2014 National NAIDOC Award recipients honoured on the Gold Coast

National NAIDOC Committee Media Release - Announcement of 2014 National NAIDOC Award Recipients

It is with great pleasure that the National NAIDOC Committee announce the 2014 National NAIDOC Award recipients.

The awards highlight the outstanding contributions that Indigenous Australians make to improve the lives of people in their communities and beyond and to promote Indigenous issues in the wider community, or the excellence they’ve shown in their chosen field.

Minister for Indigenous Affairs, the Hon Nigel Scullion, presented the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award to Linda Burney for her significant contribution to the development of Indigenous communities and her lifelong commitment to championing Aboriginal rights in education, reconciliation and politics.

The 2014 Person of the Year Award went to Gracelyn Smallwood who has dedicated her life to health and human rights advocacy. The Commonwealth Bank is the proud sponsor of this award.

As a shining example of this year’s theme Serving Country: Centenary & Beyond, the 2014 Male Elder of the Year Award went to Richard Archibald for his work promoting Aboriginal rights and raising the profile of Aboriginal servicemen.

The Committee extends their warmest congratulations to all of the 2014 National NAIDOC Award recipients on their achievements:

  • Lifetime Achievement Award – Linda Burney, New South Wales
  • Person of the Year – Gracelyn Smallwood, Queensland
  • Female Elder of the Year – Patricia O’Connor, Queensland
  • Male Elder of the Year – Richard Archibald, New South Wales
  • Caring for Country – The Uunguu Healthy Country Project, Western Australia
  • Youth of the Year (joint winners) – Chern’ee Sutton, Queensland and Amelia Telford, New South Wales
  • Artist of the Year – Shellie Morris, Northern Territory
  • Scholar of the Year – Donisha Duff, Australian Capital Territory
  • Apprentice of the Year – Patricia Doolan, New South Wales
  • Sportsperson of the Year – Jesse Williams, Queensland

The award recipients were honoured at a national ceremony held on the Gold Coast last night. Hosted by Luke Carroll and Malarndirri McCarthy, the event was attended by more than 1200 guests from across the country. A star studded night, guests were entertained by a magical line-up of Indigenous artists including the Navy Indigenous Performance Group, Bungaree, the vibrant young vocals of Thelma Plum, talented cover artists AIM 4 MORE and Bell River Band and a surprise appearance by Australia’s Got Talent star Dean Brady.

The Committee would like to thank the Australian Government for their ongoing support of local and national NAIDOC celebrations and the Commonwealth Bank for their generous sponsorship of the Person of the Year Award for the sixth year running. The committee would also like to thank all those volunteers and community members who have invested significant time and energy in making NAIDOC Week a huge success again this year.

Media contact Amy Williams - info@naidoc.org.au or 0419 777 653.

Lifetime Achievement Award – Linda Burney

A member of the Wiradjuri Nation, Linda Burney is a natural leader. Born in 1957, Linda was one of the first Aboriginal students to graduate from Mitchell College, now known as Charles Sturt University, with a teaching degree in 1978.

After teaching for only two years, at the young age of 22, Linda asked to join John Lester, Lynette Riley and Trevor Cook in establishing the first Aboriginal Education Unit within the NSW State Department of Education. In this role Linda assisted in creating the first ever Aboriginal Education Policy in NSW which set the template and ongoing standards for Aboriginal education across Australia.

Linda’s achievements are clearly demonstrated over three decades of continuous commitment championing Aboriginal rights in education, reconciliation and politics.

Linda has contributed significantly to the development of Indigenous communities locally, regionally and nationally as an educator, championing reconciliation in Australia and as Member of the NSW Parliament.

Person of the Year – Gracelyn Smallwood

An outspoken advocate for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples since 1968, Gracelyn Smallwood grew up in Townsville in Queensland. When 90% of Australia voted yes in the 1967 referendum, the Townsville population had voted 90% no. Gracelyn grew up consciously determined that she would break through the barriers of racism.

Despite being treated as a second class citizen and very few careers being available to Aboriginal school leavers, Gracelyn was a high achiever. She trained to become a nurse and later completed a midwifery certificate.

Gracelyn’s vocation as a Registered Nurse and Midwife took her to remote areas of Australia with the Remote Emergency Nursing Service, delivering babies in Western Australia, Northern Territory and South Australia.

In collaboration with other health workers throughout Queensland, Gracelyn helped develop a series of culturally-appropriate media materials to raise awareness of HIV-AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, the harms of alcohol and drug abuse and domestic violence.

In 1986, Gracelyn received an Order of Australia medal for her service to public health. In 1997, she was special guest of President Nelson Mandela in South Africa where she conducted a series of lectures on HIV-AIDS in various townships.

Last year, Gracelyn was formally recognised for her contribution of 45 years to health and human rights advocacy. This year, she became a member of the Queensland Mental Health and Drug Advisory Council.

