• Elijah Manis, Ash Barty and Aunty Lois Peeler: three of this year's NAIDOC winners! (Supplied)Source: Supplied
It's that time again! Take a look at this year's NAIDOC Award winners, celebrated for their achievements, hard work and dedication.
Dan Butler

2 Jul 2022 - 10:11 PM  UPDATED 2 Jul 2022 - 10:21 PM

The NAIDOC Awards are a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander strength, excellence, beauty, intelligence and commitment.

Candidates are nominated by people who have witnessed first-hand the difference they make in the community, with the winners selected by the NAIDOC committee themselves. 

Take a look at the achievers and achievements of the 2022 NAIDOC Award winners here.

Person of the Year - Ash Barty

A beloved national icon, the woman who needs no introduction, and a legend in her own time.

It should come as little surprise to anyone who has paid even small heed to Ash Barty's exploits over the last year that she has been recognised with the NAIDOC Award for Person of the Year. 

The 26-year-old retired earlier this year at the top of her game: a three-time grand slam winner, the World No. 1, and the first person from this country to secure that position since fellow great (and personal friend and mentor) Evonne Goolagong Cawley.

Looking back: The NAIDOC awards, the themes and how they started
From 'Advance Australia Where?' to 'Because of her, we can!' NAIDOC themes have regularly been built on the power of the past.

A proud Ngarigo woman, Barty's stellar career and perennially humble demeanor have made her an inspiration for millions nationwide, but especially for First Nations women. 

Barty proudly declares her identity in literal and figurative arenas around the world, all the more powerful because of their historical association with colonial powers. 

Her work, now that she has retired from tennis, has not stopped. She has shown her passion for youth outreach and connection to culture, writing children's books and volunteering with services for First Nations youth. 

Lifetime Achievement Award - Uncle Stan Grant Sr.

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. 

Uncle Stan's status as an inspirational role model for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and the broader Australian community is unprecedented.

He is recognised to have transformed many lives across the nation by dedicating his life to revitalising the Wiradjuri language and reorienting people according to the values of the Yindyamarra: giving honour, going slowly and taking responsibility for generations to come. 

Aurukun portrait wins national photo prize
Palawa photographer Wayne Quilliam has won a $50,000 prize for his beautiful picture titled 'Silent Strength 2021'.

His journey began when he was a young boy, taught by his grandfather Budyaan Wilfred Johnson to fluently speak language. First Nations people were forbidden from speaking their own languages, but Uncle Stan was never deterred. 

For the past 30 years, he has worked tirelessly to bring his grandfather's dream to life, fostering the Wiradjuri language and culture amongst the next generations. 

Male Elder Award - Uncle Jack Charles

Everyone knows Uncle Jack Charles. He's a beloved figure across the country, his basso tones familiar to all of us from his long work on stage and TV. 

The Boon Wurrung and Dja Dja Wurrung Elder has many more strings to his bow however, using his experience as a survivor of the Stolen Generations to advocate for other survivors, mentoring prisoners through the Archie Roach Foundation, and most recently putting a famous face to the testimony offered in Victoria's truth-telling process.

As a queer Aboriginal man who has overcome much hardship, including many brushes with the law, Uncle Jack has provided inspiration and leadership to countless First Nations people.

Female Elder Award - Aunty Lois Peeler

Aunty Lois Peeler grew up with incredibly staunch Elders. 

Her early life at Cummeragunja saw her surrounded by Blak royalty like William Cooper, Jack Patten and Marge Tucker. 

The Yorta Yorta and Wurundjeri woman's exposure to the luminaries of the First Nations political movement of the 20th century was no doubt pivotal in giving her the confidence to become the country's first-ever Aboriginal model at the age of 17, and tour a war-torn Vietnam as one of the original members of The Sapphires. 

It also gave her a lifelong appreciation of the value of education, something that she has advocated for powerfully for decades, and which she now practices every day as the principal of the country's only boarding school for Aboriginal girls. 

Uncle Jack Charles asked to prove Aboriginality for Stolen Generations reparations

Worawa College in Victoria stands on the site of former Aboriginal station Coranderrk, home to Elder William Barak. His legacy of advocacy continues in the education of the next generation's leaders on the same Country.

Worawa welcomes girls from all over the country, including very remote areas, and offers a holistic education focussing on health and wellbeing, and cultural connection as much as academic outcomes.

Education Award - Professor Bronwyn Fredericks 

Professor Bronwyn Fredericks is the current Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Engagement) at the University of Queensland.

A highly regarded and respected academic within the sector, Professor Fredericks has over 30 years of experience working in the tertiary environment, state and federal governments, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-based organisations.

Prior to joining UQ, she was Professor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Engagement) at Central Queensland University (CQU). She was also the Chairperson of CQU Academic Board and BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance Chair in Indigenous Engagement.

