Mack Horton poses with his gold medal at the end of the men's 400m Freestyle final of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Mack Horton poses with his gold medal at the end of the men's 400m Freestyle final of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. EPA/BERND THISSEN

2016: Australia's biggest and boldest personalities

Swimming champ Horton wins gold for 'clean athletes'

SWIMMING champion Mack Horton made waves in and out of the pool at the Rio Olympics when he called Chinese swimmer Sun Yang a "drug cheat" before going on to defeat his rival and claim Australia's first gold medal of the Games.

The young swim star, who escaped a car wreck just a few months earlier, hailed his 400m freestyle win as a victory for clean athletes everywhere.

Supporters of Yang bombarded Horton with abusive messages on social media but the gold medallist defended his comments about the Chinese swimmer, who served a drug ban in 2014, and said it put the issue of doping in the spotlight.

Later in the year Horton had surgery to remove a mole on his chest after an observant fan noticed in a photo the mole had changed shape and emailed Horton's team.

Pauline Hanson makes controversial comeback to politics

THE political comeback queen continued to hit headlines and divide the nation with her views on everything from toilets to Donald Trump.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, whose party made a resurgence at the Federal Election, prompted a Senate walkout by the Greens with her maiden speech that warned Australia was at risk of being "swamped by Muslims".

 

One Nation leader Senator Pauline Hanson during Question Time in the Senate.
One Nation leader Senator Pauline Hanson during Question Time in the Senate. MICK TSIKAS

It was one of many clashes for the outspoken politician, who criticised the ATO's decision to install squat toilets in its office as threatening the Australian way of life and was caught on camera in a heated confrontation with Senator Derryn Hinch over Donald Trump's attitudes towards women.

The hashtag #DefineAboriginal took off on Twitter after Hanson questioned the definition of Aboriginal in an interview, sparking outrage from indigenous Australians who then shared their racism stories on social media.

Celebrity chef Pete Evans stirs outrage with diet advice

CELEBRITY chef and My Kitchen Rules judge Pete Evans's dietary views proved to be a recipe for controversy in 2016.

Medical experts slammed the paleo guru he suggested a woman diagnosed with osteoporosis should cut dairy from her diet because it "removed calcium" from bones, pointing out Evans was a chef, not a doctor.

 

Celebrity chef Pete Evans.
Celebrity chef Pete Evans. Tony Martin

This wasn't the first time the popular chef had come under fire for his nutrition advice, with the Federal Health Department investigating recommendations in his co-authored paleo cookbook to feed infants bone broth.

Evans married model and fellow health food devotee Nicola Robinson in April in an intimate ceremony that featured a paleo menu.

'Undies hero' Daniel McConnell finds overnight fame

A BRISBANE larrikin dubbed the "undies hero" shot to overnight fame and had the nation in stitches after fighting crime wearing nothing but his "jocks".

Daniel McConnell gave what was described as "the Aussiest interview ever" after confronting a man who had allegedly driven into a fish and chip shop in the Brisbane suburb of Hendra.

"Mate, all I had was me jocks on and I was chasing him up the street and I'm just like, mate," he said during the interview that went viral online.

With his help, police caught the driver, who was charged with unlicensed driving.

 

Viral video star Daniel McConnell has been hailed a hero for chasing down a suspect in nothing but his
Viral video star Daniel McConnell has been hailed a hero for chasing down a suspect in nothing but his "jocks". Seanna Cronin

The accidental hero's witness account - and ocker accent - was a hit with the Today video gaining more than two million views in two hours while fans were asking him for autographs and selfies.

Despite receiving widespread praise for his actions, he said he did not feel like a hero and said it was "just something you do for the community mate".

Waleed Aly stuns with Gold Logie acceptance speech

THERE was controversy surrounding Waleed Aly's Gold Logie nomination but The Project co-host proved his critics wrong when he took out the top gong and gave a moving acceptance speech that had all of Australia talking.

The commentator and TV host addressed racism within the Australian TV industry after winning the public vote for Gold Logie for Best Personality on Australian television.

He dedicated his award to everyone with "unpronounceable" names after revealing someone in the audience had changed his name just to get a job in TV.

 

Gold Logie winner Waleed Aly after the 2016 Logie Awards.
Gold Logie winner Waleed Aly after the 2016 Logie Awards. AAP/JOE CASTRO

Aly, who said he thought he was more likely to win an AFL grand final than take home the coveted prize, praised the diverse field of talent he was up against.

"Each nominee brilliantly distils some separate piece of Australia and I think it's an amazing thing that that can be assembled on this night in this way," he said.

The media personality, who also picked up a silver Logie for Best Presenter, previously gained widespread public support with his impassioned speech on The Project condemning Islamic State.

Greyhounds ban backflip hits Mike Baird's popularity

ONCE known as Teflon Mike, Mike Baird's unpopular decision to ban greyhound racing meant something finally stuck to the once untouchable New South Wales Premier.

