• Chris Tamwoy inspires fellow youth and wider Australia alike in his effort to reconcile Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians (Chris Tamwoy)Source: Chris Tamwoy
The 2015 NAIDOC Awards put some kickass Australians in the spotlight. Whether it's in human rights, health, education, innovation or environment, these people have dedicated their lives to helping their communities, society and the people around them.
Andrea Booth

14 Jul 2015 - 10:32 AM  UPDATED 14 Jul 2015 - 3:06 PM

1. Rosalie Kunoth-Monks

Rosalie Kunoth Monks has for decades weighed deeply into cultural, political and social debate in Australia and as the chancellor of the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education has never been stronger in her fight for social justice and equality for her people. 

After starring in world-famous film Jedda about an Indigenous girl’s search for identity at the age of 16, she moved into politics where she stood for election in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly in 1979 to protest the proposed construction of a dam that threatened to destroy land sacred to her people.

She then focused on protesting the federal government’s intervention into Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory as a violation of human rights.

Rosalie continues to work for sovereignty and First Peoples access to basic rights such as their land, language and culture. 

Meet the NAIDOC Person of the Year 2015 - Rosalie Kunoth-Monks
Rosalie Kunoth Monks has had a major impact on the nation’s cultural, political and social life for more than half a century.

2. Tauto Sansbury

Tauto Sansbury picks up the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2015 NAIDOC celebrations (NITV)

Tauto Sansbury, a Narungga elder, has worked to close the gap in inequality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians for more than 30 years. In particular, he has worked to close the gap in the justice system. Tauto worked closely with Elliott Johnstone QC and the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement Justice Officer during the  Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

He was the driving force South Australian Aboriginal Justice Advocacy Committee the Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee to protect Indigenous peoples from suffering in the hands of justice, initiatives that resulted from the commission.

Tauto now works to ensure Aboriginal peoples can rightfully stay on their homelands in Western Australia after the Federal Government flagged them for closure in 2014.

NAIDOC Sportsperson of the Year - the story of Ryan Morich
Aboriginal Australian wheelchair basketballer Ryan Morich is founder of the Red Dust Heelers’ Wheeling and Healing program.

3. Ryan Morich

Ryan Morich is committed to giving people with a disability quality of life through basketball (NITV)

Wheelchair basketballer Ryan Morich, founder of the Red Dust Heelers’ Wheeling and Healing program, is giving people with disabilities the support systems to integrate into life and opportunities through playing basketball.

Ryan was 12 years old when he was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma. His leg from below his knee was amputated.

He has gone on to achieve great feats such as winning bronze at the Under 23 World Championships with his team, the Australian Spinners, in Turkey, and playing at the University of Alabama in the US. Ryan is proud to have competed at the Australian Paralympic Youth Games in Melbourne in 2009.

Through the Wheeling and Healing program he is giving more people like him the fuel to do the same.


4. Veronica Perrule

Veronica Perrule is passionate about preserving her language and culture (NITV)

Veronica Perrule Dobson, an Arrernte elder and traditional owner, preserves her language culture as a linguist, naturalist and ecologist.

She has produced educational material to support her teachings such as the Eastern and Central Arrernte to English Dictionary with John Henderson.

Veronica works to continue culture through going out bush with other elders to teach medicine and bush skills to children.

Veronica had been an inspiration and role model for many people - both Indigenous and non-Indigenous - for the wisdom she has been carrying down.

Veronica Perrule Dobson - NAIDOC Female Elder
Veronica Perrule Dobson remains committed to providing services to the Indigenous Community as an Arrernte elder and traditional owner, linguist, naturalist and ecologist, and preserving the Aboriginal language and culture in Central Australia.

5. Graham Taylor

Graham Taylor was on the frontline while serving with the Australian Defence Force in Malaysia and risked his life to save his comrades. Now he fosters healthy development of Indigenous youth (NITV)
Graham Taylor, an Amangu Yamaji Elder in Western Australia, was a hero in Australia’s Defence Force. Now he dedicates his time to supporting Indigenous youth.

When Graham arrived in Malaysia for six months of service he was assigned forward scout, at the frontline clearing pathways for the rest of the platoons. When the enemy attacked 16 men with mortar bombs and heavy rifle fire, 10 were seriously injured.  Despite heavy fire he was there to help them.

Since returning from war he has worked tirelessly to ensure recognition of the ADF’s Indigenous service people.

Graham is an inspirational leader for our young people, helping them foster their culture. He has lent his time to Mullewa High School, 100 kilometres out of Geraldton, to fight racism there.

