Madeline Diamond makes a statement at the 2020 Australian of the Year awards. (AAP: Mick Tsikas)
Australian of the Year acknowledges firefighters as the real heroes in his acceptance speech
When Madeline Diamond took to the stage for the Australian of the Year awards in Canberra last night she wanted to empower young people to “step up and make their voices heard”.
- Madeline Diamond attended the Australian of the Year awards with the words “climate justice” written on her chest
- She says there has been an “overwhelmingly positive” response to her statement
- She says she wants to empower young Australians to “step up and make their voices heard”
The ACT Young Australian of the Year attended the televised awards ceremony at the National Arboretum with the words “climate justice” written across her chest.
“I just wanted to send a message to young people that we don’t always have to follow the rules when we’re trying to get work done to secure our future,” she said.
“Climate change is a really urgent issue so to always do what you’re told and play by the rules, it’s not going to get us anywhere. We do have to step outside of the boundaries sometimes.”
The 22-year-old sustainability advocate was the ACT’s nominee for Young Australian of the Year award, which went to Ash Barty.
Madeline Diamond wants young Australians to feel empowered to take climate change action. (AAP: Mick Tsikas)
Ms Diamond is the founder of Trash Gather, a youth-led community group that meets every month to pick up rubbish in public areas across Canberra.
She is also the executive officer of community organisation SEE-Change, which encourages Canberrans to live more sustainably.
“I really want young people to feel empowered and we should have a say,” Ms Diamond said.
“At the moment our needs and our demands aren’t being met at all.
“Thousands of kids [are] striking in the street and yet nothing happens.”
Ms Diamond said many young Australians felt disempowered by current world events, particularly the ongoing bushfire crisis.
“We really need to step up and make our voice heard,” she said.
“I want young people to know that they actually are powerful.”
‘Overwhelmingly positive’ response to political statement
The response to Ms Diamond’s political statement has been “overwhelmingly positive” on social media.
@observationpt: “She’s a hero. I very much admire the courageous young people fighting to achieve what my generation cannot.”
@ZellyBean: “This is what real leadership looks like -using every opportunity to communicate what’s important! #youngaustralian of the Year finalist #MadelineDiamond has painted “CLIMATE JUSTICE” on her upper chest during the award ceremony in Canberra. What a champion! #ClimateJustice”
But she said Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s security team was on edge during the awards ceremony.
“They were a little bit suss, they thought something might go down,” Ms Diamond said.
“So there were a few people who were a little bit worried, but overall really positive.
“Obviously when you do anything out of the ordinary there are some people who give you some hate, but I’m OK with that.”
Move inspired by musician Montaigne
Ms Diamond said she was inspired by Australian singer Montaigne, who has appeared twice at the ARIA Awards with statements emblazoned on her chest.
“It was super inspiring and it made a really good statement without causing too much disruption, and it wasn’t disrespectful or controversial,” she said.
“It was just her sending her message through her body basically.”
Montaigne accepts the ARIA for Breakthrough Artist during the 2016 ARIA Awards. (AAP: Paul Miller)