Body image advocate Taryn Brumfitt awarded 2023 Australian of the Year

Taryn Brumfitt on her AOTY honour

Body image activist Taryn Brumfitt, whose own struggle to love her skin sparked a decade-long global conversation, has been named the 2023 Australian of the Year.

Ms Brumfitt shot to prominence in 2013 when a before-and-after photo of her body went viral online.

That moment led to a movement and mission that has reached 200 million people around the world through her documentaries and four best-selling books.

In 2016, the South Australian directed the documentary Embrace, exploring why women hated their bodies and her own journey of acceptance, which has been watched by millions of people around the world on Netflix.

The mum-of-four has since released a companion documentary, Embrace Kids, targeting children aged between nine and 14 years old, which is being given as a free resource in schools.

Accepting the award from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Wednesday night, Ms Brumfitt said it wasn’t our bodies that needed to change, but our perspective.

The body-and-after photo of Taryn Brumfitt was seen by 100 million people around the world and sparked a global movement.

“We weren’t born into the world hating our bodies. This is something the world has taught us,” she said in a speech during the ceremony in Canberra.

“Body shaming is a universal problem and we have been bullied and shamed into thinking our bodies are the problem.

“It is working because 70 per cent of Australian school children consider body image to be their number one concern.

“We’re facing a paediatric health emergency with rates of suicide, depression, eating disorders, anxiety and steroid use — related to body dissatisfaction — soaring.”

Ms Brumfitt, 44, said there was “so much despair” about how people felt about their bodies.

“Australia, it is not our life’s purpose to be at war with our body,” she said.

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

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The director said she was optimistic that kids growing up would be able to learn to grow without the shame of their bodies.

“This is not about encouraging obesity, this is not what I do, and this issue is not simply about weight or size, it’s about the way that we feel about all of ourselves,” she said.

“When you take your final breath on this Earth, what thoughts will be going through your mind? What will you be thinking about? And no one has ever said to me the size of their bum.”

National Australia Day Council chair Danielle Roche said Ms Brumfitt’s work had sparked powerful change on a personal level for many Australians and people around the world.

“Taryn has inspired millions of women around the world to be comfortable in their own skin,” Ms Roche said.

Ms Brumfitt received the honour at a ceremony in Canberra on Wednesday night.

Indigenous human rights advocate Tom Calma was named Senior Australian of the Year, while Socceroos star and refugee advocate Awer Mabil was announced as Young Australian of the Year.

Local Hero for 2023 went to Turbans 4 Australia founder Amar Singh.

“Individually brilliant, Taryn, Tom, Awer and Amar share a common bond – using their life experience as a power for good, helping others around them and making the world a better place,” Ms Roche said.

“These are an extraordinary group of Australians of whom we can all be incredibly proud.”


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