MARRIAGE equality campaigner Rodney Croome has spoken about the “small but important gesture” he made to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who is opposed to marriage equality, after the two met as part the Australian of the Year celebrations.

Meanwhile, national Greens leader and fellow Tasmanian Christine Milne has praised Croome, who is the national convenor of Australian Marriage Equality (AME), for his “courage and resilience”.

In October, Croome was appointed Tasmania’s Australian of the Year for his 26 years of campaigning for the LGBTI community.

The accolade meant he was nominated for the Australian of the Year award and travelled to the Canberra last weekend ceremony as part of the national Australia Day festivities.

While Croome missed out on the top gong to anti-domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty, he said just being nominated was a “tremendous honour” that “sent a positive message about Tasmania and how it has changed for the better”.

Croome said Batty was a “very worthy recipient” and he had been inspired by meeting the other finalists who had encouraged him “to be ever more passionate” about the work he does for LGBTI equality.

In Canberra, Croome and the other finalists attended an event hosted by the Prime Minister and his wife Margie.

Talking to the Star Observer, Croome said that when he and his partner were meeting the Abbotts they chose to make it very clear they were a couple.

“It was important for us to show we were in a loving relationship,” he said.

“So we walked up to Mr and Mrs Abbott holding hands to show our love was as good as anyone else’s.

“It was a small gesture but it was important to us… I felt good. I felt stronger for doing it.”

Croome added that the Prime Minister, who was aware of his background in marriage equality campaigning, was gracious and “thanked me for all the work that I do”.

While with the PM, Croome took the opportunity to ask that the new agency the government had announced that day — to make it easier for Australians to adopt children from overseas — treat same-sex and opposite-sex couples equally when it came to countries where same-sex adoption is legal.

Croome committed to follow up Abbott on the issue.

The Greens’ Milne congratulated Croome on his accolade and said the “vicious campaigns” directed at the AME leader when the pair worked together in 1997 on overhauling Tasmania’s anti-gay laws “are still fresh in my mind”.

“Rodney’s national recognition this Australia Day is also an important signal that Australians want the Abbott government to end discrimination,” she said.

“This is the year we should have marriage equality in Australia.”

The campaigner said he had no concerns at his lack of the top prize, but “I am disappointed that no Tasmanian has won Australian of the Year and no one has won the award for LGBTI equality in the 54 years it has been held”.

However, Croome said he would use his role, which still has nine months to run, “to talk up Tasmania as much as possible”.

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