Australia Day award winners helped give others a fair go, PM says
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Australia Day award winners helped give others a fair go, PM says

Anti-racism campaigner, AFL footballer and 2014 Australian of the Year Adam Goodes has pledged to continue fighting for recognition of Aboriginal Australians in the constitution - one of Tony Abbott's key goals as Prime Minister.

The Andyamathanha man received the award on the lawn outside Parliament House on Saturday afternoon.

Senior Australian of the year Fred Chaney AO, Australian of the Year Adam Goodes, Young Australian of the Year Jacqueline Freney, and Australia's Local Hero Tim Conolan.

Senior Australian of the year Fred Chaney AO, Australian of the Year Adam Goodes, Young Australian of the Year Jacqueline Freney, and Australia's Local Hero Tim Conolan.Credit:Rohan Thomson

Mr Goodes said he would use the role to continue to campaign for causes he believed in, including fighting racism and domestic violence, while he continued to pursue his sporting career.

Mr Goodes said if asked, any member of any racial minority group in Australia would probably have at least four or five stories of experiencing racism.

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He encouraged Australians to have tough conversations with family and friends to tackle the issue.

Mr Goodes said he understood that the celebration of Australia Day on January 26 was difficult for many Aboriginal people and caused them sadness, but he did not find the date offensive.

He said Australia Day was a celebration of the country's European history.

''I hope [Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are] just really proud that on this really hard Australia Day weekend that there's something to celebrate, that is our culture and our heritage,'' he said.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the award winners reminded the community of what they could achieve if they heeded their best instincts.

''[We] honour those who have had a go, so that others may have a fair go,'' he said.

Fred Chaney was named Senior Australian of the Year for his commitment to reconciliation and human rights.

Mr Chaney, 72, is a former Liberal Party MP and was founding co-chairman of Reconciliation Australia. He served as deputy president of the National Native Title Tribunal for many years and more recently chaired the board of Central Desert Native Title Services.

Paralympic swimmer Jacqueline Freney, 21, was named Young Australian of the Year.

Ms Freney won eight gold medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and is Australia's most successful Paralympian at a single Games.

Tim Conolan, of Melbourne, became Australia's Local Hero in 2014 for his work establishing TLC for Kids, a charity that supports sick Australian children.

TLC for Kids is behind the successful Distraction Box program, which provides toys to health carers to help them guide children through frightening and painful procedures.

Australian of the Year in 2013 Ita Buttrose, a journalist, editor and campaigner for the rights of older Australians, described receiving the title as the highlight of her life.

Ms Buttrose said she was honoured to be seen as a role model by young Australian women and advised them to aim high.

''You should never let the blinkers of others stop you from achieving your dream,'' she said.

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Ms Buttrose said she planned to continue working with Alzheimer's Australia and advocating for the rights of older Australians.

Singer Megan Washington sang the Cold Chisel classic Ita as a tribute to Ms Buttrose.

Larissa Nicholson is a journalist at The Age.

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