National NAIDOC Ball Hobart Tasmania – July 2012


2012 National NAIDOC Award winners honoured in Hobart

Posted on 7 July 2012

Statement by National NAIDOC Committee co-chairpersons Anne Martin and Benjamin Mitchell.

Twelve outstanding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians were honoured at the 2012 National NAIDOC Awards Ceremony and Ball in Hobart last night.

The awards highlight the outstanding contributions that Indigenous Australians make to improve the lives of people in their communities and beyond or to promote Indigenous issues in the wider community, or the excellence they’ve shown in their chosen field.

On behalf of the National NAIDOC Committee, it is with great pleasure that we announce the 2012 National NAIDOC Award winners.

Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, presented the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award to Bunna Lawrie, a respected Mirning Elder from South Australia.

Bunna Lawrie is an inspirational role model who reaches people through the gift of music and has been a major contributor to Australian music as a solo artist and founding member of the band Coloured Stone.

The 2012 Person of the Year Award was sponsored by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. This award went to David Wirrpanda for his work with Indigenous young people and the establishment of the David Wirrpanda Foundation. David will receive a $20,000 bursary to assist him to continue his amazing work.

Awards were issued across 10 categories and included joint winners for the Sportsperson of the Year and Female Elder or the Year Awards.

The 2012 National NAIDOC Award recipients are:

  •  Lifetime Achievement Award – Bunna Lawrie, South Australia
  •  Person of the Year – David Wirrpanda, Victoria
  •  Female Elder of the Year – Margaret Lawton, Queensland and Maureen Kelly, Western Australia
  •  Male Elder of the Year – Hezekiel Jingoonya, Northern Territory
  •  Caring for Country – Bunya Bunya Country Aboriginal Corporation, Queensland
  •  Youth of the Year – Benson Saulo, Victoria
  •  Artist of the Year – Stephen Page, Queensland
  •  Scholar of the Year – Sarah Bourke, Australian Capital Territory
  •  Apprentice of the Year – Michael Clinch, South Australia
  •  Sportsperson of the Year – Vanessa Wilson, South Australia and Joshua Robinson, Queensland.

Our deepest congratulations go to all the 2012 National NAIDOC Award winners. Your achievements and commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culture is exceptional.

The 2012 National NAIDOC Awards Ceremony and Ball was the highlight of an exciting and diverse week of NAIDOC activities across Australia.

Held at the Hotel Grand Chancellor Hobart, the event was attended by more than 750 guests from across the country including many Tasmanian traditional owners and community representatives, as well high profile names in Indigenous affairs such as Tom Calma, Michael Dodson and Lowitja O’Donoghue.

The night featured an impressive line-up of Indigenous entertainment including comedian Sean Choolburra, local sensation Dewayne Everettsmith, the very talented Emma Donovan and country music legend Troy Cassar-Daley.

Once again congratulations to the National NAIDOC Poster Competition winner, Amanda Joy Tronc, for her inspirational artwork based on this year’s theme Sprit of the Tent Embassy – 40 years on. Amanda was honoured to be presented with a framed copy of the National NAIDOC Poster on the night by Aboriginal Tent Embassy Founder, Michael Anderson.

The National NAIDOC Committee would like to recognise the Australian Government’s support for NAIDOC events across the country.

The committee would also like to thank all those volunteers and community members who have invested significant time and energy in making NAIDOC Week a huge success again this year.

Last night we announced that Perth will be the focus city for national NAIDOC celebrations in 2013. Congratulations Perth!

For more information on NAIDOC Week and the 2012 National NAIDOC Award winners, visit

Media contacts: Amy Williams 0488 560 558 and Jacqui Princi 0429 122 847

Lifetime Achievement Award – Bunna Lawrie

Bunna Lawrie is a respected Mirning Elder, song man, medicine man and storyteller from the coastal Nullabor in South Australia.

Bunna was a founding member of Coloured Stone, a band formed in the Koonibba Mission, west of Ceduna. In 1984 Coloured Stones single Black Boy became a number one hit in the Pacific Islands and the band went on to receive an ARIA in 1986 for their single Human Love.

Over the years the band have collaborated with other music greats including Midnight Oil, Leo Sayer, Jimmy Little and KD Lang. While Coloured Stones members have changed, Bunna has always remained the charismatic front man. Bunna also performs as a solo artist with his band Bunna Lawrie and the Whaledreamers.

Among a long list of awards and accolades, Bunna was awarded the Don Banks Music Award in 1999. This was the first time this award had ever been received by a rock musician.