Meet Graham Taylor - NAIDOC Male Elder of the Year
Graham Taylor, an Amangu Yamaji Elder born in Three Springs, the North Midlands area of Western Australia, has made a significant contribution to Australia’s Defence Force and now mentors Indigenous youth.

6. Ashley Farrall

Ashley Farrall concocts some tasty dishes using his culture as inspiration (NITV)
Ashley Farrall is an apprentice chef who fosters his culture through his culinary creations. Ashley discovered his passion for cooking and bush foods in Echuca in Victoria when he took the opportunity to participate in the Indigenous business organisation Outback Academy's RESPECT program.

He dedicates his time to studying culture and bush food with Yorta Yorta Elders and Aboriginal chefs such as Mark Olive.

Ashley, with Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park in Cairns and the Outback Academy, are committed to mentoring other Indigenous youth by leading through example.

NAIDOC Apprentice of the Year - the story of Ashley Farrall
Ashley Farrall is an apprentice chef who keeps his culture alive through his culinary creations.

7. Daren Dunn

Daren Dunn empowers disengaged youth through art (NITV)
Daren Dunn, a proud Gamilaroi man from Coonabarabran in NSW, is dedicated to art, culture and ensuring the wellbeing of his people.

He has spent his life teaching in both public and private school systems for 23 years, providing countless Indigenous students with growth and opportunities, many of whom have been at serious risk of disengaging from education.

One of his educational initiatives is the "Get Back on Ya Feet" program through teaching youth Aboriginal art and culture to empower them. 

He also combines his talent for art with his passion for sport and takes his paintings around the world where they can be seen from the United Arab Emirates, Italy and Russia to China, the US, Japan and Ireland.

NAIDOC Artist of the Year - the story of Daren Dunn
Daren Dunn, a proud Gamilaroi man from Coonabarabran in NSW, is dedicated to art, culture and ensuring the wellbeing of his people.

8. Michelle Deshong

Michelle Deshong is a 2015 Fullbright Scholar who is focusing her study on improving the lives of Indigenous Australians (NITV)
Michelle Deshong, the 2015 Fullbright Indigenous Professional Scholar who was born in Townsville in North Queensland has been using her to studies to improve the lives of Indigenous peoples in Australia and around the world.

She has a great passion for enhancing the voice of Indigenous women. Michelle is conducting a comparative analysis on First Nations women in governance roles during her internationally appraised Fullbright scholarship. Her research will be conducted with the Udall Center and Native Nations Institute, and hosted by the University of Arizona.

Michelle has dedicated much of her life to increasing opportunity for First Peoples. She was executive director at the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre. She has worked at the federal government as a senior advisor in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 

NAIDOC Scholar of the Year - the story of Michelle Deshong
Michelle Deshong, the 2015 Fullbright Indigenous Professional Scholar, was born in Townsville in North Queensland is committed to improving the lives of Indigenous peoples in Australia and abroad.

9. Chris Tamwoy

Chris Tamwoy wants to break down barriers between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians (NITV)
Chris is a talented virtuoso guitarist who performs with some of the most esteemed artists around the country. But his skill doesn't stop there.

He is moving his peers forward in the reconciliation effort of breaking down barriers between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in the country through high-school workshops known as “Reconciliation Journeys.”

Chris’ passion for reducing racism grew in 2013 when his neighbourhood became the subject of national media attention. The 'race riots' in Douglas Street in the city of Logan, out of Brisbane, showed a community that was intolerant and violent.

Chris joined with other Indigenous youth to show the negative representations of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youths were unbalanced through forming the Logan First Nations Youth Assembly. The assembly used social media to provide a much-needed voice for Indigenous youth.

NAIDOC Youth of the Year - the story of Chris Tamwoy
Chris Tamwoy, who earned the nickname "Magic Fingers” for his skills as a virtuoso guitarist, captures audiences around the country with his music.

10. Gavin Jones 1966-2014

Gavin Jones, the founder of the Deadly Awards, poses for a photograph after finalists were announced for this years awards in Sydney
Gavin Jones was one of the most influential Indigenous entreupreneurs in the country who worked to strengthen the voices of First Peoples and provide wider Indigenous Australia with life-enhancing tools and messages.

He was the editor-in-chief of Deadly Vibe magazine and began the Deadly Sounds radio program, which is heard on 200 Indigenous stations around the country, in the effort to ensure Indigenous voices are heard.

He was the founder and director of the annual Deadly Awards that celebrate Indigenous achievement in music, entertainment and sport.

Gavin moved across to television as the executive producer of Logie Award-nominated childrens' television program, Move it Mob Style, which encourages youth to keep fit by making it fun. He also led the health and lifestyle program, Living Strong, to be delivered by health staff across the country.