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7 – 14 July 2024
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2021 National NAIDOC awards recipients

Portraits of the 2021 NAIDOC Awards winners

The National NAIDOC Committee is proud to announce the recipients of the National NAIDOC Awards for 2021.

National NAIDOC Committee Co-Chair, John Paul Janke, said the awards honour outstanding achievements by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples at the community and national level.

“The National NAIDOC Awards are the chance every year to showcase the amazing contributions of inspiring Indigenous people and thank them for their commitment to our community,” Mr Janke said.

“They highlight the best of Indigenous Australia and celebrate our strength and resilience in maintaining our cultures and reaching new heights in a wide range of pursuits.

“While it is a shame we have been unable to congratulate these individuals in a gala event, our respect and appreciation for what they have achieved is not lessened. They join a remarkable group of some 280 people who have been honoured since 1985 and deserve all of the accolades that come with these awards.”

Co-Chair Shannan Dodson said this year’s winners serve as role models for all Australians.

“The NAIDOC Awards allow us to tell the stories of those who achieve great things and who have put their mark in the 65,000+ year history of Australia,” Ms Dodson said.

“The ten recipients represent generations of proud First Nations peoples showing their community what can be achieved if you put your mind to something.

“Through their art, sporting prowess, commitment to education or protecting our land, culture and heritage, they have all made a wonderful contribution to our communities and our nation.”

The 2021 National NAIDOC Awards recipients are:

For more information on the awards and to stay up to date with NAIDOC events, visit


2021 Lifetime Achievement Award – Pat O’Shane AM

Pat O’Shane AM, is a proud Kuku Yalanji woman from Mossman, one hour north of Cairns.

Pat is by far one of our greatest achievers of all time with a list of many firsts. This includes being the first female Aboriginal teacher in Queensland, the first Aboriginal Magistrate in Australia, and the first woman and Aboriginal person to be the head of a Government department.

Voted as one of Australia's living treasures by the National Trust, she is an inspirational leader, an inspirational woman and a hero to us all.

2021 Person of the Year – Keri Tamwoy

Keri Tamwoy is of the Putch people, Wik Mungkan, in the community of Aurukun located in the remote western Cape York Peninsula.

She is the co‐founder of the Wik Women’s Group which champions for education and safety of women and children. She also has a leading role in a recent Cape York campaign to co‐design strategies to combat youth sexual violence.

Keri says her proudest achievement is being appointed from her community Elders as ‘Thaa Punt’, the peacemaker.

She is a reformed leader and the newest mayor of Aurukun and, through her hard work and resilience, believes she will not stop until her local people have power over their own lives.

2021 Female Elder of the Year – Christobel Swan

Aunty Christobel Swan is a proud Pertame, Southern Arrernte woman from Central Australia.

As one of the last few remaining fluent speakers of her Language, she is leading the way in restoring her culture through her extensive work. This includes co‐authoring The Learner’s Wordlist of Pertame, the first and only publication of Southern Arrernte, as well as her love for teaching children through school vocational programs.

She has spent her life helping those in need whether through interpretive services or just offering her home as a safe space.

Christobel is a loving mother, grandmother, and is a true leader. She always was and always will be, Pertame.

2021 Male Elder of the Year – Ernest Hoolihan

Uncle Ernest Hoolihan was born in the far-north Queensland town of Ingham, later moving to Townsville with his family. There he became the first Indigenous person to attain a scholarship with the Townsville Grammar School.

A keen athlete, Ernest had a passion for many sports including Athletics, football and table tennis.

In 1973, Ernest and his late wife Maud established Yumba-Meta Limited, a service that provides long term affordable accommodation to disadvantage people.

Today he continues to make significant contributions to the advancement of individual wellbeing in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

2021 Caring for Country – Gadrian Hoosan on behalf of the Borroloola Community

The town of Borroloola is located 10 hours south-east of Darwin on the McArthur river near the Gulf of Carpentaria. The area is home to the Yanyuwa, Gurdanji Garawa and Mara people.

For the past 8 years, Traditional Owners and the Borroloola community have been trying to stop new gas projects they say encroach on their Country and threaten the environment and Culture.

Community representative Gadrian Hoosan is helping his community to lead the fight in restoring and preserving the unique and precious land and waterways for future generations to come.

2021 Youth of the Year – Samara Fernandez-Brown

Samara Fernandez‐Brown is a proud Warlpiri woman from Yuendumu, located three hours north-west of Alice Springs.

Samara is an incredible advocate for her people and has become a social justice activist following the shooting and death of her cousin, Kumanjayi Walker in 2019. She has become a vocal activist, coordinating the “Justice For Walker” campaign, liaising between Warlpiri Elders and the police, judicial system and the media, organising rallies, fundraising to cover the case’s legal fees all while remaining a peaceful, thoughtful and impassioned spokesperson for her family, community and the broader deaths in custody movement.

She is a board member of the Dhadjowa Foundation, a national grassroots organisation that's been established to provide strategic, coordinated and culturally appropriate support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families whose loved ones have died in custody.

Completing her schooling in Adelaide, she is now studying a bachelor’s degree in Psychology at the University of South Australia. After graduating, she’s hoping to use these skills to help young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people overcome ingrained disadvantage and realise their inherent resilience and strength.

2021 Artist of the Year – Bobbi Lockyer

Bobbi Lockyer is a Ngarluma, Kariyarra, Nyulnyul and Yawuru woman born and based on Kariyarra Country in Port Hedland in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

She is an amazing artist and advocate for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People who empowers women through both her photography and design, working with a variety of art mediums including painting, graphic design and photography.

Bobbi is an official creator for Nikon Australia and her work has been published all over the world including in Vogue Magazine and New York Fashion Week.

Proud Mother of four, Bobbi says her children are her biggest inspiration and the reason for her strong connection to motherhood and country.

2021 Scholar of the Year – Sasha Purcell

Sasha Purcell is from the “Whaleboat” family from Mer Island in the Torres Strait.

Sasha holds degrees in International Relations and Foreign Affairs as well as Law, and is currently completing a masters of Law in International Legal studies at New York University.

In 2019, Sasha was invited to speak at the United Nations in Geneva about Torres Strait Islander peoples and the impact of climate change on the islands.

Sasha has a particular interest in the preservation and advancement of Indigenous human rights and on completion of her studies she intends to become a human rights expert at the UN.

2021 Apprentice of the Year – Jarron Andy

Jarron Andy is a Waanyi, Djiru, Kuku Yalanji and Yindinji man who grew up in Innisfail, one hour south of Cairns in far-north Queensland.

A former banana farmer and painter he ventured into a modelling career after winning the 2016 Face of Cairns Central competition and later working at the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival.

Jarron undertook a ten-week apprentice course with Channel 75 Openshop becoming Australia’s first ever Indigenous Home Shopping TV Presenter.

Jarron says his proudest achievement was to host a NAIDOC week special on the Channel 75 network promoting Indigenous Businesses and getting to share his culture with audiences all around Australia.

2021 Sportsperson of the Year – Clarence ‘CJ’ McCarthy-Grogan

CJ McCarthy-Grogan is a Yanyuwa, Garrawa, Kuku-Yalanji man from Darwin where his passion for wheelchair basketball has made him legendary.

CJ made his official Australian debut at the Tokyo Invitational Tournament in September 2019 and, since then, has become only the second Aboriginal person to represent Australia in the history of wheelchair basketball.

He is currently studying Public Health at the University of Texas Arlington, in the United States, and at the time of writing was training for the 2021 Australian Tokyo Paralympics team.

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