Australia has come a long way since Federation, but there are still many important issues to resolve, outgoing Australian of the Year Ita Buttrose says.
Attitudes towards the elderly, Aborigines, refugees and those suffering dementia could be improved, as could education, social reform and opportunities for women to make Australia a better and fairer nation, Ms Buttrose said during a half-hour speech on Tuesday in Sydney.
Australia should celebrate its development as a society and "the great social policies of which we should be so proud", she told a packed auditorium at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
Ms Buttrose was optimistic about the future but she also expressed some worries during the 18th Australia Day address.
"I worry that our preoccupation with balanced budgets will lead to the chipping away of the things which protect the most vulnerable."
"As one of the wealthiest nations in the world, this would be unforgivable."
Ms Buttrose, the first female editor of a major metropolitan newspaper and the first woman director of News Limited Australia, reiterated her support for a legislated "quota system" to ensure a fairer representation of women on company boards.
A law should be introduced in Australia, similar to that passed in Norway in 2003, requiring companies to have women comprise at least 40 per cent of their senior executive, she said.
A passionate advocate against ageism and discrimination against dementia sufferers, Ms Buttrose said she would continue her work despite losing the "influential platform" of being Australian of the Year.
"I've never not found a way to make my point of view heard," she told reporters after the speech.
"It's very handy if you're on television. It's also handy if you're able to write for a living."
And after a busy year with formal duties and a busy media schedule, Ms Buttrose isn't slowing down.
She's working on a new book, but wasn't letting any details slip.
"No author worth their salt reveals their book beforehand," she said.