Gold Coast-based artist Samuel Leighton-Dore has taken out one of the country's top LGBTQIA+ awards for best Australian visual artist.
Leighton-Dore, who is also a writer for SBS Pride, said he was thrilled to be honoured at the ACON Honours award ceremony held at the Ivy ballroom in Sydney's CBD on Wednesday night.
First held in 2007, the not-for-profit annual event celebrates outstanding service and achievement in the LGBTIQA+ community in Australia. It also operates as a gala fundraiser for ACON, a support organisation providing LGBTIQA specific healthcare and community services.
Leighton-Dore was one of 32 finalists selected from over 200 nominations across nine categories covering business, health, HIV, youth, community, entertainment, visual arts, media and culture.
"It's such an honour to win this award, to be nominated by my community is truly humbling," Leighton-Dore told SBS Voices.
"Australia's queer community has given me such a profound sense of belonging and purpose since I came out in high school. It really empowered me when I was unsure of my place in the world."
Leighton-Dore has held sold-out exhibits in Sydney and recently published a graphic novel 'How to be a big strong man' exploring the impact of rigid masculine stereotypes on young boys and men.
He says the recognition was deeply 'affirming' given that his first exhibit and writing work was funded and supported by LGBTIQA+community organisations.
"I never went to art school and only began sharing my creative work publicly a couple of years ago, so my exhibitions are really born from a need to express myself creatively. I love creating immersive worlds with my art, but these worlds hold limited power if they're not meaningfully engaged with," he said.
"To have people respond positively to my work, and to be recognised for it with an award, is incredibly affirming. It makes me excited to produce more work. This community has given me innumerable opportunities and has championed my work since day one, so it couldn't be more special that this award comes from those for whom I create the work."
The community hero award went to Holly Conroy, who featured in SBS documentary Untold Australia: Country Town Pride, and was a driving force behind the first-ever Pride parade in Wagga Wagga last year.
SBS Australia presented the award for Community Organisation of the year to the Sydney chapter of PFLAG Australia (Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays), a non-profit voluntary organisation dedicated to supporting family and friends of LGBTIQ+ people.
You can watch Holly Conroy in Untold Australia: Country Town Pride on SBS On Demand.