With every new year, new performers, sports stars and activists emerge across the country to breathe life into their respective industries or causes.
These are some of the faces to watch out for in the coming year.
Whether it's fighting mining giants, selling out shows in the UK or arriving on the national sporting stage - these young Australians are showcasing not only their abilities and passion but also representing their Indigenous culture.
As a young environmentalist and activist, Murrawah is making her mark on the movement towards a more sustainable and culturally respectful way of life in Australia. A member of the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council, who are leading the fight against the Adani corporation and the Carmichael Mine project, she has been a prominent spokesperson alongside Adrian Burragubba. Along with the council they have managed to build and sustain a solid groundswell of support and pressure to keep Adani from their traditional homelands in Queensland’s Galilee Basin. Johnson was awarded the 2017 Bob Brown Young Environmentalist of the Year for her efforts in stopping funding of the mining giant.
Rhyan Clapham aka DOBBY is a multi-talented musician who has been gaining the attention of the music industry for his original talent and style as a drummer and rapper. Combining his knowledge of composition through studying classical piano, jazz drumming and hip hop, the 23-year-old, a proud Murrawarri man from Brewarrina, remains strongly connected to his culture. Clapham has a Bachelor of Music degree from UNSW, is an Honours student in Indigenous Studies and has worked alongside Kevin Hunt of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and Chris Sainsbury of ANU as part of the Indigenous Composer's Initiative.
Throughout 2017 he was an academic tutor for Indigenous Studies at UNSW, facilitated Hip Hop workshops with high schools and primary schools and was just awarded winner of the 2017 Peter Sculthorpe Music Fellowship for an emerging composer with a $30,000 grant. In 2018 he will be releasing his debut album, performing at Yabun festival among many other gigs and continuing to host on FBi Radio where he currently hosts the Hip Hop Show 'What's Good' on Wednesday evenings.
Melbourne student and activist Aretha Stewart-Brown is an emerging leader and voice in the Indigenous community. As one of 50 participants in this year’s National Indigenous Youth Parliament (a model parliament group of Indigenous delegates from around the country who debate issues and rub shoulders with political leaders), the 16-year-old became the first woman to be elected Prime Minister as part of the program - and also the youngest.
Born and raised on Gumbaynggir country to politically aware parents, speaking earlier in the year to the ABC the student said that becoming politically active was something she couldn’t avoid. “As an Indigenous person you are born into politics, it controls just about every aspect of your life," she said. Earlier in the year addressing a large crowd to debate changing the date of Australia Day, she highlighted that for too long 'Indigenous people had been talked about, rather than to.'
A performer who graduated from the Aboriginal Centre for Performing Arts in QLD, Wangurra has gone on to share the stage with some of our best artists including Jessica Mauboy, and also shared her positivity and passion for culture with communities around the country. After 15 years of facilitating and delivering workshop programs for sporting codes, community organisations and creative entities, 2018 will be a huge year that will see Wangurra launch #QueenMode, a program designed to empower and support young women to thrive, and touring various countries as the latest cast member of the world wide hit group Hot Brown Honey, a collective of female performers from across the country and Pacific Nations.
Currently on tour in the UK with the group at sell out shows, Wangurra will be travelling across North America with the cast who have received rave reviews with their cheeky, political and boldly feminist appearances from Edinburgh Festival to Sydney Festival and beyond.
The new year will also see Wangurra be a part of the Indigenous Marathon Foundation and facilitating workshops with We Al-li, helping to heal our wounds nationally with trauma informed care.
With an Uncle who played for the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the 1980s, 22 year old rugby player, Maurice Longbottom always dreamed that he would play for the NRL. Told he was too short, it’s now a dream come true for the talented sportsman who has just signed with Australia’s Rugby sevens team up until 2020. Speaking with SBS, Longbottom says that he hopes to be an inspiration to young Indigenous athletes. "I'd love to go out and see other Aboriginal kids and really encourage them to have a crack at sevens," Longbottom said.
Zachary Bennett-Brook is an award-winning Torres Strait Islander artist who has grown up in Wollongong on Dharawal Country. His connection to the water through his culture and hometown has been the inspiration behind his successful brand of surfboard designs. With a distinctive and eye-catching style, his designs have seen his work picked up and acknowledged around the world from the US to Japan to Spain. Bennet-Brook says he discovered his passion for sharing stories from his culture and decided to combine this with his passion for surfing.
Speaking to NITV earlier in the year, he said sharing this positivity was important for his community and the world, "If I can share my art with people from all over the world and create positive awareness about Indigenous culture and the importance of knowledge/education so we can all learn from one another, I think that’s really important." Bennett-Brown is looking forward to a another successful year in 2018 consisting of a second collection of socks with Soxy Beast, working alongside surf brand Afends to create a new Indigenous collection and heading overseas to paint surfboards and murals.
Young fashion designer, Alicia Geary was one of three national finalists to be flown to London for the inaugural Pitch@Palace competition, founded by the Duke of York, HRH Prince Andrew. Her start up business Faebella, a new active-wear label took out the top spot and has helped Geary gain international attention for her clever brand and designs. The Gurang Gurang/Wuthathi woman spoke to NITV earlier in the year and said she was surprised and honoured by the win. “It was very unexpected, but I’m very excited about winning as it gives my business global exposure and help others learn more about our culture.”
After winning an Indigenous Community Excellence Scholarship to study Business/Laws, Geary decided that her path was exploring her creativity and culture through fashion. After seeing a particular gap in the active wear market, she set out to find Indigenous designers across the country to contribute to the brand. Her growing customer base will be able to learn about the story behind each design and connect to the land and Indigenous culture through every purchase.
Young actress, Chenoa Deemal will be lighting up the stage in 2018 as part of the World Premiere of a new David Williamson play titled 'SORTING OUT RACHEL'. Deemal grew up in the Far North Queensland mining town of Cape Flattery and has always had a love of storytelling. Speaking to Scenestr she said, “Being on stage made me feel like there was something that I really loved to do. I was a very shy kid, and I felt like the stage was somewhere I could shine and feel like more of myself than anything I’d ever done before. It was my favourite thing to do every year. So, when I got to high school I studied drama. It just kept escalating from there.”
Talented AFL forward, Liam Ryan has been gaining a lot of media attention for his “high-flying skills’. The newly recruited West Coast Eagles player has taken the code by storm with his prowess on the field. The 21-year-old said only now he feels ready to make his mark, as last year he wasn't ready.
Helpmann Award winning actor Guy Simon had a huge year in 2017 and will continue his rise in the industry as the current face of Sydney Theatre Company. With credits that include Redfern Now, The Wrong Girl the young Worimi actor from La Perouse, who studied at NIDA after being discovered by Leah Purcell. He picked up his first major award as title role in the Belvoir and Melbourne Theatre Company productions of Jasper Jones. Simon will begin 2018 working on a production of Tommy Murphy’s Award winning and critically acclaimed play ‘Strangers in Between’ for a three week Melbourne season at 45 Downstairs from 24 January.