9 February, 2024
Meet James Pittar, our Australia Day 2024 ambassador
Australia Day in Gilgandra
By Nicholas Croker
This year, inspirational athlete James Pittar will celebrate Australia Day alongside the Gilgandra community.
Serving as an Australia Day Ambassador for 24 consecutive years, Mr Pittar has travelled all over NSW for the occasion. “Forbes, Moree, Merriwa… it’s been great going to all these events,” he said. Each year, up to 100 Australia Day Ambassadors travel to communities within NSW to share their personal insights and experiences.
Mr Pittar is most well-known for his achievements in endurance swimming and rowing. At the age of 16, he was diagnosed with a genetic disorder that would render him completely blind in his early 30s. Despite this, he chose to pursue excellence in swimming after his father inspired his early participation in the sport. To date, Mr Pittar has completed 30 open water swims and won seven awards since 1998. In 2020, he was awarded a Guinness World Record for being a part of the 2013 six-day Bering Strait Relay Team. The same year, he was inducted into the Australian Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.
Famously, Mr Pittar is the first blind swimmer to successfully swim the English Channel. The 1998 swim took almost 14 hours to complete. It was after completing this impressive feat that he received an offer to become one of the Australia Day Ambassadors for 1999. Since then, Mr Pittar has had the opportunity to do so every year. “I’ve been very lucky to have this role and I’m looking forward to continuing.” The role of an Australia Day Ambassador depends on where they visit.
Mr Pittar commented, “As ambassador, you give a 10-minute speech, help with the awards, and get to do many different local events. Like dinners the night before or swimming at local pools.”
According to Mr Pittar, the schedule of Australia Day Ambassadors such as himself is largely up to local council and event organisers.
Outside his role as Australia Day Ambassador, Mr Pittar also acts as ambassador for the Rainbow Club, a not-for-profit organisation that offers social swimming clubs for children with a disability.
In addition, he is a fundraiser for the Fred Hollows Foundation, which aims to prevent blindness and support Indigenous health.
Mr Pittar expressed great interest in his visit to Gilgandra. “Thank you for the community and thank you to everyone who helps out with these events. There are a lot of great people involved.”