His plan to shut down NSW greyhound racing after an inquiry revealed widespread cruelty within the industry unleashed outrage that was reflected in polls showing his popularity had plummeted.

 

NSW Premier Mike Baird at the National Press Club in Canberra.
NSW Premier Mike Baird at the National Press Club in Canberra. MICK TSIKAS

Baird insisted the ban was locked in for July 2017 but backed down in October after months of intense industry and media pressure.

"In hindsight as we reflect on this we got it wrong. I got it wrong, Cabinet got it wrong. The Government got it wrong," he said.

His back injury was also news when he shared an X-ray of his fractured vertebrae and a light-hearted post on social media after slipping down the stairs in his Manly home.

Punters were happy to oblige with plenty of punchlines, including the accident disproved claims the Premier was spineless.

Campbell sisters share Rio Olympics highs and lows

THE Campbell sisters had Aussies on the edge of their seats throughout the Rio Olympics as they followed the highs and lows of the 2016 Games for the inseparable swimming champions.

Cate and Bronte Campbell, who hail from Brisbane, achieved their childhood dream when they won Olympic gold together as part of the Dolphins team's victory in the 4x100m freestyle relay on day one.

 

Australian swimmers Bronte Campbell and sister Cate Campbell celebrate their gold medal win in the Womens 4x100 Freestyle Relay.
Australian swimmers Bronte Campbell and sister Cate Campbell celebrate their gold medal win in the Womens 4x100 Freestyle Relay. DEAN LEWINS

The siblings' stunning start at Rio was followed by a huge upset in the 100m freestyle when Cate, the overwhelming favourite to claim gold, and her younger sister missed out on medals.

"The world got to witness possibly the greatest choke in Olympic history," Cat said after the race.

Bronte said they both gave it their best and she had already won in getting to swim in an Olympic final with her sibling.

Chris Hemsworth brings Thor fever to streets of Brisbane

THERE was no denying Thor fever had struck the streets of Brisbane when one of Australia's hottest acting exports returned to film the next instalment in the fantasy action franchise.

Die-hard fans were skipping school and work to line the footpaths in the hopes of catching a glimpse of Hollywood hunk Chris Hemsworth filming in the Brisbane CBD in August.

 

Hollywood actor Chris Hemsworth acts a scene during the filming of the movie Thor: Ragnarok in Brisbane.
Hollywood actor Chris Hemsworth acts a scene during the filming of the movie Thor: Ragnarok in Brisbane. DAN PELED

Hemsworth, who got his first big break on long-running soap Home and Away, shot to fame in Hollywood in his Thor role but has said Australia is still his home.

The Ghostbusters star endeared himself to the public during his Brisbane visit by posing for selfies, handing out pizza to hungry Thor devotees and visiting sick children in hospital.

Fast political rise and fall for Sam Dastyari

SAM Dastyari has a knack for attracting the media spotlight but a travel payments scandal put the Labor powerbroker in the news for the wrong reasons in 2016.

The high-flying senator was known for his jokester presence on Bill Shorten's campaign bus and created a stir with his cheeky invitation to Pauline Hanson to go for a post-election Halal snack pack.

However, his fast rise to political stardom fell when he resigned from the front bench in September amid revelations a Chinese-linked company paid a $1600 personal travel debt.

 

Labor Senator Sam Dastyari speaks to the media during a press conference over
Labor Senator Sam Dastyari speaks to the media during a press conference over "cash for comment" allegations after asking a Chinese donor to pay his personal travel debt. DANIEL MCCULLOCH

Dastyari admitted he made a mistake and apologised but denied "cash for comment" allegations it influenced his position on the South China Sea.

Calls for an overhaul of Australia's political donations system intensified in the wake of the scandal.

Noni Hazlehurst earns Logies Hall of Fame glory

VETERAN actress and presenter Noni Hazlehurst marked the occasion she became the second woman to be inducted into the Logies Hall of Fame to make a rousing speech calling out the television industry for lacking diversity.

Praise poured in for the Australian star, who was honoured for her contribution to the industry with her 43-year career including roles on Playschool, City Homicide and the current Australian drama hit A Place to Call Home.

 

Noni Hazlehurst is inducted into the 2016 Logies Hall of Fame during the 2016 Logie Awards.
Noni Hazlehurst is inducted into the 2016 Logies Hall of Fame during the 2016 Logie Awards. JOE CASTRO

Her straight-talking acceptance speech, which touched on issues of racism, sexism and negativity, caused a stir online with some fans tweeting lines from her speech such as "no child is born a bigot" and others calling for her to enter politics.

Hazlehurst's induction into the Logies Hall of Fame, joining Ruth Cracknell, followed criticism of its lack of female representation.

ARM NEWSDESK



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