She has directed several documentaries, including the 2016 release Embrace, which focused on her own path to body acceptance and the issue of women’s body loathing.
Taking to the stage to accept the award, Brumfitt said people weren’t “born into the world hating our bodies”.
“It is not our life’s purpose to be at war with our body,” she said.
“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.”
Brumfitt was chosen over her seven fellow finalists: Indigenous leader Samuel Bush-Blanasi, paediatrician Dr Angraj Khillan, advocate for end-of-life care Professor Samar Aoun, human rights activist and former Socceroo Craig Foster AM, insect-farming pioneer Olympia Yarger, composer William Barton, and humanitarian John Kamara.
Brumfitt said body image was the number one concern for 70 per cent of Australian school children, describing a “paediatric health emergency” amid rising suicide, depression, eating disorders, anxiety and steroid use.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
The director said every school was getting a copy of the Embrace Kids documentary — ” the most important film that you and your kids will see this year” — as part of a mission to reach a million kids in three years.
Speaking at the start of the awards ceremony, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Brumfitt and the other nominees represent the best of Australia.
“We gather tonight, on the eve of our national day, to honour and celebrate those who represent the very best of our national character,” he said.
“Global stars and local heroes. Young Australians and those rich in years. People of all backgrounds and from every part of our continent.
“A diverse group, united by a common quality: they inspire us.
“They inspire us by living and serving and upholding our nation’s values: our compassion and generosity, our courage and initiative, our ingrained sense of fairness and our deep belief in service to community.”
Albanese opened his speech by highlighting the campaign for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
”Later this year, in a referendum, every Australian will have the opportunity to take up the generous and gracious invitation to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our nations’ birth certificate – our constitution – and to support a voice to Parliament,” he said.
“I believe – just like tonight – it will be an uplifting moment of national unity.
“Every Australian can be proud that the society we have built together, down the generations, includes the world’s oldest continuous culture.”
Tamara Calma, a human rights activist and social justice campaigner, was named the Senior Australian of the Year, while Socceroo Awer Mabil is the Young Australian of the Year.
The founder of Western Sydney-based charity Turbans 4 Australia, Amar Singh, was named Australia’s Local Hero on the 20th anniversary of the award.