How Dylan Alcott is making social change for us all
As a proud sponsor of the Australian of the Year Award, we’re shining a light on people who create positive change. From the pride Dylan Alcott takes in his disability, to the awareness he’s raising about inclusivity and accessibility, here are five ways Dylan is making social change for us all.
Dylan Alcott’s list of achievements is lengthy. At the age of 17, Dylan became the youngest member of the Australian Men's Wheelchair Basketball team to win gold at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. A switch back to tennis saw him win gold at the 2016 Rio Paralympics and shortly after he was named the Australian Paralympian of the Year.
In 2021 he became the only man to complete the Golden Slam in quad singles, winning all four majors and the Paralympics. As if sporting achievements weren’t enough, Dylan took on motivational speaking and radio and television hosting along the way for good measure.
In 2022 Alcott was named Australian of the Year and was made an Officer of the Order of Australia, making him the first person with a visible disability to be named Australian of the Year. And that’s the condensed version.
The hope, resilience and community service Dylan shows is an accumulation of big achievements and authenticity. While the medals and titles will go down in history, it's Dylan’s ability to be his authentic self that is making true social change and leaving a lasting impression on us all. Here are five ways Dylan is being his authentic self and the impact that’s having on the people around him.
1. Taking pride in his disability
While Dylan says he hasn't always been proud of his disability, he now admits it's the thing he’s most proud of.
“I'm the same Dylan on the tennis court as I am at the pub or on stage. And I’m proud of this because it took a bit of work to get here. I used to try to be somebody else because I wanted to fit in and that ruined my life. So now I pride myself on being authentically me and fully proud of my disability,” says Dylan.
This fierce pride and authenticity is something Dylan hopes to help other Australians achieve through the work he does at the Dylan Alcott Foundation. The charitable organisation helps young Australians with disabilities gain confidence, fulfil their potential and achieve their dreams.
Creating change and raising awareness about inclusivity and accessibility
With one in five Australians living with some form of physical or non-physical disability, Dylan believes it's up to all of us to create a fully inclusive and accessible environment where everyone can thrive.
That’s been one of Dylan’s goals with Ability Fest, a music festival designed with features for people with a disability. Pathways, platforms and Auslan interpreters are some of the considerations that allow people with disabilities to attend a music festival with their able-bodied friends and have a great time too.
“I'm the same Dylan on the tennis court as I am at the pub or on stage. And I’m proud of this because it took a bit of work to get here. I used to try to be somebody else because I wanted to fit in and that ruined my life. So now I pride myself on being authentically me and fully proud of my disability
2. Shifting the goalpost — it's not about winning
While Dylan isn't short of medals, he makes the distinction that it's not all about winning. “My favourite moment in my sporting career wasn't actually winning anything. It was playing on Rod Laver Arena the first time a wheelchair tennis Grand Slam final was played on a Grand Slam centre court… That's the reason I get out of bed. It's not to win. It's to change perceptions and inspire the next generation,” says Dylan.
3. He’s not trying to be a role model, he’s being Dylan
There’s no doubt that Dylan is a role model and is inspiring the next generation of young people with disabilities to be comfortable in their own skin. But Dylan isn't trying to be a role model, it's just the by-product of being his authentic self and that's an inspiration in itself.
“People always ask me what it's like to be a role model and I actually don't try and be a role model. I just try and be me. I try and be authentically the best version of Dylan that I can be every single day,” Dylan says.
4. He’s got his own humble sporting idol
Growing up, Dylan’s sporting idol was Pat Rafter. Dylan explains the thing he loved about Pat Rafter was that, win, lose or draw, “he was always a good bloke about it.” Dylan adds that Pat also looks great in underwear and jokes, “I think I do as well. I’m still waiting for my underwear commercial.”