This years batch of Australian of the Year Awards finalists saw a particularly strong field of Indigenous recipients recognised for their efforts.
The versatile group has been praised at an annual breakfast held by Reconciliation Australia on Thursday, in a bid to raise awareness of the immense contributions that First Australians make to bettering our nation.
Seven of the 32 state and territory recipients are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, including three of the seven finalists for the main award category of Australian of the Year.
"To see such a strong field of Indigenous finalists for this year’s awards demonstrates to Indigenous Australians that their contributions are acknowledged and valued."
To make this awards ceremony even more special, mother and daughter have both been been nominated for different categories. Two powerful Yolngu women on a mission to help change Australia for the better, and what better than to do it on a year that is celebrating 'because of her, we can! - the NAIDOC theme for 2018.
Community peacemaker Bettina Danganbarr goes above and beyond for those around her. Passionate about improving the lives of vulnerable women in her community, Bettina opened her own home as a makeshift women’s shelter and later championed the establishment of the Galiwin’ku Women’s Space. The NT Local Hero recipient, who classifies herself as an 'unstoppable woman on a mission' has been able to share her special day celebrating not just her efforts, but her mothers too.
Kathy Guthadjaka was the 2018 NT Senior Australian of the Year recipient and having the deadly duo together was also
This year the categories recognise a variety of achievements, from Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Local Hero, people are recognised for their contributions to health, education, justice and cultural engagement.
Reconciliation CEO, Karen Mundine says it's the people behind the awards and their stories, that inspire us to help create a better Australia.
"It is great to see a particularly strong field of Indigenous candidates for this year’s awards, including three of seven finalists for the main award category."
This year there is at least one Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander state-level recipient in each of the four award categories and Mundine says they are at the forefront of their fields, whether that’s in health, education, justice or cultural engagement.
"To see such a strong field of Indigenous finalists for this year’s awards demonstrates to Indigenous Australians that their contributions are acknowledged and valued," she said.
"It also demonstrates to broader Australia that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make an immense contribution to bettering our nation."
Mundine believes Indigenous people helped build the country Australians live on, and the rest of us continue to make it a better place.
"We often hear about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being overrepresented in rates of incarceration or out-of-home care," she explained.
"But it’s important to remember that Indigenous people are also disproportionately represented in positive ways, such as in our level of significant achievements and the high number of Indigenous recipients of Australian of the Year Awards is testament to that fact."
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recipients:
- Dr Tracy Westerman (WA Australian of the Year)
- Johnathan Thurston (QLD Australian of the Year)
- Dion Devow (ACT Australian of the Year)
- Kathy Guthadjaka (NT Senior Australian of the Year)
- Bettina Danganbarr (NT Local Hero)
- Kyran Dixon (SA Young Australian of the Year)
- Dr Jessica Manuela (TAS Young Australian of the Year) Non-Indigenous recipients who support or promote Indigenous communities:
- Dr Bo Remenyi (NT Australian of the Year)
- Scott Rankin (TAS Australian of the Year)