Warwick Thornton’s outback western Sweet Country has taken out six awards at the AACTA and AFI Awards winning the top prize for best film and best actor for its breakout star.
Hamilton Morris, who had barely acted before, was recognised for his portrayal of Sam – an Aboriginal stockman who goes on the run with his wife after killing a white settler in self defence.
The newcomer said he was “honoured” and was left speechless after the unexpected win.
"I was really surprised I had no words to say up there," Morris said.
The film had won best editing, screenplay, cinematography in the first round of awards on Monday and continued the successful streak on Wednesday night – edging out Boy Erased, Breath, Cargo and Ladies in Black.
Thornton, who shot Sweet Country in 22 days using many locals from Alice Springs, won the award for best direction and used his acceptance speech in support of the children detained on Manus Island and Nauru.
"My family have been looking after boat people for 200 years, why are we doing this again," he said.
"Why is society being so childish?"
Gurrumul won best documentary feature, marking first time AACTA wins for director Paul Damien Williams.
"The film shows a man a part of two separate worlds,” he told NITV News.
The first one is his traditional Indigenous culture and the second one is him as an emerging world music superstar."
"The film sort of pivots on the tension between those two very separate worlds."
Other big winners on the night included Joel Edgerton who won best adapted screenplay for Boy Erased and 17-year-old actress Angourie Rice for her lead role in Ladies in Black.
Veteran actor Bryan Brown – who also starred in Sweet Country - was honoured for his outstanding contribution to Australian cinema with the Longford Lyell Award.
Deborah Mailman won a best actress award for her role in Mystery Road and Wayne Blair won a best supporting actor award for his.
Aaron Pedersen star of the TV cop drama said he was pleased the industry was slowly embracing a wider variety of roles.
"People should just be storytellers and that's how they should be treated and cast, it shouldn't matter what you look like," he said.
"It's good to see roles that reflect a diverse range of people."