STATEMENT FROM THE NATIONAL AUSTRALIA DAY COUNCIL
Each year, the Australian public submits nominations in the Australian of the Year Awards for people whose contributions and achievements they admire.
Mr Michael Mansell was nominated and selected as a finalist in the Senior Australian of the Year award category in Tasmania for the Australian of the Year Awards 2014.
Finalists in the Australian of the Year Awards are advised of their nomination on selection as finalists, but are under no obligation to accept the nomination. It is the nominee's right to decline the nomination and selection as a finalist.
The National Australia Day Council (NADC) accepts and respects Mr Mansell's personal feelings and decision to decline the selection as a finalist.
The National Australia Day Council and the Australian of the Year Awards understand the many different viewpoints of Indigenous Australians in relation to Australia Day and has always sought to be inclusive yet respectful of the Indigenous community.
National Australia Day Council Deputy Chair Ms Shelley Reys said many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are among the nominations each year.
"All Australians are invited to nominate someone who makes them proud and those whose achievements are outstanding. There are many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who make us proud and who are achieving great things and they should be acknowledged for their contributions, just like everyone else, " said Ms Reys, who is one of two Indigenous representatives on the NADC board.
"In every state and territory, an Indigenous Australian has been nominated for an award this year.
"I cannot remember a year where this has not been the case in my nine year tenure on the Board of the National Australia Day Council.
"I am very proud of this and the growing number of Indigenous Australians nominated each year.
"This year, in addition to Mr Mansell, there 14 Indigenous people among the 129 state and territory award finalists.
"Over the past ten years, there have been 53 award finalists of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, compared to ten in the nine years prior."
Ms Reys said while the date of Australia Day has a historical context, it is not the National Australia Day Council's role to choose or change the date.
"We have a shared history - we acknowledge that our shared past has been a difficult one, where Indigenous people have been marginalised and discriminated against," said Ms Reys.
"It is the National Australia Day Council's intent to acknowledge our shared past and to move away from a discriminatory, single-focussed view of what Australia Day means."
The National Australia Day Council includes Indigenous Australians in all aspects of its work, including network meetings (inspiring states, territories and regions to include Indigenous perspectives in their Australia Day events), Welcome to Country at all NADC events, a Reconciliation Action Plan which the organisation is currently refreshing for the fourth time and, where nominated, inclusion of Indigenous people in the awards program to ensure continued relevance.
Ms Reys said the National Australia Day Council's purpose is to inspire national pride and spirit to enrich the life of the nation.
"The National Australia Day Council believes by creating an inclusive and respectful program, we are encouraging Australians to learn about our shared history, appreciate different perspectives, and encouraging them to build a strong and respectful future together," said Ms Reys.
State & territory award recipients will be announced throughout November 2013. The state and territory award recipients are then finalists for the national Australian of the Year Awards 2014 to be announced in Canberra on the evening of 25 January 2014.
Media contact: Nicole Browne 0414 673 762