Armidale family is proud of their daughter's Australian of the Year nomination

Alice Carmichael - one of Australia's everyday heroes


An ambassador for the National Breast Cancer Foundation to raise the awareness of men's breast cancer who raised more than $19,000 in funding for the Armidale oncology and palliative care units.

The late Rhod Carmichael with his daughter Alice

The late Rhod Carmichael with his daughter Alice

Armidale school teacher Alice Carmichael is one of more than 5500 people nominated for an Australian of the Year Award for 2021 - a record number of nominees.

While only about 130 people were selected as state and territory finalists, many everyday heroes were nominated by someone in their community or field of endeavour.

Alice is one of these people - passionate about her cause and making a difference.

Breast cancer was last on the guesses list when Alice's father Rhod Carmichael found a lump in his chest five years ago.

A couple of weeks later he was diagnosed and in surgery to have breast tissue and lymph nodes removed before starting a long road of chemotherapy (and an even bigger collection of hats).

Sadly, Mr Carmichael lost his battle with breast cancer in April last year, and Alice became an advocate for men's breast cancer.

During his treatment, Mr Carmichael would wear a different hat to each chemotherapy session, so Alice established The Hat Project, encouraging people to post selfies wearing a themed hat on a dedicated Facebook page.

"The page allowed Dads friends and family to post pictures of themselves with hats on every time Dad had treatment," Alice said.

"Dad also continued to share a photo of himself in a hat. It boosted him tremendously, and he looked forward to seeing what hats everyone would wear each week.

"The Hat Project became a platform where we were able to share important information on how to check your breasts or pecs, and continue to show that breast cancer does not discriminate."

After creating the hashtag #PinkandBlueMenGetitToo, and raising more than $19,000 in funding for the Armidale oncology and palliative care units, Alice became an ambassador for the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

"Dad's breast cancer really shocked everyone around him; family, friends and the wider community," said Alice.

"Who knew that breast cancer could be something a man could get? I sure didn't.

"We looked up Breast Cancer Foundations, campaigns and charities in Australia, and there was so very little information and support out there for male breast cancer.

"It was disheartening and hard for my Dad particularly.

"As a family, we often had many conversations about male breast cancer and what we could do to spread awareness."

Alice is driven by what she feels is a mission to raise awareness as most people 'think of pink' when it comes to breast cancer, and she knows her dad would approve.

"I still get emotional at the fact he never got to see the amazing work we did, with so many of his friends and family included, but I know he would be super proud", she said.

Alice wants to continue her work and is looking at initiatives which particularly target young men, so the habit of regular check-ups is set up early.

"Don't be afraid to go get something checked by your doctor," Alice said.

"Nothing is ever too small or too silly.

"I hope that this starts a conversation with the men in just one person's life because making them aware is so important."

On Australia Day, Alice said she would reflect on Australia's community spirit and be grateful for having a strong support network.

"Australia Day to me is a day to take out and celebrate everything we love about this amazing country we live in," she said.

"It gives us a chance to recognise amazing achievements, celebrate our diverse culture and landscape and reflect on our history."

Being nominated for the 2021 Australian of the Year Awards surprised Alice because she says she didn't think she was worthy of such a big award.

" But after telling a handful of people they were so proud, and it made me realise that the work I am doing ( and the small things I am doing ) is so important," she said.

"There is a need to recognise that breast cancer does not discriminate, and to create this awareness Australia- wide could really make a difference.

"The more word that gets out, the better chance men have at recognising changes in their pecs and getting checked, which would ultimately lead to early detection and better survival rates for them."

Award organiser the National Australia Day Council is celebrating all those who were nominated by highlighting other local contributions worthy of respect and celebration on Australia Day - the everyday heroes.

ACM, the publisher of this masthead, is the media partner of the 2021 Australian of the Year Awards, which are announced on ABC TV from 7.30 pm on Monday, January 25.

The story Armidale family is proud of their daughter's Australian of the Year nomination first appeared on The Armidale Express.