Female Elder of the Year – Patricia O’Connor

Known for being a quiet achiever, Patricia O’Connor is the inspirational woman behind the Kombumerri Aboriginal Corporation for Culture.

An idea discussed around the dining table one evening in the early 1980’s has grown into one of Australia’s most successful Aboriginal-owned language centres, and is a major contributor to the Indigenous cultural landscape of south east Queensland.

The corporation trades by the name Yugambeh Museum. It is a language and heritage research centre and is the major source of information for researchers of Yugambeh cultural heritage. Patricia has been the driving force behind the Kombumerri Aboriginal Corporation for Culture.

The Museum aims to record and promote the traditional knowledge of its region, especially the Yugambeh language, which was traditionally spoken throughout south east Queensland. The museum has developed language awareness and other programs, linking with many of the schools, government and community organisations in and around the Gold Coast, Beenleigh and Beaudesert area. The Museum also assists Aboriginal youth with employment and training opportunities, and helps community members trace their own family stories.

Patricia has brought the stories of her community alive through her passion for curating interesting material for community. During her time with Kombumerri, Patricia has overseen 20 distinct and significant exhibitions – consisting of more than 300 panels and single photo items, at an average of one exhibition every two years.

Currently, Patricia is working with younger generations to create a new community movement called Yugambeh Mobo. Yugambeh Mobo is a campaign to unite the community through cultural pride from the past to our tomorrow. Yugambeh mobo aims to ensure Aboriginal culture, concepts and values are part of the south-east Queensland story.

Male Elder of the Year – Richard Archibald

Richard Archibald is a Gumbaynggirr man born in 1947. Richard grew up in Kempsey and South West Rocks in Northern New South Wales. Living on Burnt Bridge Mission, Richard watched his Elders struggle to get access to basic services and facilities. This is where his journey began in standing up for Aboriginal rights began.

Showing a deep connection to country, Richard was the first Aboriginal person to carry out ceremony for fallen Aboriginal Diggers so that their spirits could be returned to country. Known for raising the profile of Aboriginal servicemen, Richard has received acknowledgment from the RSL at both local and state levels. Richard has benefitted the awareness of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians through the delivery and promotion of the Kokoda Project – leading to the “Spirit of the Warriors” DVD, a 30 minute documentary telling the story of the epic journey to bring the spirits of six Aboriginal soldiers who fell on the Kokoda Track back to their Country. This DVD is being distributed nation-wide.

Richard actively promotes awareness of Aboriginal soldiers who have fought for country through schools, working in a voluntary capacity with the Department of Education.

Caring for Country – The Uunguu Healthy Country Project

The Uunguu Healthy Country Project is a Caring for Country project where Wunambal Gaambera people are taking a partnership and two worlds approach to looking after country. This approach embraces traditional knowledge, rules and responsibilities and combines them with modern science and technology to keep the Wunambal Gaambera people's uunguu – their living home – healthy. The Wunambal Gaambera people have joined forces with both the private and public conservation sector to support their caring for country work.

Wunambal Gaambera people, through their work and partnerships, are promoting to both their future generations and other Australian’s an understanding of the unique cultural and natural assets their country and how to look after them. Their partnership approach with other conservation organisations provides tangible examples of the benefits of using two way knowledge and approaches:

  • The Wunambal Gaambera people have developed a Healthy Country Plan – a two year on country planning process engaging all Native Title families in partnership with Bush Heritage Australia and Kimberley Land Council.
  • As the first partnership of its kind with a private conservation organisation in Australia, the Wunambal Gaambera people have established a 10 year Healthy Country plan implementation agreement with Bush Heritage Australia.

These are just two examples of the innovative and pragmatic way in which the Wunambal Gaambera people are ensuring a healthy future for their country.

Youth of the Year – Chern’ee Sutton (joint winner)

Chern’ee Sutton has accomplished more than people many years older than her 17 years. Not only is she an extremely talented contemporary Indigenous artist, she has used her gifts and her art to benefit others.

To date, Chern’ee has donated more than $60,000 worth of art to charities and organisations across Australia to raise much needed funds. Funds from Cher’nee’s art enabled the Queensland under-15 football team to fly to Papua New Guinea. Through Chern’ee’s fundraising efforts, a woman was flown to the USA to receive a hearing operation. Funds also contributed to assisting flood victims in Bundaberg and the list goes on.

Chern’ee’s passion for reconciliation inspires a lot of her art. Proudly, two of Chern’ee’s artworks hang in Queensland’s Parliament House, one on permanent display on level 5. The art work is called Ajarku Muruu which in Kalkadoon language, means “All One Country”.  Chern’ee is also on display in the Queensland Government’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs Office in Brisbane.

A young woman who has not only freely given her time and artwork to improve her community and the lives of others, Chern’ee is a dedicated and inspiring person.

