Grace Tame during last night's Crikey Talks (Image: Private Media)

In the final Crikey Talks of 2021, Crikey’s Charlie Lewis and Imogen Champagne hosted an evening that touched on many of the key moments that shaped the past year in Australia and around the world.

Lewis summed it up best: “If 2020 was a bin fire, in 2021 the bin rolled over the edge of a cliff, fell into the ocean and bobbed, still smouldering, off towards the horizon.”

Along for the ride were a contingent of Crikey’s intrepid editors, columnists and reporters. Bernard Keane, Georgia Wilkins, Amber Schultz, Kishor Napier-Raman, Michael Bradley and Margot Saville each provided their expertise on topics ranging from Scott Morrison’s lies and falsehoods and COVID politics to Parliament House disasters and the Tokyo Olympics. 

Australian of the Year reflects on 2021

The highlight of the night came when Lewis and Champagne were joined by 2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame, who was as insightful, passionate and good-humoured as ever. 

Tame described the progress in the past 12 months as “gradual, but sudden at the same time”.

Discussions and progress around sexual assault have ramped up considerably, in no small part due to Tame’s platform as Australian of the Year, as well as Brittany Higgins coming forward with her story.

But how does Tame think we can keep the momentum going?

“Keep listening and stay measured in it,” she said. “Rage can be useful as an internal driver, but it’s about staying controlled — advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint. Be relentless but be consistent.”  

Tame thinks that in a perfect world, the takeaway from the year for politicians would be “to listen, rather than dominate the space all the time”.

“So much of what we’ve seen has been dismissal and minimisation and trying to make things go away without properly addressing them at the core,” she said.

Not going quietly

We can only assume Prime Minister Scott Morrison quickly realised Tame wasn’t your average Australian of the Year. She jokes that “it wasn’t long after” he handed her the award that he wished he’d given it to someone more amenable.

Tame thinks that happened when she was addressing the National Press Club and was asked about Morrison’s deferral of conscience to his wife amid the breaking of the Higgins story. 

“I said: ‘It shouldn’t take having children to have a conscience, and by the same token, having children doesn’t guarantee a conscience,’ and I think that might have been [the moment].” 

What’s up next for Tame? 

Tame jokes that once her official tenure is over, she’ll revert to being “a regular shit-stirrer”. 

She’s just launched the Grace Tame Foundation, the platform through which she’ll continue her advocacy. And she’ll be busy writing in 2022, including a collaboration with Michael Bradley on a Crikey Read

As for Tame’s picks for the top awards, she thinks Higgins is the person of the year. Although she was tempted to give the Arsehat of the Year award to Morrison, she ultimately went with a certain male journalist. We’d love to name him but that might be defamatory.