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Outrage as Australian of the Year winner cops brutal backlash

The decision to name a body positivity advocate as 2023’s Australian of the Year has sparked outcry amid claims there were others more “worthy” of the honour.

Following the news that Taryn Brumfitt, a South Australian writer and film director, had taken out the top award at a ceremony in Canberra on Wednesday night, heated debate broke out online.

Australian commentator and author Mike Carlton led the charge on Twitter, sharing an article about the 45-year-old’s win alongside the brutal caption, “who???”

2023's Australian of the Year awardee Taryn Brumfitt and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at the awards ceremony in Canberra.
2023's Australian of the Year awardee Taryn Brumfitt has faced backlash after Wednesday's announcement. Source: AAP

He followed it up with a scathing post last night.

“My Australian of the Year would be a doctor or nurse working nights in intensive care of the ED, dealing with COVID and daily health,” he wrote. “Real, compassionate work. For very little money. NOT someone who makes a buck out of saying, it’s ok to be a bit fat. Good night.”

Award backfires among Aussies

Mr Carlton wasn’t alone in his reaction to the honour bestowed on Ms Brumfitt, a former bodybuilder and mother of four.

“There are people out there, sweating blood, caring for the disabled, homeless, elderly etc, and we get served a dodgy 2am kebab and asked to swallow it for the Australian of the Year,” one person wrote on Twitter.

“My choice [would be] an ambulance officer doing CPR on a patient at 2am, knowing there is a 6 percent chance he will save a life,” said another. “[There are] so many people in medicine, law, human rights and all good other stuff and a woman with a few extra skin folds gets the gong,” someone else commented.

“Give it to someone who has actually achieved a worthy cause,” another added.

Aussie commentator and author Mike Carlton sitting on a bench.
Aussie commentator and author Mike Carlton delivered scathing remarks about the 45-year-old's win on Twitter. Source: AAP

Critical acclaim continues for body activist

However amid the backlash, Ms Brumitt’s win has drawn overwhelming praise.

“Congratulations to Taryn Brumfitt,” last year’s Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott wrote on Twitter.

“Can’t wait to see you continue to smash negative stigmas around body image.”

“Taryn [is an] inspiration to millions of people worldwide,” South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas said online.

Ms Brumfitt drew international attention in 2013 when she posted a ‘before and after’ photo of herself, which showed her at a heavier weight in her ‘after’ image.

Taryn Brumfitt at the ceremony for the Australian of the Year award.
Many praised Ms Brumfitt's win however, labelling the body positivity activist as an inspiration. Source: AAP

The move kicked off her body positivity campaign and led her to produce the documentary, Embrace, in 2016. Her work has since been seen in almost 200 countries and watched by millions on Netflix. She’s since released another documentary called Embrace Kids which targets children aged between nine and 14.

Accepting the award in Canberra last night, Ms Brumfitt said “we’re facing a paediatric health emergency with rates of suicide, depression, eating disorders, anxiety and steroid use related to body dissatisfaction soaring.

“It’s not our bodies that need to change, it is our perspective.”

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