State finalists for the Australian Of The Year awards have just been announced, and included amongst the impressive list, are several Indigenous luminaries who have been recognised for their invaluable contribution to their community and beyond.
Andrea Mason has been named as the Northern Territory Australian of the Year. In her work as CEO of the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara Women's Council, Mason is passionate about creating effective solutions to social issues such as domestic violence, health and wellbeing and employment concerns through a fusion of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal methodologies. Her work extends into creating business opportunities, social enterprise models and combining traditional healers with western medicine to create the best possible outcomes in wellbeing. She is also driven to help children and young people achieve the same level of success as their urban counterparts.
June Oscar AO is this years Western Australia Local Hero. A senior Bunuba woman from Fitzroy Crossing, in 2007 June decided to take action against the high level of alcohol fuelled violence and suicide in her community by campaigning for full strength take away alcohol restrictions. The move received a lot of backlash from businesses and even family members but the success of the restrictions has led to a significant drop in social issues within the community. June has since gone further, overseeing the nation’s first study of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) a condition that was affecting her community at one of the highest rates in the world.
South Australia's Senior Australian Of The Year is Patricia Buckskin. A proud Narrunga Kaurna woman, Patricia grew up as one of eight children in South Australia’s Riverland. Appointed to Mansfield Park Primary School as its first Aboriginal teacher aide in 1972, the role started a passion for Aboriginal education that has continued throughout her life, including as state manager of Aboriginal education workers at the South Australian Aboriginal Education Unit, a position that she held until retirement in 2009. Patricia has also been a strong advocate for education, driving the development of the first culturally-based education award in Australia, and was also instrumental in setting up the Kaurna Plains Aboriginal School – the first public Aboriginal school established in an urban setting in Australia.
National Australia Day Council CEO, Chris Kirby, said the South Australian Award recipients were community members the State could be proud of.
“The South Australian Award recipients are changing perceptions, breaking barriers, achieving at the highest level and giving their knowledge so others benefit – what an inspirational group,” said Mr Kirby.
The South Australian Award recipients are changing perceptions, breaking barriers, achieving at the highest level and giving their knowledge so others benefit – what an inspirational group.
Victoria's Senior Australian of The Year is Lois Peeler. A well known member of The Sapphires, Lois is also political activist, educator and principal at Australia’s only Aboriginal girls’ boarding school. At Worawa Aboriginal College, Lois employs a holistic approach to education that uses both Aboriginal knowledge and Western academic leadership. Also a respected Yorta Yorta elder, Lois has an 'abiding responsibility of nurturing Aboriginal culture, history and identity in an education framework.'
The Governor of Victoria congratulated all the finalists and recipients, paying tribute to their contribution to Victoria.
"There is no question that they make us all better for what they have done and are doing, whether it is by improving our physical or mental health; promoting social inclusion and accessibility; supporting the victims of torture, family violence or sexual abuse; or addressing specific needs in the refugee, indigenous or veteran communities," the Governor said.
"Importantly, each of the finalists has taken action and in doing so have helped to build not only a vibrant and innovative country, but also a caring, compassionate and fairer one."
The announcement of the 2017 Australian of the Year Awards will be held in the Great Hall of Parliament House, Canberra on Wednesday 25 January 2017.