TENNIS legend and disability advocate Dylan Alcott has been named the Australian of the Year for 2022.
Mr Alcott has won 15 Grand Slam Single titles in wheelchair tennis.
He will also be competing for his eighth and last Australian Open Singles title tomorrow Thursday, 27 January.
Mr Alcott, who is also the founder of The Dylan Alcott Foundation, which helps young Australians with disabilities gain self-esteem and respect, is the first person with a disability to win the award in its 62-year history.
“I love my disability,” he said.
“It is the best thing that ever happened to me. It really is.
“I love the person that I am and the life I get to live and I’m the luckiest guy in this country, easily.”
Mr Alcott, 31, who lives in Melbourne, is also a three-time Paralympic gold medallist in wheelchair tennis and basketball.
Mr Alcott said he felt “ridiculous” accepting the award compared with the contributions of so many others.
“To everybody here tonight, congratulations on what you are doing,” he said.
“To our frontline workers, our nurses, doctors, people running our vaccine clinics, our ambos, our firefighters you deserve this way more than a guy who hits tennis balls and likes talking.”
Mr Alcott was born with a tumour wrapped around his spinal cord.
He has credited sport for saving his life.
“I’ve known nothing but having a disability,” Mr Alcott said.
“If I’m honest, I cannot tell you how much I used to hate myself.”
In 2017, he founded The Dylan Alcott Foundation to provide scholarships and grant funding to marginalised Australians with a disability.
He also founded AbilityFest, the nation’s first and only fully accessible music festival.
Frustrated by the lack of people living with a disability that has been represented in the media, Mr Alcott now holds several high-profile media roles spanning TV, radio and podcasting.
Dr Daniel Nour, who founded Street Side Medics, a not for profit GP-led mobile medical service for people experiencing homelessness, was awarded the 2022 Young Australian of the Year.
The 26-year-old resident doctor saw a major gap in NSW health services, prompting him to launch the organisation in August 2020.
Ms Shanna Whan, founder and chief executive of Sober in the Countr has helped countless people in the bush tackle their alcohol problems. She was awarded the 2022 Local Hero Award.
She started the grassroots charity after struggling with alcohol addiction and subsequently quirted drinking.
“Alcohol use is the silent pandemic we are not discussing,” Ms Whan said.
“Life in rural Australia is permanent iso. We’ve always got enough beers in the fridge, but we’ve never got enough services or support.”