The 2022 Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott has paid tribute to his predecessor and friend, Grace Tame, telling ABC News Breakfast she had left "big shoes" for him to fill.
"Tame is a weapon. Like, she's fierce and I love that, and the change that she's had for her cause has been so impressive," Mr Alcott said.
"She set the bar high and they're big shoes to fill. So I hope I can do it justice, that's for sure."
Mr Alcott called out the outgoing Australian of the Year in his acceptance speech as well, promising to uphold an agreement the pair made once he completes the Australian Open competition.
"Tame, you are fierce and I love it," he said.
"You have done so much for your cause and, if I could be one-eighth of the Australian of the Year that you were, I think I've done my job.
"When I won the US Open, I skolled a beer out of my trophy and you said, 'If I got to pass the mantle over to this guy, I'd be honoured. But we have to skoll the beer together'. Give me a couple of days and then we can do it. Not just yet."
Tame's legacy of real change
After Ms Tame brought the conversation of sexual assault under the national spotlight, support services saw a huge spike in referrals.
The number of survivors speaking out about their experiences has increased as well.
But this impact has not come easily to Ms Tame, who faced fierce criticism over her activism.
"Some of the hate [Grace Tame] has copped is undeserving and I hope she has a break and looks after herself because she deserves it, you know what I mean? She really does," Mr Alcott said.
Most recently, Ms Tame dominated the headlines after a frosty exchange with the Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a morning tea on Tuesday, ahead of the Australian of the Year Awards.
This was followed by considerable debate on social media and in print media about whether her engagement with the PM was acceptable or not, culminating with a heated exchange on Ten's The Project on Tuesday night.
Ms Tame has been fiercely critical of Mr Morrison and the federal government's response to allegations of sexual assault and toxic workplace culture in federal parliament, and accused the Coalition of failing to properly consult on national plans to deal with domestic and family violence.
Last year, Ms Tame seemed aghast at the Prime Minister's initial comments after former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins alleged she had been raped in a ministerial office by a colleague in 2019.
Alcott's work to change the perceptions of people without disabilities
Mr Alcott has pledged to use his new-found platform to continue his work in changing perceptions of people without disability towards those who do live with disability.
"Of the 4.5 million people [living with disability in Australia], only 54 per cent of them are employed. That number hasn't moved in 30 years.
"Everyone goes, 'Well, what do we say to [people with disability] to get them ready to get out and start living their life?' They don't need our advice, they know what to do. The people that need our advice is you, non-disabled people, right?
"It's you who need to start changing your unconscious biases and leave the negative stigmas in the past.
"We need access and healthcare. We need to fund the NDIS so we can be the people that we want to be."
Mr Alcott said he has fielded questions about how he plans to go about changing perceptions and creating impact. He says simply, he will just be himself.
"I have no idea how to do this. I've never been Australian of the Year before. What do you do? You just got to keep being yourself, stand up for things you believe in, right?"
"People ask me, Are you going to be like Grace Tame? I'm like, Tamie is Tamie and I am myself. I'm just going to be me ... I don't want to be anybody else, right? Neither does she.
"My purpose in life is to change perceptions so people with disabilities can live the lives they deserve to live, do whatever they want to do
"And, yeah, I'll fight. Australian of the Year or not, I'll fight for that forever."