NAIDOC Awards 2022
The annual National NAIDOC Week Awards Ceremony recognises the outstanding contributions that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make to improve the lives of people in their communities and beyond, and to promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues in the wider community. The Awards Ceremony also seeks to recognise and celebrate those who have demonstrated excellence in their chosen field.
Person of the Year – Ash Barty
Ash Barty AO was born in Ipswich, Queensland. Through her great-grandmother, Ash is a member of the Ngarigo people, the Aboriginal people of southern New South Wales and north-eastern Victoria.
Now retired from professional tennis, Ash was not yet five when she met junior tennis coach Jim Joyce, who saw great potential in her when she hit the first ball he threw right back.
She was the second Australian tennis player to be ranked No. 1 in the world in singles by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) after fellow Indigenous Australian Evonne Goolagong Cawley AC. She was also a top-10 player in doubles, having achieved a career-high ranking of No. 5 in the world. Ash is a three-time Grand Slam singles champion, the reigning champion at Wimbledon and the Australian Open, and also a Grand Slam doubles champion.
In 2018, Ash was named National Indigenous Tennis Ambassador by Tennis Australia to encourage more Indigenous youth to get active, and to provide opportunities for them to explore their passion and grow their love for the sport.
Female Elder of the Year
Dr Lois Peeler AM is a Yorta Yorta and Wurundjeri woman. Her family comes from the Cummeragunja Aboriginal Reserves where activism for improved conditions for Aboriginal people was deeply embedded. In the 1960s Dr Peeler became Australia’s first Aboriginal model before joining the all-female Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander singing group the Sapphires, which toured Vietnam during one of the world’s harshest wars.
In 1983, Dr Peeler and her sister Hyllus Maris established Australia’s only Aboriginal girls’ boarding school, Worawa Aboriginal College. Dr Peeler also worked as the Manager of the Aboriginal Employment Unit of the Victorian Public Service Board and headed Aboriginal Tourism Australia for over ten years where she was co-author of the Respecting Our Culture (ROC) accreditation program for the Australian tourism industry.
Recently, Dr Peeler worked with the Victorian Parliament to create a free e-learning resource for the Victorian curriculum called “Aboriginal Change Makers”, and currently chairs the Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee while being involved with the implementation of the Marrung Aboriginal Education Action Plan.
Male Elder of the Year
Uncle Jack Charles is a Bunurong and Wiradjuri man, and a member of the Stolen Generations. He grew up in the Salvation Army Boys’ Home at Box Hill, Melbourne as the only Aboriginal child, not knowing his heritage until the age of 17.
Uncle Jack is widely acknowledged as the grandfather of Indigenous theatre, co-founding Australia’s first Indigenous theatre group, Nindethana, meaning ‘place of corroboree’, or ‘ours’, at Melbourne’s Pram Factory in 1971. His plays and performances have won many awards over the years, and have toured across Australia and internationally. He is a respected Elder on the Council of the Archie Roach foundation, and a tireless advocate for young men caught up in the prison system.
He made history this year as the first Indigenous Elder to speak at the Victorian Truth-telling Commission. The Yoorrook Commission will establish official record of Indigenous experiences since colonisation, and Uncle Jack spoke honestly and with raw emotion about his experiences. Uncle Jack is a beloved Elder, and, as he describes himself – a survivor.
Youth of the Year
Hailing from the islands of Masig and Poruma in the Torres Strait, Elijah is a young islander who is passionate about social justice issues and the effects of climate change on the Torres Strait. His dream is to ensure that the elders can rest in peace on their island home without fear of it being swallowed by the oceans. He also wants to ensure that in another 10,000 years his people can still practice their cultural dance, tradition and language on the shores of the islands where they were originally established.
Elijah says it took one Torres Strait Islander man, Eddie Mabo, to lead the change for Australia by overturning terra nullius and that he will Get Up! Stand Up! and Show Up! to save the islands.
He hopes his forefathers will guide him and that, together with his Elders, he can use the power of the sacred saying “The land and sea is yours, it is now your turn to look after it” to heal country.
Sportsperson of the Year
Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin grew up in Dowerin, WA with his mother Ursula, a Whadjuk-Noongar woman, father, Lance Snr and sister, Bianca. Buddy’s AFL career is one of the greatest in Australian Rules Football having kicked over 1,023 goals, the most of any current player and the sixth-most in VFL/AFL history.
In his career to date, Buddy has won two premierships, eight All-Australian selections, four Coleman Medals and a Peter Crimmins Medal in his time at Hawthorn and Sydney. He has also represented Australia in the 2013 International Rules Series.
Buddy is also a staunch advocate for the rights of Indigenous Australians. In 2017 he was one of a number of players to wear the number 67 on his back during Sir Doug Nicholls round in commemoration of the 1967 Referendum to fully include Indigenous Australians in the census.
