ADAM Goodes has come a long way from junior Ballarat footballer to Australian of the Year.
Along the way he has challenged the community’s expectations of him as an individual and, moreso, what he believes and stands for.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that his comments from a recent interview suggesting a need for better education about Australia’s history would be met with some division. In many respects, Goodes has used the Australian of the Year platform to challenge the very premise of the accolade itself.
Generally, the Australian of the Year pushes messages and needs that are underpinned by unilateral community support.
The unique proposition faced this year is that many Australians do not understand our nation’s history and indeed are repelled by the thought of a fairer and equal society. It’s evident when you consider the reaction to Goodes’ stance on racism and our nation’s treatment of indigenous residents.
Few past Australians of the Year would face so much public scrutiny and outright dissension as that directed at Goodes this year – on and off the football field.
His comments in a BBC interview – the latest source of manufactured outrage – saw Goodes suggest that Australia has been built on a conversation that does not respect the role or place of indigenous people.
The outrage only supports what Goodes suggests in the first place – that many Australians cannot embrace our real past because it has largely been dismissed in modern Australia.
Some might suggest that the Australian of the Year should be a mascot for Team Australia. Instead, just like Goodes, Australia can benefit from a community representative who is willing to challenge what we know and what we believe in.
Do we want a safe candidate who will be a cheerleader, or do we want an agitator who will upset the equilibrium?
If anything, the selection of Adam Goodes has reconfigured the debate about our most prestigious community leadership position.