Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have been urged to stand strong and speak up for the survival of their children and families.
The tireless social justice work of two prominent Aboriginal women has been recognised at the annual NAIDOC awards in Sydney.
The first woman to be appointed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar, was named NAIDOC Person of the Year on Friday night.
“Our voices … will be the makings of a stronger generation and a stronger nation,” Dr Oscar said, urging the women in the room to stand.
“Let me say I hear you. I hear your voice. You are here, you are not silent. You are not invisible. Our voices are rising loud and clear.
“We must all be unshakeable. We cannot bend for this world, let the world bend for us.”
Internationally renowned human rights advocate Pat Anderson, who has dedicated decades to improving the health and education of women and children, was awarded a lifetime achievement prize.
The Alyawarre woman said the 2018 NAIDOC theme ‘Because of her we can’, was fitting, given the hard-fought, and often unrecognised, contributions of Indigenous women.
“This is so long overdue. Many of us have taken shit all our lives.”
She dedicated the award to “women from the Stolen Generations and all displaced people,” saying she despaired that so many Aboriginal women were still living in “desperate circumstances because of family violence”.
The NAIDOC awards celebrated the achievements of seven Indigenous individuals — and one business — for their contributions to sport, community services, education, and social justice.
A Bunuba woman, from Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia, Dr Oscar is one of the most respected Aboriginal leaders in the nation and has championed the rights of Indigenous girls and the preservation of languages.
In 2007, she drove a community-led campaign to restrict the sale of full-strength takeaway alcohol in some communities, and she has often spoken about the prevalence of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder among Aboriginal children.
Dr Oscar dedicated the award to her mother and grandmother, who were “fierce and independent Bunuba women who stood on the precipice of change”.
Ms Anderson was honoured with the NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award, for decades of advocacy for First Nations people.
She recently served as a co-chair on the Referendum Council which consulted with hundreds of Indigenous people to deliver the historic Uluru Statement from the Heart.
“Sometimes I think we forget we are so fantastically resilient and wonderful,” she said.
“I am so proud and so humbled and so pleased.”
The Yorta Yorta rapper, actor, writer and comedian Adam Briggs won Artist of the Year for his work in the Australian hip-hop scene and for speaking out against injustices affecting Indigenous people.
His song, January 26, performed as one half of the duo AB Original, challenged listeners to think differently about Australia Day.
Briggs dedicated his award to his nan, Mary Briggs, who was the “backbone” of his family in Shepparton in regional Victoria.
“It’s through her fearlessness that I’m able to do what I can do.”
Folau Paul Talbot
Folau Paul Talbot works as a dental technician in rural towns in northern New South Wales, and has spearheaded a dental revolution in Aboriginal communities.
In a region where there are few dental services, Mr Talbot often works in a mobile denture van which can fit Aboriginal people with new teeth within a week.
He said he had “never imagined I’d receive a NAIDOC award,” and dedicated the honour to his mother.
“This is one of the biggest achievements of my life.”
Russell Charles Taylor
The male elder of the year was named as Russell Charles Taylor, a Kamilaroi man, whose lengthy service as a cultural leader and public sector executive was recognised.
Under his leadership, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) became the world’s largest collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage materials.
“I just feel blessed and wonderfully privileged,” he said.
Aunty Lynette Nixon
Aunty Lynette Nixon was named Female Elder of the Year, she was described as the Cultural Keeper of Knowledge for Gunggari people in Queensland.
As a story-teller and educator she regularly shares the importance of keeping connected to land, language, identity and cultural practices.
Professor Michelle Trudgett, from the Wiradjuri Nation, was awarded the 2018 Scholar of the Year.
She is the founding Director of the Centre for the Advancement of Indigenous Knowledges at the University of Technology in Sydney.
Son of former senator and Olympian Nova Peris, the 14-year-old was named 2018 Sportsperson of the Year.
He recently became the national champion in the under-16 400m, and said his “future goal is to run for Australia”.
The Wuthathi and Meriam woman won the 2018 Youth of the Year, for using her role as the Director of Indigtek to create a strong community of Indigenous tech engineers and entrepreneurs.
Mungalla Aboriginal Business Corporation
The north Queensland-based company won the 2018 Caring for Country Award.