As well as performing, Bunna has conducted many music workshops with organisations such as Musica Viva and Music Outback. He has taught young people to play musical instruments, compose songs and set them to music.

Bunna is a role model who helps all people through the incredible gift of music.

Person of the Year – David Wirrpanda

David Wirrpanda was raised in Shepparton and Healesville in Victoria. His father is a Yolngu Djapu man from East Arnhem Land and his mother a Dhulanyagan women of the Ulupna Clan, Yorta Yorta.

With a long history in AFL, David’s achievements on the football field include being selected in the all-Australian team in 2005 and winning a premiership with the West Coast Eagles in 2006.

In 2005, David followed his true passion and launched the David Wirrpanda Foundation. The foundation delivers programs to help young Indigenous people make healthy life choices, stay at school and enter the workforce.

David was named in the top ten most influential Indigenous Australians by The Bulletin in 2007 and 2008 and was awarded Young Western Australian of the Year in 2009.

David remains a hands-on Director of the David Wirrpanda Foundation and his important work is helping to close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ disadvantage.

Female Elder of the Year – Margaret Lawton

Margaret Lawton is a Ghungalu and Garingbail Elder and Traditional Owner from Central Queensland. At 82 years of age, still is still working tirelessly to achieve for her people.

In addition to rising a large family of her own, Margaret has extended her home and heart too many Indigenous foster children over her lifetime. She has also worked with other female elders offering aid and food to the homeless.

Margaret is the founder or co-founder of many Indigenous Community organisations in Rockhampton including Bidjerdii Health, Aboriginal Legal Aid, Dreamtime Cultural Centre and Fitzroy Basin Elders Committee, just to name a few.

Margaret is constantly looked to for support, advice and guidance by her community. She has successfully lobbied the causes of her people and brought many local Indigenous community and cultural issues to the public eye.

The local Indigenous and non-Indigenous community agree Margaret is a truly remarkable woman with extraordinary strength and values.

Female Elder of the Year – Maureen Kelly

Maureen Kelly is a Yindjarbarndi Elder from the Pilbara.

As a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother, Maureen has taught her family many skills. Most important, she has them respect for themselves, each other, their Elders, their country and their culture.

Maureen left school at 14 years of age to start work but returned to her education as a grandmother, obtaining a university degree in Community Management.

Having worked in government for the past 37 years, Maureen has also put countless hours into community work and been a member on numerous advisory boards and committees.

She has represented the Aboriginal people locally, nationally and internationally and was the first female Aboriginal Justice of the Peace in the Pilbara.

Maureen has now created her own consultancy business, Sing – Ken Ken Solutions, to further the advancement of Aboriginal people and ensure the government and community respond appropriately to their needs.

Male Elder of the Year – Hezekiel Jingoonya

Hezekiel Jingoonya is a Pitjantjatjara Elder, Lutheran pastor for the Mutitjulu community and mentor in the Western Desert region of Australia.

Hezekiel has worked in the region all of his life and has a passion for teaching and sharing culture. He has been a long time consultant to Parks Australia on the management of cultural heritage and is dedicated to providing cultural education to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park visitors and staff.

Committed to education, Hezekiel takes bush trips with younger Anangu to transfer knowledge and train them to gain employment at the park. He is involved in the Junior Rangers school program and interpretation programs at the cultural centre. Hezekiel speaks numerous Aboriginal Languages and teaches language and Tjkurpa stories to visitors and youth.

A relation of famous artist Albert Namatjita, Hezekiel is an artist himself and has sold several works through Walkatjara Art.

Caring for Country – Bunya Bunya Country Aboriginal Corporation

Bunya Bunya Country Aboriginal Corporation is a small group started by traditional owners that has been involved in rejuvenation work on Biodiversity hot spot, Bli Bli for the last eight years.

The main concerns for the site include extensive land clearing and river bank erosion which means the loss of mangroves, fish, mammal and bird habitat and greater sedimentation of the Maroochy River Estuary.

One inspiring project has been the rehabilitation of the mangrove on the Maroochy Estuary to benefit fish habitat and bank stabilisation. As well as providing consistent and rewarding employment, the shared love for fishing between the Kabi Kabi people, canefarmers and landowners has made this a very successful project.

 The Bli Bli landscape has been a challenge for resource management, but the dedication of Bunya Bunya Country Aboriginal Corporation and their partners has seen positive changes for the waters, the wildlife and the people or the area.

Youth of the Year – Benson Saulo

Benson Saulo has the ability to engage and encourage not only youth but people of all ages.

