The NAIDOC Awards are a highlight of the year, a chance to reflect on the wealth of talent, generosity and hard work of our community.
It's a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander excellence.
Candidates are nominated by people who have witnessed first-hand the difference they make in the community, with the winners selected by the committee themselves.
The pandemic has repeatedly frustrated efforts to mount the traditional live awards ceremony, always a fun excuse to get a bunch of our people in one room. But in these strange times, we are making do with the cards we're dealt.
Take a look at the achievers and achievements of the 2021 NAIDOC Award winners here.
Person of the Year Award - Keri Tamwoy
"Keri 'Anjimulkan' Tamwoy is a person we all should aspire to be."
This is how Keri's nomination form for Person of the Year began. Her story, one of resilience and courage, begins in her home of Aurukun in Far North Queensland.
The Bjelke‐Petersen state government seized control of Aurukun’s extensive bauxite reserves in 1975. The Church supported legal and political campaigns by the Wik people against the state’s actions which prompted the State to remove the church and replace it with a shire Council funded via the wet canteen. It set in train the collapse of family and clan relationships.
So began Keri's tireless work to support her community, and battle the destructive forces of colonialism.
Keri has many hats. She is a reform leader, the newest mayor of Aurukun, a Family Responsibilities Commissioner, the Chair of Aak Puul Nganta, an organisation leading evidence‐based traditional conservation and management practices. She is co‐founder of the Wik Women’s Group, champions for the education and safety of women and children, and has a leading role in a recent Cape York campaign combatting youth sexual violence.
Her wish is for Australia to understand the richness of culture and spirit held by her people, the kindness, their knowledge and wisdom and gift to the world.
Lifetime Achievement Award - Pat O'Shane AM
The Lifetime Achievement Award celebrates someone who is a legend in the community, for their tireless and longstanding advocacy and support of those around them.
Kunjandji woman Patricia (Pat) O'Shane AM is a retired Australian teacher, barrister, public servant, jurist, and Aboriginal activist.
She was Australia's first Aboriginal magistrate. In 1988, she was elected to the Australian Constitutional Convention, which considered the issue of Australia becoming a republic. She advocated strongly for a separation from England, saying it represented an inexcusable hangover from this country's colonisation.
"(The constitution) was underwritten with the values of power, privilege, elitism, oppression and dispossession. It was blatantly exclusionary. It is no wonder then that the Australian Constitution, designed to institute a constitutional monarchy as the system of government in this country, is such an inadequate and uncertain instrument as it is."
Male Elder of the Year - Uncle Ernest Hoolihan
Townsville local Ernest Hoolihan has spent half a century tirelessly working towards equal rights and improved outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
As an employee of the Department of Social Services, Ernest saw first hand the struggles many First Nations people had in their encounters with bureaucracy, complicating benefit applications and causing stress.
Ernie, as he's known, took it upon himself to help and advise people navigating a foreign and often hostile system, much of it in his own time.
It was the beginning of a lifetime of community support, including the foundation of accommodation centre Yumba-Meta, helping set up the Townsville Aboriginal Cultural Centre, and significant involvement in the establishment of the Aboriginal and Islanders Health service in his beloved hometown.
A Justice of the Peace and also a Civil Marriage celebrant for decades, Ernie has helped marry more than 500 couples, and at 88, he shows no signs of slowing down.
Female Elder of the Year - Aunty Christobel Swan
Aunty Christobel Swan is a proud Pertame Southern Arrernte woman, who grew up on‐country at Henbury Station, and now resides in Mparntwe.
Elders of the Year are nominated for exemplifying the values important to First Nations peoples, and demonstrating a commitment to benefiting Indigenous people over the long term, with results to show.
Aunty Christobel is a leader in Aboriginal language rights. She was one of the first-ever Aboriginal interpreters in the Northern Territory, working within the courts, prisons, Centrelink and hospitals for 30 years to ensure that Aboriginal people received vital information in a language they could understand.
Christobel was the Co‐Ordinator of the Aboriginal Interpreter Service at the Institute for Aboriginal Development throughout the 1980s. Christobel is NAATI accredited to interpret in five Indigenous languages, Eastern Arrernte, Western Arrarnta, Pertame, Luritja and Pitjantjara.
Even though she is now retired, Christobel still works tirelessly to save her language and teach it to the next generation. In 2017, she took a family of women from Melbourne out to her homelands and communicated her vision to run an on‐Country language and culture school for Pertame children. The women have since granted several philanthropic donations to help make Christobel’s dream a reality.