She led CQU’s Reconciliation Action Plan process and the Office of Indigenous Engagement Change Proposal – initiatives which focused on realigning functions and activities to maximise resources provided for Indigenous education and support.

Sportsperson Award - Buddy Franklin

Lance "Buddy" Franklin - another winner who needs no introduction.  

The beloved Swans forward recently made headlines across the country as the scene of him kicking his 1000th career goal covered news bulletins.

The outpouring of affection evident in those pictures is representative of the feelings the proud Noongar man inspires. 

The milestone also puts him high on the list of the greatest goal kickers of all-time, one of only six people to cross the 1000 mark.

It is only the latest achievement in a stellar career.

Franklin has played 300 AFL games, won two premierships with Hawthorn (2008 and 2013) is also one of just five men with eight All Australian blazers and is the most recent player to have kicked 100 goals in a season (2008).

The Western Australian is also one of just two players in the game’s history, along with former Swan and Saint Tony Lockett, to have booted 300 goals for two clubs. Buddy is also a 4 time Coleman Medal winner (given out to the leading goal kicker in each AFL season) and has twice kicked the AFL goal of the year in 2010 and 2013.

Youth Award - Elijah Manis

Elijah Manis has established himself as an inspiring young leader who passionately stands for a number of community and global matters both in the school and within the wider community.

He stands proud with his identity as a young Torres Strait Islander man, coming from the islands of Masig and Poruma.

He also identifies as a member of the LGBTIQ+ community and has impressed crowds as an articulate speaker at numerous social justice rallies and marches.

A number of newspapers, including The Koori Mail and Cape York Weekly, have acknowledged Elijah’s contributions to the climate change and LGBTIQ+ rallies. Elijah’s impact as an advocate for social justice issues reaches into the creative arts community too where he has been involved in writing and performing poetry, performing traditional dance in the community and school, writing entries for short story competitions, and undertaking acting roles in two short films.

Elijah's incredible achievements, drive and passion have been recognised by the Honourable Leanne Enoch MP with an award at the Algester QlDay Awards ceremony in 2021. 

Creative Talent Award - Lowell Hunter 

Taking a break from the pressures of life one day, Lowell Hunter took himself to his beloved Gunditjmara sea shore.

The Nyul Nyul man from the Dampier Peninsula in Western Australia was born in Naarm, and grew up by the sea. 

Sitting in the sand, the artist began drawing circles around him. He says it made him feel powerful, and protected by his ancestors.  

So began his practice that continues today of creating incredible sand "carvings" that need to be observed from the sky to be fully appreciated. The drone photography of his works have found willing buyers around the world. 

Lowell is always active in his community, engaging with youth organisations locally and interstate to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids to embrace and engage with their culture. 

Caring for Country and Culture Award - Walter Jackson

Ngarrindjeri man Walter Jackson's work over the years to protect Country have been recognised in this year's awards, as the pressing need for environmental preservation becomes ever-more urgent.

Mr Jackson is an active voice for the Ngarrindjeri Nation and more broadly for First Nations people and the wider community with an interest in Aquaponics.

Mr Jackson has been at the forefront of consulting with Ngarrindjeri community on matters related to Caring for Country. He has garnered interest from the Ngarrindjeri community through this consultation process and developed several project proposals and submitted funding applications to federal and state agencies to support the projects.

By way of example, Mr Jackson submitted a successful application for funding through the joint state and Commonwealth government a project titled, “Recycling Modernisation Fund” under the National Partnership on Recycling Infrastructure.

Innovation Award - Koori Mail and volunteers

When Lismore was hit with devastating and destructive floods in February this year, then again just weeks later, despite the immense personal trauma and grief to their staff and offices they immediately pivoted to emergency  information distribution and disaster relief support, co-ordination and leadership.

For the first time in thirty years the newspaper did not go to print, although they may have been able to with the  help of other newspaper producers, the shell-shocked team, including staff who had lost their homes, choose to  use their connections, knowledge, skills and sheer stoicism, passion and commitment to provide and co-ordinate disaster relief and support for their First Nations mob and their wider community.

They are without question an inspiration to First Nations people all over so-called Australia, the Australian  community — individuals, communities, authorities, armed forces, emergency services and bureaucracies, and beyond.

As the 2022 National NAIDOC Award nominations closed, the Koori Mail, in what is without question uncomfortable, exhausting and trying circumstances were in production mode to go back to press, all the while continuing to run the relief hub. Their work and governance is self-determination and leadership in action – whether it be producing a newspaper, running a disaster relief hub or both concurrently.

NAIDOC Week is a national celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, history and culture, and runs from July 3-10.

Join the conversation #NAIDOC2022

As the National NAIDOC Principal Media Partner and official Education Partner, National NAIDOC Week will be celebrated across all SBS channels and platforms, including an exclusive NAIDOC collection of series and films available to stream on SBS On Demand and NAIDOC education resources via SBS Learn.