A born leader, Benson was the captain of his primary school and at age 15, he gained a Traineeship with the ANZ Bank through the Aboriginal Employment Strategy.

Benson was the first Indigenous Australian youth to be elected as the Australian Youth Delegate to the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2011.

In April this year, Benson became the National Director for the Indigenous Australian Youth Leadership Academy.

Benson has a bright future ahead of him and may one day pursue politics, but for now, he has great plans to gain more recognition of Indigenous youth achievements and aspirations within Australia and around the world.

Artist of the Year – Stephen Page

Stephen Page is a descendant of the Nunukul people and the Munaldjali clan of the Yugambeh tribe from southeast Queensland. As the director of Bangarra Dance Theatre and a leading choreographer, Stephen has been a major contributor to Australia’s cultural landscape for 21 years.

Graduating for NAISDA in 1983, Stephen began his career dancing with the Sydney Dance Company and in 1991 was appointed Artistic Director of Bangarra Dance Theatre.

Among countless memorable works with Bangarra which have become highlights in Australian performing arts, Bangarra’s 20th Anniversary production Fire – a retrospective saw Stephen receive the 2010 Helpmann Award for Best Choreography.

Stephen has also choreographed for the Australian Ballet and the feature film The Sapphires as well as directing the Indigenous sections of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

Significantly, Stephen was named New South Wales Australian of the Year in 2008 for his dedication to bringing cultures together though performing arts and developing the next generation of Indigenous storytellers.

Scholar of the Year – Sarah Bourke

Sarah Bourke knew from a young age that she wanted to attend university. With the support of her family and her commitment to her academic pursuits, she has had the opportunity to follow her dreams.

At Radford College in Canberra, Sarah’s academic talent was evident. She was listed on the 2002 Radford College Academic Honour Roll and in 2007 was selected to attend the National Youth Science Forum at the Australian National University.

Sarah went on to complete a double degree in science and arts at the Australian National University and is now completing the Honours Program, researching biological anthropology from an Aboriginal perspective. While at university, Sarah received many scholarships and awards. This year Sarah received the Neville Bonner Memorial Scholarship and Sally White-Diane Barwick Award.

On top of her studies, Sarah finds time for fundraising, volunteer work and mentoring other students.

Sarah’s goal is to become a leader in her field and make lasting changes to how governments, organisations and individuals address improving the health of all Indigenous Australians.

Aprentice of the Year – Michael Clinch

Michael Clinch has shown commitment and dedication to achieve his dream of becoming a motor mechanic.

Growing up in Koonibba Aboriginal Community in South Australia, Michael was inspired by his grandfather who told him he could be anything he wanted to be if he put his mind to it and was committed. Michael watched his grandfathers and uncles fixing cars for the community with pride and passion, and from a young age, he knew he wanted to do the same.

Michael recently completed his apprenticeship as a motor mechanic with Repco in Adelaide. Bright and motivated, Michael rarely missed any days of his apprenticeship despite living more than 25 kilometres away and needing to rely on public transport to get there.

As well as completing his apprenticeship, Michael also cemented his position in the North Adelaide Football league.

Michael is a loving father and partner and an inspirational role model to the Koonibba Aboriginal Community.

Sportsperson of the Year – Vanessa Wilson

Vanessa Wilson is a star of the Netball South Australia League Association, regarded as one of the benchmark state competitions in Australia.

She started playing netball at age 10 at the Garville Club, gained All Australian Honours as a state school girls player by 1996, and captained the Garville State League Reserves Side to a premiership in 2001.

Vanessa is known for her natural ability, calmness and intuitiveness on the court. She has gained a string of netball achievements, including being a key contributor to the Oakdale Club claiming their first premiership win in 2009.

Vanessa wanted to spread her passion for netball by encouraging participation in the sport. She was a driving force in establishing the first South Australian Nunga* Junior Netball Corporation where she is program director and head coach in the junior development programs.

Sportsperson of the Year – Joshua Robinson

Joshua Robinson was born in Toowoomba, Queensland. At only 15 years old, he is already a gifted sportsman and has been representing Queensland in athletics since 2005.

This year at the National Youth Championships in Sydney, Joshua took out five gold medals and set a new state record, running the 400 metre sprint in just 49.31 seconds.

His immediate goal is to compete in the athletics world junior championships in London next year.

As well as a gifted runner, Joshua was recently signed to Manly Sea Eagles NRL team, with three other clubs also competing to sign the young fullback.

Already a sporting hero in his state, Joshua is working towards representing Australia at future Commonwealth and Olympic games.

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