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Body Positivity Activist Taryn Brumfitt Named The 2023 Australian Of The Year

She's Australia's body positivity queen.
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Body image activist Taryn Brumfitt has been named the 2023 Australian of the Year. 

The Adelaide mum-of-three has led some of the country’s most important conversations around body positivity and self-acceptance. Her work in the field has led to two highly acclaimed documentary films, three bestselling books and over 100 keynote addresses on the subject. 

Brumfitt also heads the Body Image Movement in Adelaide, an organisation that focuses on body acceptance, and has been recognised by several international advocacy groups, including Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, UN Women and the Geena Davis Institute. 

It’s hard to believe that all of this began with a photo on Facebook.

Taryn Brumfitt with her Australian Of The Year award
Taryn Brumfitt with her Australian Of The Year award (Credit: Source:Getty)

In 2013, Brumfitt posted a before and after style photograph of herself on the platform. But Brumfitt’s image wasn’t like any ordinary before and after photo, which typically showed a woman’s body before and after she had lost weight. 

Instead, Brumfitt flipped the before and after image expectation, and showed herself at a lower weight in the before image, and at a heavier weight in the after. 

The photo showed people that a positive body transformation doesn’t always mean losing weight, and that you can be happier and healthier at a heavier weight. 

Brumfitt’s image immediately went viral, starting a global conversation about the pressures to look a certain way and accepting our bodies as they are

Taryn Brumfitt
Brumfitt regularly posts body acceptance photographs on Instagram (Credit: Instagram: bodyimagemovement)

Brumfitt’s first documentary film, Embrace, has been viewed by more than 45 million people around the world. The film, which was released on Netflix, has been praised for inspiring people to change the way we think about our bodies

The success of Embrace led to a second film, Embrace Kids, which focuses on the relationship that children have with their bodies, and bravely explores topics such as social media, disability and gender identity. 

For Brumfitt, being named Australian Of The Year is clearly not just a personal honour but an opportunity to continue promoting the cause that she’s so passionate about. 

In Brumffit’s acceptance speech, she requested a meeting with the Australian Government about the ‘paediatric health emergency’ which is linked to eating disorders, depression, anxiety, steroid use and suicide in Australia’s children. She also highlighted that body image was the number one concern for 70 per cent of Australian school children.

But for Brumfitt, the message is simple. 

“It’s learning to move, nourish, respect and enjoy our bodies because you can’t look after something you don’t love,” Brumfitt said in her Australian Of The Year acceptance speech. 

And with Brumfitt at the helm, it won’t be long until Australia embodies this message. 

Read Taryn Brumfitt’s entire Australian Of The Year acceptance speech:

“I’d like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today and would like to pay my respect to elders past and present.

“I have to say I’m having a little bit of an out of body experience on live TV with all of you looking at me, but I’m going to take a breath because our bodies are amazing when we do, just so I can articulate my words.

“We weren’t born into the world hating our bodies. This is something the world has taught us.

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

“And it’s 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.

“We now know that young people with poor body image are 24 times more likely to be depressed and suffer from anxiety.

“There is so much despair in this nation for children and adults when it comes to what we think and how we feel about our bodies.

“Australia, it is not our life’s purpose to be at war with our body. Collectively we are facing some of the most challenging environmental, humanitarian and social issues of our time.

“What if instead of spending our days consumed by hating our bodies we could invest our time together to solve these challenges?

“And what if instead of spending their precious time and energy at war with their bodies our young people were free to become the leaders, big thinkers and game changers the world needs more of right now?

“It’s not our bodies that need to change; it’s our perspective. Every adult is a role model to a child and I’m not here to shame you or make you feel bad. I’m here to ask you to shift the way you think.

“Little Aussies describe their bodies as strong and energetic and powerful and they have genuine love for all the things their bodies can do.

“This gives me hope that we can get in early and block the shame and despair, create body-image-safe environments for them to learn, live and play in and let them live their lives as teens and adults with the freedom that comes from embracing your body, not the illnesses that come with hating them.

“And we know that kids and adolescents who have a high appreciation of their bodies and their body image are less likely to smoke, drink or struggle with other addictions.

“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 — our skin colour, our height, our age, our gender, our unique selves — and it’s learning to move, nourish, respect and enjoy our bodies because you can’t look after something you don’t love.

“I often say that body image is a complex puzzle just like a Rubik’s cube. Not sure if you’ve done one lately but they are really tough to do.

“This year we have the Embrace kids classroom program curriculum for Australian schools and a game-changing documentary, Embrace Kids, which we are providing every school as a free resource.

“It is the most important film that you and your kids will see this year. Our mission is to reach 1 million school children over the next three years.

“Australia, we have 28,000 days on the planet if we’re really lucky and we’re not meant to spend them at war with our bodies.

“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’.

“If we can embrace that perspective now while we are capable, breathing and able, and have the gratitude for our bodies we can all access a more joyous, rich and abundant life.

“There is a lot of work to do and it starts early and it starts with us being role models for our kids by creating empowering environments where they can thrive.

“We’re tired of just talking about it, we are tired of the misery and pain of hating our bodies.

“My goodness Australia, we are ready for change, for ourselves and the generations to come.

“I would like to thank the National Australia Day Council and I’d like to thank the most important people in my life, the real hero in our family is my partner who is a nurse, Tim, thank you, and our four kids Oliver, Cruz, Michaela and Jacob.” 

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