The Political Cartoonist of the year says she and her peers have a simple job: "We just call out the BS".
Cathy Wilcox, a much-loved cartoonist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, received the honour on Friday at the launch of the Behind the Lines: The year in political cartoons exhibition at the Museum of Australian Democracy in Canberra. The theme of the exhibition is "2020: A dog's breakfast"
MoAD director Daryl Karp said it had been a year when "never have we needed our cartoonists so much". The disruptive and tumultuous events of 2020 - from bushfires to COVID-19 - had an enormous impact on ordinary Australians. Ms Karp invited visitors to make sense of "a dog of a year" through political cartoons.
"The cartoonists in this year's exhibition come from across the political spectrum yet each bring their own robust interrogation of the goings-on in Canberra and the rest of the country," she said.
"They also shed light on our own shock, fears, and human foibles as we grappled with a very tough year. A humble roll of toilet paper, for example won't look quite the same after Behind the Lines 2020.
"Nothing about 2020 has been 'business as usual'. Never has a free and accurate media seemed more important, and never have we needed our cartoonists so much."
Ms Wilcox received the 2020 Political Cartoonist of the Year award for the sharp eye she cast over both sides of politics and the ways she captured the momentous events of the year, as seen through the eyes of ordinary people. She has been producing cartoons almost daily for The SMH since 1989 and for The Age since 1993.
"Cathy has pricked people's hearts with her take on events big and small, finding a poignant angle to the summer's bushfire and wildlife disaster and the COVID-centric humour with 'any excuse to leave the house,' " said Ms Karp.
Ms Wilcox said cartoonists "bring a kind of every person's view of what is happening in the news, which might help readers consolidate their own thoughts about issues".
"Cartoonists can act as a counter to the main flow of news, and always have an eye on what's happening on the side. We try to read between the lines of what's said by people in power, examine the threads of vested interest, and un-spin the message," she said.
"In short, we just call out the BS."
Behind the Lines 2020 comprises 104 cartoons from 36 cartoonists published by a range of media outlets. Trump, social distancing, panic buying, the devastating bushfires all get a guernsey.
A cartoon from the United States is included in the exhibition, with Bill Bramhall in the New York Daily News summing up the bushfires in Australia, half a world away. Digital cartoons are also included for the first time.
The exhibition's curator Holly Williams said the year's theme - "a dog's breakfast" - evoked the mess and chaos of the year while injecting a lightness into a survey of a very heavy year.
"So many of 2020's cartoons splice together multiple crises and events, such as Andrew Weston's Extreme Social Distancing. In a year like no other, cartoonists borrow a catchphrase here or a visual cue there and weave them, often quite beautifully, into piece of striking satire. It can still be quite jarring to see a Hawaiian shirt pattern from one crisis transform into a COVID-19 blob pattern," Ms Williams said.
MoAD's most popular exhibition, Behind the Lines celebrates the role contemporary political cartoons play in Australia's rich tradition of free speech and free expression.
Ms Karp said tens of thousands of people visited the exhibition each year, and was one of the main reasons people visited MOAD, along with touring Old Parliament House itself.
A new section in 2020, In Focus looks at how a significant issue has been covered by cartoonists over time. This year, Amy McGuire, a Darumbal and South Sea Islander journalist, has curated a selection of cartoons on the annual Closing the Gap reports.
The exhibition includes activities for all the family including dog drawing, a trail, and an interactive game inviting visitors to throw a ball into a dog bowl to find out what kind of year they've had.
Behind the Lines: the year in political cartoons 2020opens to the public on Saturday for 12 months. Open daily 9am to 5pm.