• (L-R) Singer Isaiah Firebrace, model Charlee Fraser, pro-basketball player Patty Mills (NITV)Source: NITV
Eurovision, the NBA and even the international catwalk - Indigenous Australians who have been recognised internationally for their outstanding talent.
Sophie Verass

12 May 2017 - 4:35 PM  UPDATED 12 May 2017 - 4:51 PM

Isaiah Firebrace, the teenager from Moana, NSW has made a huge impact on the global stage, securing a place in the Eurovision final 2017 (happening in just two days!). With an audience of literally millions, Yorta Yorta man, Isaiah represents not only the talent of Australia, but its First Peoples. 

It's a challenge for any Australian to break through onto an international platform, coming from an island on the other side of world from tinsel town, acclaimed international film festivals and thriving global industries. But for First Nations' Australians, who are underrepresented as is, in a country with - for example - a film industry that takes only 2.3 per cent overall box office share or one that ranks 22nd in the Global Competitiveness Index, makes successes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people just that extra bit more rewarding. 

As Isaiah has a shot at coming first in the Eurovision Song Contest, we reflect on just some of our First Nations' people who have made their countries and communities proud.


Jessica Mauboy


The R&B Pop sensation introduced herself to the public (and subsequently blew them away) when she auditioned for Australian Idol on the red earth of Alice Springs, singing a pitch-perfect 'I Have Nothing' originally by Whitney Houston. 

From then on, she has had a very successful career in both, music and acting. The Kuku Yalanji woman from Darwin has collaborated with many international artists such as, Flo Rida, Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, Jay Sean and Pitbull, as well as toured with Beyonce (all hail Queen B). She has also performed at many high profile events including the Australian visits of Oprah Winfrey and former US president, Barak Obama. 

Jess had one of the lead roles in The Sapphires (the highest-earning Australian film on its opening weekend), starring alongside UK comedy actor, Chris O'Dowd. The Sapphires had its world premiere at the 2012 international Cannes Film Festival. 

In 2014, Jess was the very first solo artist from outside Europe to perform as a guest, representing Australia's interest at the iconic Eurovision Song Contest. Since her performance, Australia has participated in Eurovision for the last three years. 


Cathy Freeman

Cathy Freeman, also a Kuku Yalanji woman, was the first Indigenous Australian to become a Commonwealth Games gold medalist, in 1990 - at a mere 16 years old! She is also the only Indigenous athlete to have participated in three Olympic Games. 

Cathy is one of Australia's greatest athletes, being honoured to light the Olympic Flame at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Her track and sprinting efforts makes her currently the sixth fastest woman of all time, with her personal best of 48.63. 

During the 2000 Olympics, Cathy was dubbed a winning favourite, with a list of international medals and records under her belt. True to form, she secured the gold medal in the 400m sprint. After her race, Cathy took a victory lap carrying both, the Australian national flag and the Aboriginal flag, despite the Aboriginal flag not being recognised as an 'official' national flag and therefore technically banned by the International Olympic Committee.


Warwick Thornton

Director, screenwriter and cinematographer, Alice Springs-born Warwick Thornton began his career making short films. He achieved global success early on, with his work screened at film festivals around the world including the Telluride Film Festival in the US and the International Berlin Film Festival in Germany.

His debut feature film, Samson and Delilah which he wrote, directed and produced the music for, is a multi-award winning film both here, and internationally. It has won 'Best Film' in both, the Dublin International Film Festival and the Asia Pacific Screen Awards and most impressively, the prestigious Golden Camera Award (Camera d'Or) at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Samson and Delilah was also an entry in the Academy Awards' Best Foreign Language Film.

Warwick's new film We Don't Need a Map, a documentary about the political and cultural meaning of the Southern Cross (commissioned by NITV), is the headline and opening night film of this years' International Sydney Film Festival.  


Patty Mills

One of the top trending Twitter hashtags this week was Torres Strait and Aboriginal basketball player, #PattyMills for his outstanding last minute basket, which sadly made it in milli-seconds after the buzzer.

The Canberra born and raised basketballer, is the second Indigenous Australian to play in the NBA (after Nathan Jawai). After a time with the Portland Trail Blazers and the Idaho Stampede, Patty is currently making his mark with the San Antonio Spurs, winning an NBA championship with them in 2014. 

He is also a star player in the Australian national team, the Boomers, representing the country in every Olympic Games since Beijing in 2008, where he was the youngest player on the team. At the London 2012 Olympic tournament, Mills had the highest scoring average with 21.2 points per game, ahead of US sensation and highest-earning basketball players in the world, Kevin Durant. 


Anthony Mundine

Who was once the highest-paid player in the NRL (most prominently with the St George Illawarra Dragons), Bunjalung/Wiradjuri man Anthony Mundine transitioned from footy to a successful international boxing career which acclaimed sports journalist Steve 'Buncey' Bunce describes him as, "arguably the greatest crossover athlete in boxing history".

In boxing, Mundine has held the World Boxing Association super middleweight title twice (2003/2004 and 2007/2008) and the International Boxing Organisation middleweight title from 2009 to 2010. He also held the WBA interim super-welterweight title from 2011 to 2012.  


Charlee Fraser

The 22-year-old Awakabal woman from Newcastle is the first Indigenous model to make her mark in the international fashion scene. One of the top faces in 2016's international catwalks including Alexander Wang, Prada, Balenciaga, Chanel, Dior, Lanvin, Givenchy and Celine, Charlee is repped globally by world-wide model agency IMG models. 

While being described as having a relaxed 'cool edge', with doe-eyes and an industry pout, it was actually Charlee's fringed bob haircut which most caught the attention of the industry and set an international trend. 

"There is no knowing how my season would have played out if my hair remained long, but I definitely feel that my haircut got me noticed", she said of her international success. 

Charlee was on the cover of InPrint Magazine (Issue FW 2016) wearing a t-shirt with the Aboriginal flag. 


Evonne Goolagong Cawley

Tennis champion and Wiradjuri woman, Evonne Goolagong remains the 12th all-time singles Grand Slam winners, despite retiring in 1983. Evonne ended her career with 82 singles. Evonne was the highest ranking tennis player in April 1976 and throughout her tennis reign, she won 14 international Grand Slam titles; seven in singles, six in doubles and one in mixed doubles. 

Evonne won the Wimbledon title in 1980, and was the only mother to have won the Wimbledon since Dorothea Lambert Chambers in 1914. 


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