I was 20 when I experienced my first NAIDOC Awards. I was a trophy presenter, on stage holding the big round plates before handing it to the presenter to give to the winner.
That was in Melbourne in 2010.
This year the annual awards ceremony was held in Darwin and coincidentally it’s where I was born. On Friday night, I was back at the awards but this time it was different, I was hosting.
NAIDOC celebrates the achievements of some of our incredibly talented community members whose work, which is sometimes life changing, can go unnoticed by the public.
To share that experience with two of my aunties and other family and friends who have watched me grow up was surreal.
The awards acknowledged excellence in all areas of our life, from sport and education to those who have dedicated their life to improving the lives of Indigenous Australians.
Each winner was passionate and humble in their speech and I was lucky enough to share the stage with them as they commanded the attention of every single person in the room.
Professor Chris Sara had the auditorium enthralled with his speech as he challenged Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull for a treaty, spoke of Australia’s ghost children, those whose lives have been cut short, and reminded us that “we are stronger than we believe and smarter than we know”.
If I can single out just one moment of the evening, it was when the iconic East Journey band performed at the end of the night. The band includes two of the original members of Yothu Yindi (Stuart Kellaway and Mangatjay Yunupingu) and descendants from the original line up.
They played a handful of songs including 'Treaty' and the night wrapped with everyone on their feet dancing in celebration of our survival.