• This year's big winners at the National Indigenous Human Rights Awards in Sydney. (Supplied)
A trio of First Nations human rights and social justice warriors were recognised at a gala ceremony in Sydney on Thursday night.
By
Rachael Hocking, Presented by
NITV News

Source:
NITV News
10 Jun 2016 - 5:09 PM  UPDATED 10 Jun 2016 - 5:12 PM

In its third year, the annual National Indigenous Human Rights Awards honoured work in suicide prevention, anti-racism, and recidivism.

Each award is named after some of the country’s most recognised Indigenous activists:

The Anthony Mundine Award for Courage, The Eddie Mabo Award for Social Justice, and the Dr Yunupingu Award for Human Rights.

Lex Wotton, the Anthony Mundine Award for Courage

In 2004 Lex Wotton literally put himself on the line.

He was part of a firey protest on Palm Island, Queensland, following the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee, in which the police station and police residence were burnt down.

Mr Wotton was later convicted for inciting the so-called riot, and sentenced to seven years in prison, of which he served 20 months.

More than ten years later he continues to fight discrimination in the Queensland courts.

He used his acceptance speech to continue spreading his message.

“You blokes need to start making it a federal issue, when it comes to deaths in custody.

“Twenty-five years ago, 339 recommendations. Out of that, hardly anything reached the communities,” he said.

He also called on the government to ditch the Recognise campaign for constitutional recognition.

“I think you need to start talking Treaty. I think Victoria is leading the way at the moment. And I think you better start changing your views.”

Mervyn Eades, the Eddie Mabo Award for Social Justice

Mervyn Eades spent nearly two decades of his life in and out of jail.

These days he is a grassroots advocate for human rights, who spends his days helping others to turn their lives around.

He founded Ngalla Maya almost two years ago, a not-for-profit assisting people into education and work after prison.

He says the most important thing for young people is to be instilled with a sense of hope.

“Our people, any of our people from the lowest of lows, can make it to the highest of highs.

“We can make it just like them non-Indigenous fellas. It's up to us and our self-determination,” he said.

Dameyon Bonson, the Dr Yunupingu Award for Human Rights

Mangarayi and Torres Strait Islander man Dameyon Bonson dedicates his time to saving lives.

He is the founder of Black Rainbow, the country’s first mental health service for Indigenous LGBTI people, and is a suicide prevention worker in the Kimberly.

On Thursday night he delivered a passionate speech, imploring Australia to ditch discriminatory attitudes.

“What's not natural is the homophobia that exists, and the transphobia that exists,” he said.

“Compounded by racism, it makes the group that I belong to - which is one of you mob too- it makes our lives even more like hell.”

While Mr Bonson says it was an honour to accept the award, he points out the sad reality for needing Human Rights Awards in the first place.

“We're actually campaigning against other humans who are doing ills to us,”

“It's not because of anything unnatural, it's actually other people trying to oppress other people and we're fighting against that.”