Youth of the Year – Amelia Telford (joint winner)

Amelia Telford is a Bundjalung woman originating from Northern New South Wales. Amelia currently works in Melbourne as the Indigenous Coordinator for the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.

After finishing high school in 2012, Amelia believed that the voice of Indigenous youth was lacking when it came to climate change and standing up for country, and for this reason, she deferred her university studies to develop a program through the Australian Youth Climate Coalition. The programme supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to lead on climate action and run sustainability projects in their communities.

Amelia’s vision is to build a network of young leaders from across Australia to stand up for country and stronger action on climate change and sustainability. This year, Amelia plans to expand the Australian Youth Climate Coalition Indigenous Program to intensively train and mentor up to 50 Indigenous youth across the country, work with and engage an additional 40 high school students, and create opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities to work together.

Artist of the Year – Shellie Morris

Already the 2014 Northern Territory Australian of the Year, Shellie Morris is a strong contributor to the music industry in Australia. So far this year she has collaborated with artists from New Zealand and Scotland in the Boomerang project. She has performed at WOMAD NZ, Sydney Opera House for Homeground Festival and at the Hebridean Celtic Festival, Culture 2014 as part of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Celebrations, including the Queens Baton Relay and Commonwealth Games Festival.

As well as her musical accomplishments, Shellie’s success is evident in the personal engagement she has with those around her using her talents and gifts to improve the lives of Australia’s Indigenous People.

Over the past 12 months, Shellie has worked with Southern Youth and Family Services, Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation, Yijala Yala Project, Big hART, the Jimmy Little Foundation, Black Arm Band, Darwin Town Communities Women’s Leadership, Australasian Performing Right Association, Walamun Cultural Festival Bulman-Weemol, Woodford Folk Festival, Charles Darwin University and The Song Peoples Sessions. In addition, together with Northern Territories Library, Shellie co-created two in language baby books to promote healthy babies combining a western and Aboriginal cultural context.

Shellie makes music that empowers people. In a huge moment for her in 2014, Shellie wrote a song for reconciliation with Dan Sultan which will be used as part of the Recognise campaign and will be released nationally later in the year.

Scholar of the Year – Donisha Duff

Donisha Duff is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman from Thursday Island and her family descend from the Moa and Badu Islands, and the Yadhaigana and Wuthathi people.

Donisha is being honoured tonight due to her passion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander entrepreneurship and innovation. In 2013, after six years of combining full-time work and part-time study, Donisha became the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person to graduate with a Masters of Business Administration from the Australian National University. During her studies, Donisha won a bursary from the Roberta Sykes Indigenous Education Foundation to attend summer school at Harvard University.

In her time at Harvard, Donisha completed two courses of study in Systems Thinking and Cross Border Innovation, which were credited towards the completion of her Masters of Business Administration at ANU. In 2012, Donisha became a member of the Harvard Club of Australian.

In addition to her academic success, Donisha has worked with the Australian Government, not-for-profits and community organisations in a number of roles including being former Adviser to Warren Snowdon MP, the first Federal Minister to have an Indigenous Health portfolio.

Apprentice of the Year – Patricia Doolan

Completing Year 12 in 2011, Patricia began her career in administration. Originally registered with Advanced Personnel Management, Patricia moved on to enrol in the Australian Government’s Indigenous Employment Program. Patricia took part in intensive workplace preparation training before securing full-time work as a teller with the Bank of Queensland whilst completing a Certificate III in Financial Services.

Since completing her certificate, Patricia now works as a Customer Service Officer and often assists in a sales role with the bank, marketing credit card and insurance products to customers.

This experience and the opportunity for employment has shaped the beginning of Patricia’s career in banking and finance. The bank has rewarded Patricia’s personal and professional approach with more responsibility and positional accountability. In this way, Patricia’s efforts are returning a strong investment for her employer, and her future.

Sportsperson of the Year – Jesse Williams

Born on Thursday Island and raised in Brisbane, Jesse Williams has grown up to become the first Indigenous Australian to play American football at the highest level.

Although his success is now playing gridiron football in the USA, Jesse first started out playing rugby league and basketball. Playing basketball from the age of 9, Jesse went from local school and club representation to State School Champions for Metropolitan East through to Under 14 Club National Championships in Alice Springs in 2003.

Jesse then took a year off sport, but was persuaded to participate in flag football to learn how to play American Football, gridiron. There was no looking back. At the age of 14, Jesse started playing for his local gridiron club, the Bayside Ravens in Brisbane.

Jesse’s success has continued as he went on to play state representative competition and then national representative competition. In April 2013, Jesse was drafted into the NFL where he currently plays for the Seattle Hawks. A strong role model who is described as achieving everything he sets his mind to, Jesse is a fine example of hard work and determination leading to great results.