would like to thank the National Australia Day Council and I’d like to thank the most important people in my life, the real hero in our family is my partner who is a nurse, Tim, thank you, and our four kids Oliver, Cruz, Michaela and Jacob.

“To my mum and dad who I can’t even imagine what they are doing right now. My sister Justine and to the hardest working team in the world and all of the Embrace team, I thank you.”

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