• Nova Peris AO receives Lifetime Achievement at the Dreamtime Awards 2019. (NITV)Source: NITV
Former Labor senator and two-time Olympian, Nova Peris has been honoured at the third Dreamtime Awards. Tennis star Ashleigh Barty takes home Person of the Year.
Brooke Fryer

17 Nov 2019 - 11:34 AM  UPDATED 17 Nov 2019 - 11:34 AM

Nova Peris has had a lifetime of achievements; from an Olympic gold medal winner to be the first Indigenous woman elected into federal parliament. On Saturday night, she was rightfully acknowledged at the 2019 Dreamtime Awards as the recipient for the 2019 Lifetime Achievement award.

In announcing the winner of the top award, chairperson of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, Ann Dennis acknowledged Ms Peris as a woman 'we can all learn from'. 

In an emotional speech, Ms Peris accepted the award she thanked the Rose family, the event's organisers, for providing the opportunity to celebrate Black excellence on a big scale.  

"I often talk to many many school kids - hundreds and hundreds - and corporates. And I say to them that I'm living proof that irrespective of circumstance if you believe, if you have talent and you're willing to make the ultimate sacrifices in life, then you can achieve anything," she said. 

"We have so much sorry business, and I've been to so many funerals this year, there's been deaths and so many suicides - but we are strong people, we are resilient people, we are f*cking brilliant people. 

"As three per cent of the population, we punch well, well above our weight."

"And as three per cent of the population, we punch well, well above our weight," she said, initiating a cheer from the crowd. 

Ms Peris, a woman of the Yawuru, Gidja and Iwatja people, first represented Australia in the 1996 Summer Olympics as part of the Australian Women’s Hockey team, becoming the first Aboriginal Australian to win an Olympic gold medal.

Then at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, she took home another gold, but as a track star in the 200m sprint and the 4x100 metres relay. Following her sporting achievements, Ms Peris was named the 'Young Australian of the Year' in 1997, the same year she was made an Order of Australia.

Most remarkably, Ms Peris was the first Australian to run with the Sydney 2000 torch on home soil as part of the Olympic Games. It was at these games she made it to the semi-finals for the 400m track and was on the relay team for the 4 x 100m where they placed fifth.

She continues to remain the only person in the world to make it to two consecutive Summer Olympic Games finals in two different sports.

After a successful career as an athlete, in 2013, Ms Peris became the first Indigenous woman elected into federal parliament. She was sworn into parliament as a Labor senator on 12 November under the Gillard government.

Last month, a portrait of Ms Peris was unveiled at Parliament House, part of the country’s longest-running art commissioning program — the Historic Memorials Collection. The portrait was the first to ever be painted by an Indigenous artist, Dr Jandamarra Cadd.

This year, Ms Peris was also a contestant on the popular Channel 10 reality program, Australian Survivor: Champions v Contenders, an experience she says she was motivated to undertake after being inspired by the 2018 NAIDOC theme, Because of Her, We Can. 


Highlights of the night

Held at Sydney's The Star Casino, the third Dreamtime Awards is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.

The wider community is able to nominate groups and individuals online, with the judging panel choosing a final four and then coming together to further narrow down a winner.

Leading up to the event, the awards' founder Matt Rose told NITV News that the night 'brings all the best blackfellas together in one room.'

"We see a lot of negative stories out there and I wanted to bring something positive," he said.

"And over the last two years that's what we've had, really positive stories from all over Australia and celebrating all the things that we as blackfellas are achieving every day."

The red carpet saw the likes of Canberra Raiders star Jack Wighton, actor Meyne Wyatt, musician Mitch Tambo and even Playschool's Kiya doll. As well as many legendary figures, making a difference in their respective communities. Hosts of the evening were comedian and Channel 9's The Block participant, Andy Saunders and NITV's The Point presenter, Rachael Hocking. 

Despite such a celebratory evening, the past week's tragic events were still in the hearts and minds of all attending. With it being the week's anniversary of the fatal shooting in Yuendumu, NT, host of the evening, Rachael Hocking, a Walpiri herself, initiated a minute's silence to reflect on the recent news.

With so many award winners in the midst of their successful careers, a little under half of the evening's winners could only attend in spirit, some delivering their acceptance speech by video and others sending their loved ones to accept the award on their behalf. It was a stage of many proud parents including Brooke Boney's mother, Leonie Boney and Ashleigh Barty's parent's Josie and Robert Barty. 



Ashleigh Barty wins Person of the Year and Female Sportsperson of the Year

From Ipswich in Queensland to the world tennis court, Ashleigh Barty has been acknowledged as both, the Person of the Year and the Female Sportsperson of the Year.

On presenting the Person of the Year award, Aunty Janet Smith, Treasurer of the award's Sponsor Link-Up NSW, made mention of the tumultuous bushfires burning across NSW and talked about the things in life that are important. 

"Last week I had a loud knock on my door in Kempsey where I live.," she began. "I opened it and it was a firefighter. He said, 'ma'am you have to evacuate now'.

"I thought, what am I going to take? I looked around and you wouldn't believe what I picked up. I grabbed my bag and I picked up a photo of my mum and dad's wedding. They were married in 1941 at Purfleet Mission.

And it just goes to show you what you value. I didn't take anything else - I don't know what I'm going to go home to, I don't even know if my house is still standing - but that was the only thing I value." 

Unable to attend, Ms Barty's parents, Josie and Robert Barty took to the stage and accepted the award for her.

Mr Barty, a Ngario man, said that his daughter would be "incredibly humbled and somewhat embarrassed to be accepting the award, given the amount of talent and level excellence across all our nations". 

In lieu of her presence, he shared some of Ms Barty's achievements this last year. 

"Her and Evonne [Goolagong] were doing a surprise visit to some Indigenous kids in Cairns," he said.

"And she spent the day with them, surprised them and when we were jumping back in the plane to head off to another event, she turned to me and said, 'Dad, this is a real thing. This is what I work for, this is what I want to do. This makes a real difference. This is so much better than playing tennis.'" 

Earlier this month Ms Barty received the biggest winner's cheque in tennis history in a game against Ukraine's Elina Svitolina which Ms Barty won 6-4, 6-3.

The game was part of the WTA Finals which saw Ms Barty’s win receive a $US4.42 million ($6.4 million) prize packet. Not even big-name players like Serena Williams and Roger Federer have won so much money in one win.

At just the age of 23, Ms Barty is currently ranked number one in the world in singles by the Women’s Tennis Association.


2019 Dreamtime Awards Winners

Student of the Year: Matthew Watts

Educator of the Year: Amanda Toomey

Institute of the Year: Koorie Education, Deakin University

Organisation of the Year: The Purple House

Business of the Year: Walkabout Barber

Community Person of the Year: Thomas Cameron

Sports Talent of the Year: Brent Naden

Female Sportsperson of the Year: Ashleigh Barty

Male Sportsperson of the Year: Jack Wighton

Female Actor of the Year: Rarriwuy Hick

Male Actor of the Year: Rob Collins

Media Person of the Year: Brooke Boney

Male Artist of the Year: Electric Fields

Female Artists of the Year: Jessica Mauboy

Lifetime Achievement Award: Nova Peris OA

Elder of the Year: Uncle Ralph Naden

Person of the Year: Ashleigh Barty