Scholar of the Year - Sasha Purcell
Torres Strait Islander woman Sasha Purcell has been awarded Scholar of the Year for her work in connecting her alma mater, the University of Queensland, and the Torres Strait Islands.
She's also completing a large research project on climate change, something that stands to disproportionately affect her ancestral lands.
Sasha has been at pains to include the community in all aspects of her research, and is passionate about advocating for Indigenous climate rights.
She has an "unending" passion for human rights, and has a wish to represent Indigenous issues at the United Nations.
Apprentice of the Year — Jarron Andy
Jarron was nominated "for his incredible dedication to not only his work, but his dedication to his culture".
The 28-year-old Djiru Waanyi Yidinji Kuku Yalanji man was formerly a banana plantation worker, but after completing a 10-week apprentice course, became the first-ever Indigenous home shopping TV presenter.
His achievements include co‐hosting a ‘Buy from the Bush’ TV special to support rural communities in need.-
He is also carving a career for himself as an actor and model.
Sportsperson of the Year - Clarence McCarthy-Grogan
Clarence (CJ) McCarthy-Grogan is currently in the Australian Men's Wheelchair Basketball team.
He made his official Australian debut at the Tokyo Invitational Tournament in September 2019. Upon achieving this milestone, CJ has become only the second Aboriginal person to represent Australia in the history of wheelchair basketball since Kevin Coombes in the 1970s.
Clarence has a load of awards to his name already, including Most Valuable Player and the Most Points Scored, and is the co-captain of his team, the Movin' Mavs.
He's currently in his fourth year of studying Public Health at the University of Texas Arlington.
Youth of the Year - Samara Fernandez-Brown
Samara Fernandez‐Brown is a proud Warlpiri woman who splits her time between her community in
Yuendumu and her hometown in Adelaide, South Australia.
Samara is an advocate for her people and has become a social justice activist following the shooting and death of her cousin, Kumanjayi Walker in 2019.
Samara was back on Country for a family funeral at the time of the shooting and used social media to bring international attention to the police brutality and injustice in her community.
Despite her young age, Samara has been a role model for her community long before this tragedy
touched her life.
Samara is completing her Bachelor of Psychology and Counselling at the University of South Australia and is hoping to use these skills to help young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people overcome disadvantages and realise their resilience and strength.
In addition to her studies, she currently works as a Student Support Officer at Wirltu Yarlu Aboriginal Education, supporting young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander high school students to successfully complete their secondary education and transition into University.
Artist of the Year — Bobbi Lockyer
Creatives of all stripes may be nominated for the Artist of the Year award, with an emphasis on empowering communities and effecting cultural change through their creative work.
Multi-disciplinary artist Bobbi Lockyer, who works in traditional painting, digital illustration, graphic design and photography, is inspired by the natural environment, and her connections with family and Country.
The Ngarluma Karriyarra Yawuru Nyulnyul woman has created a photo series of works celebrating Birthing on Country, and gives a voice to those who unfortunately have suffered without access to traditional birthing practices.
Bobbi Lockyer is an official creator for Nikon Australia and her work has been published all over the
world including in Vogue Magazine and New York Fashion Week.
Caring for Country Award - Borroloola Community
The Borroloola community is home to the Yanyuwa, Gurdanji Garawa and Mara people. For the past 8 years the Borroloola community has been a powerhouse and has stood up to the dangerous gas projects that have been threatening to frack their land.
The community has led the way when it comes to campaigning for climate justice, with the Water is Life documentary sharing the story of the fight against fracking in Borroloola.
For the Borroloola community, caring for Country is more than a value, it’s a way of life.
Generations of community members are standing up to protect water and Country for future generations. The strength and passion that the community has made them deserving winners of this year's award.
NAIDOC Poster Competition Winner - Maggie-Jean Douglas
The NAIDOC poster competition is a prestigious and exciting part of every year's celebrations, and this year's winner is the deadly Gubbi Gubbi artist Maggie-Jean!
Her artwork was a beautiful exploration of the theme Heal Country!, an incredibly important one given the dire environmental straits we find ourselves in these days.
It represented peoples of the desert and the coast; coming together in community, and also walking alone amongst nature; and the tracks of emus and kangaroos bounce throughout.
It is a beautiful depiction of the connection First Nations people share with our Country, and an important reminder to listen to our knowledge in helping heal the planet.
After multiple reschedules due to COVID-19, the 2021 NAIDOC Awards ceremony has officially been cancelled. NITV will celebrate the winners on-air and online from 1 December.