NSW 2018 Local Hero Eddie Woo has delivered the state's annual Australia Day address and says he's found mathematics can help break down social barriers.
Despite being bornand raised in Sydney, Eddie Woo grew up seeing Australians as other people.
So the 2018 NSW Local Hero recipient thought it was a "strange honour" to be chosen to deliver the annual Australia Day address in Sydney on Tuesday.
"It's strange for me to be the one standing here today, being a person who was harassed and isolated for not being Australian," Mr Woo told the crowd.
"When I was a kid it didn't seem to matter that I was born in Camperdown or that I spent my entire childhood in North Rocks supporting the Parramatta Eels.
"What seemed to matter is that I didn't look Australian, or that I didn't fit what my peers thought an Australian was supposed to look like."
The son of Chinese-Malaysian parents, Mr Woo told the audience it took him some time to feel true blue.
"It took me many years to not just realise that I was genuinely Australian, but to feel that I was, and then it took some more years after that to see how being Australian has fundamentally shaped me as a person."
The teacher, best known for taking mathematics to the masses via his popular Youtube "WooTube" channel, said education was the key to breaking down stereotypes and racism.
He said mathematics helped teach people to see issues from a different perspective and ultimately made them more empathetic.
"Just as mathematics has scientific power, mathematics has social power," Mr Woo said.
"Poetry is the art of calling the same thing by different names, but mathematics is the art of calling different things by the same name."
Mr Woo said while diversity was what he believed to be Australia's greatest asset, it also provided the country with it's biggest challenge.
"I think it's a natural human response to be afraid, uncertain around people who are different and that's why I feel so strongly about schools and parents and educators playing a role in helping our children embrace diversity."
While Mr Woo wouldn't be drawn on whether he supported keeping Australia Day on January 26, he said the level of the debate had saddened him.
"The way in which we've conducted ourselves and shown that we've been incredibly antagonistic and unkind to each other."