He has also been a champion for mental health – being open about his struggles with depression in an effort to destigmatise the mental illness among Australian men, particularly in the AFL.
Creative Talent Award
Lowell Hunter, known as Salty One, is a Nyul Nyul man originally from the Kimberley region in Western Australia.
Lowell is very passionate about Aboriginal culture and traditional dance, which he has been practising since the age of ten. Lowell uses his feet to stamp, hop and carve the sand to create vast contemporary artworks that are integrated into the landscape and captured for posterity with drone photography. Years of cultural dancing are channelled into his works, and he carries a beat as he walks through the sand and creates art that connects to Country and culture.
Lowell also teaches other dancers how to create art. He recently partnered with the Koko dance troupe, a group for young Aboriginal boys from Warrnambool in Victoria. Together they created a specially commissioned piece that featured the shapes of eels and whales, a homage to the storytelling traditions of the Eastern Maar people, the original custodians of parts of Victoria’s southwest.
In addition to creating art, Lowell delivers cultural strengthening programs in schools and facilitates interactive sand art and culture workshops with students on the beach.
Caring for Country and Culture Award
Walter Jackson is a Ngarrindjeri man from South Australia. He has worked in a number of roles on significant projects in the Ngarrindjeri region, including as Chief Executive of Ngopamuldi Aboriginal Corporation.
Walter is an advocate of improved employment opportunities for First Nations and young people in water management and land-care projects. Under his leadership, the Ngopamuldi Aboriginal Corporation secured funding for projects around cockle harvesting, nursery irrigation and soft plastic recycling. This has allowed Ngopamuldi to provide training and job opportunities, including for inmates at Mobilong prison.
As a role model for Aboriginal youth and the broader Ngarrindjeri community, Walter emphasises and promotes the cultural, environmental, and spiritual knowledge of Traditional Owners to improve and sustain the well-being of Country, land and water. He uses his interest in caring for Country to engage others in innovative projects that protect the environment for future generations.
The Koori Mail is the only fully Indigenous-owned and managed newspaper in Australia. Founded by a Walbunja businessman, Owen Carriage, the Koori Mail first went to print in May 1991. Published in both printed form and digitally each fortnight, it is a trusted voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a circulation of around 10,000 and readership estimated to be close to 100,000 people.
The Koori Mail’s archive is available free of charge through the website of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) – ensuring all Australians can access this important historical record thanks to new media.
Based in Lismore, New South Wales, the Koori Mail was significantly impacted by the floods this year, affecting both the organisation and those who worked for it. However, the paper immediately pivoted to distribute emergency information and provide disaster relief. Their coordination and leadership provided support to First Nations people and the wider community in and around Lismore during this difficult time.
Professor Bronwyn Fredericks is an Aboriginal woman living in Central Queensland. She has spent over 30 years directly involved in organisations working to improve educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, especially in regional and remote Australia. Professor Fredericks’ multidisciplinary research has a strong practice-based commitment to social justice and improving health, education and life outcomes for Indigenous peoples.
As the University of Queensland’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Engagement), Professor Fredericks is responsible for leading the implementation of the Indigenous strategy and strengthening leadership within the University in relation to Indigenous engagement. She is also leading the implementation of the University of Queensland’s first Reconciliation Action Plan and building strong links with the community.
Professor Fredericks is a member of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) Research Advisory Committee and the Beyond Blue National Research Advisory Committee. She is a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Consortium (NATSIHEC) representative for Universities Australia and is a member of the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) College of Experts. In recognition of her significant contribution to the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, she received the Public Health Association of Australia’s inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Award in 2019.
Professor Fredericks is also a founding member of the Capricornia Arts Mob (CAM), a collective of Indigenous Australian artists, photographers, writers and poets based in Central Queensland. She is a prolific writer, producing many papers on health, education, women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Dr Stanley ‘Stan’ Grant Senior AM is an Elder and a warrior of the Wiradjuri people from south-west New South Wales. Dr Grant grew up in Griffith, NSW and spent time with his grandfather Wilfred Johnson (known as Budyaan) who spoke seven languages and taught Dr Grant the Wiradjuri language.
Dr Grant, his brother, the late Pastor Cec Grant OAM, and Dr John Rudder have been crucial to the reconstruction of the Wiradjuri language, travelling and re-teaching their language from a small base of anthropological records, rebuilding the spoken and sung language for urban and rural community members.
Their collaboration for more than three decades has seen the production of many resources, including a dictionary, children’s books, song books and university texts. Through Dr Grant’s efforts, Wiradjuri is a living, changing language and people who are here today speaking this language are directly connected to the people who have spoken this language for thousands of years.