• Arnhem Land band East Journey performing in 2015 at the NIMA concert. (NIMA)Source: NIMA
The annual National Indigenous Music Awards (NIMA) has kicked off its 2016 program.
Kate Eastoe

28 Apr 2016 - 4:53 PM  UPDATED 28 Apr 2016 - 5:01 PM

The 2016 NIMA Awards has announced the ceremony, scheduled for August 6 in Darwin, will celebrate protest songs.

The award ceremony's theme lands in a year punctuated by a series of significant milestones for Australia's Indigenous community, including the 40th anniversary of the Land Rights Act and the 50th anniversary of the Vincent Lingiari led Wave Hill walk off, which land in 2016. 

NIMA Awards executive director Mark Smith says he wants the awards to acknowledge "the strong role of music in driving protest”.

"This year, we’re using our platform to recognise achievements in change," he says.

The NIMAs is recognised for its role in publicising Australian Indigenous artists and providing musicians with an avenue to develop. 

“For young Indigenous artists, NIMA provides an outlet to celebrate excellence, especially for those in the emerging stages of their career," Mr Smith says. 

As in previous years, there are seven national categories of nominations available to the public for voting. They include the coveted 'Artist of the Year', 'Album of the Year' awards and 'New Talent of the Year'. A further category caters to local Northern Territory solo and group artists.

Mark Smith says he is confident that the number of nominations will grow for 2016.

“There has been more growth than ever since the awards went national in 2011, attracting artists from all states and territories, and we’re looking forward to seeing that continue,” Mr Smith told NITV News.

Rrawun Maymuru, lead singer of Arnhem Land band East Journey, speaks fondly of the band’s involvement with the awards.

“Getting recognition from NIMA is always a good feeling, but it also makes music people take notice," Rrawun Maymuru says.

"We played a gig last month for Byron Bay Bluesfest and got a chance to show people our band. It was very successful, and without NIMA they wouldn’t know who we are. It’s a great thing to be involved with”.

East Journey won the 2014 'National Film Clip of the Year' award, and were finalists in three categories in 2015. The band has performed twice at NIMA ceremonies.  

Nominations for the awards close on June 7 2016.

This year’s awards ceremony will be held on August 6 at the Darwin Amphitheatre, as part of the larger Darwin Festival program, which runs from August 4-21.