Authors: Rosie Batty
âTo live in hearts we leave behind is not to die'
To my little boy with the little button nose, the little dimple chin,
the little chubby cheeks and the BIG blue eyes.
You will be in my heart forever, Luke.
And to my mum, Sheila Mary Atkin, who I lost so long ago
but who will always be alive in my heart.
I'm standing on a stage in front of Parliament House. A crowd of some thousand or so people stretches out before me. To one side of me is Deborra-Lee Furness â Hugh Jackman's wife! â and to the other, Dr Gill Hicks, London bombing survivor, and decorated neuroscientist Professor Lyn Beazley. To say that I am feeling overwhelmed is an understatement.
We're gathered here together as nominees for Australian of the Year. It's the end of a remarkable three days â where I've been wined and dined at the governor-general's residence, met with the prime minister and shaken hands with more truly impressive Australians than I could ever hope to have met.
The ceremony is unfolding. A huge screen to the side of the stage plays video packages enumerating each nominee's achievements â a catalogue of our triumphs, a sober recollection of what we've done, who we are and why we have come to be standing on this stage. I can't help but feel that mine is a little bit light on compared to the weighty achievements of the people
standing on either side of me. But I'm determined to soak it all in and enjoy the experience for what it is.
Down in the crowd I spy old friends David, Lee, Sue and Mike grinning up at me. A little further back and leaning heavily on his stick is my dad. He's flown all the way here from the UK, just for this. I hope to God he hasn't wasted a trip. For a man who worked the land so hard and was always in my childhood imagination a pillar of strength â a stoic, unshakeable, immutable Nottinghamshire farmer â he looks suddenly frail.
As the speeches go on, I shift on the spot. I've become more used to being in the public eye these last twelve months, but it's still something with which I am uneasy. As I look out across the crowd, many of them lazing on the lawns that stretch from new Parliament House to Old Parliament House, basking in a Canberra sunset after a typically hot January day, I smile inwardly â amused at the laconic approach my adopted country folk take to this most auspicious of occasions. Back in England, this would be a ceremony leaden with pomp and ceremony.
I take in the ghost gums that line the lawns, cast an eye over my shoulder at the setting sun and think about how much I wish my son, Luke, could have been here to see this. He would have laughed. He would have poked fun at me. He would have told me to get over myself then, showing all the interest in my life that his pre-teen mind could be bothered to muster, he'd have gone back to his iPad.
I think back on the last twelve months. What a whirlwind it's been. I've met with CEOs, taken tea with premiers and ricocheted from one awards ceremony to another. The Pride of Australia Courage Award, Victorian Australian of the Year. I've done more media interviews than I can count, spoken at more events than I can remember and had the utterly disconcerting
experience of being approached at airports for my autograph. And it's all happened so fast, I haven't had a chance to process any of it. Which is probably just as well. I'm not entirely sure my brain is
of processing it.
There's a sudden hush from the crowd as the prime minister approaches the lectern. I'm jolted from my thoughts. This is it.
âAnd the 2015 Australian of the Year,' he says, pausing for effect, âis Rosie Batty.'
The crowd rise to their feet in spontaneous ovation. There is cheering as I step gingerly forward to accept the award.
A sea of faces look expectantly up at me and the lenses of multiple cameras are trained on me, beaming this moment live around the country. I feel a wave of goodwill from the crowd, as if each one of them is silently reaching forward, holding me up. It's an honour beyond my wildest imaginings. I am overwhelmed, and truly humbled.
And yet it's all so bittersweet. Twelve months ago I was a single mum from Tyabb, a tiny dot on the map of the Mornington Peninsula. But in eighteen days' time it will be the one-year anniversary of the death of my only son â killed by his father at cricket training.
And then the sadness hits me. The only reason I am in this position, the only reason I am standing here holding this trophy and receiving this ovation is because I have endured the kind of tragedy that makes people recoil. I've become Australian of the Year because I am the person no one wants to be, the mother who has suffered the insufferable.
Taking a deep breath, and fighting back tears, I begin to speak.
âI would like to dedicate this award to my beautiful son, Luke. He is the reason I have found my voice,' I say, to a hushed
silence. âLuke, my little man. You did not die in vain and will not be forgotten. You are beside me on this journey and with me every step of the way.'
There is silence, then applause. It starts as a ripple at the back of the crowed and builds into a roar. As I turn from the lectern, I brush a single tear from my eye.