“ This year, 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
It is critical that we Recognise and show our appreciation for the contributions Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have made, and continue to make, to our nation,
We often hear about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being overrepresented in rates of incarceration or out-of-home care.
But it’s important to remember that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are also disproportionately represented in positive ways, such as our level of significant achievements.
The high number of Indigenous recipients of Australian of the Year Awards is testament to that fact.”
Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine said it was important to promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander success because respect and unity are key to reconciliation
See full Bios below of all 7 Indigenous finalists
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)
A particularly strong field of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander finalists for the 2018 Australian of the Year Awards will be recognised this week at a coinciding national event that celebrates Indigenous success.
In the lead-up to the announcement of the national winners, Reconciliation Australia will hold its annual Australian of the Year Awards breakfast this morning Thursday to raise awareness of the immense contributions that First Australians make to bettering our nation.
This year, 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.
There is at least one Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander state-level recipient in each of the four award categories (Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Local Hero).
Their contributions span fields such as health, education, justice and cultural engagement.
The breakfast will also recognised non-Indigenous state and territory award recipients who have done important work to support or promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
The significant representation of First Nations Australians has long been a prominent feature of the Australian of the Year Awards program, which is run by the National Australia Day Council.
Since the awards commenced in 1960, there have been eight Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander recipients of the coveted Australian of the Year Award and four Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander recipients of the Young Australian of the Year Award.
Ms Mundine said she was particularly excited to recognise the achievements of the four female Aboriginal state and territory recipients, in keeping with this year’s NAIDOC Week theme – Because of Her, We Can.
“Indigenous women are leading the way in their own professions, are heading up community organisations, are driving change in their communities – all while nurturing those around them to become the next generation of leaders.”
Non-Indigenous recipients who support or promote Indigenous communities:
• Dr Bo Remenyi (NT Australian of the Year)
• Scott Rankin (TAS Australian of the Year)
2018 WA Australian of the Year
Dr Tracy Westerman
State: Western Australia
A childhood yearning to be a psychologist was sorely tested when Njamal woman, Dr Tracy Westerman, left her home in the Pilbara to attend university where she struggled to reconcile mainstream psychology with Aboriginal culture.
Setting many world first’s including self-funding the development of unique screening tools enabling the identification of Aboriginal people at early stages of suicide and mental health risk, her work has attracted international acclaim since 2003.
It was cited by the Canadian government as “making a substantial contribution to Aboriginal youth mental health”.
In 1998, she founded Indigenous Psychological Services, without funding, solely to address the high rates of mental illness amongst Aboriginal people.
An internationally-recognised leader, Tracy has trained 22,000-plus clinicians in culturally-appropriate psychological approaches and delivered her suicide intervention programs into remote Aboriginal communities throughout Australia.
A trailblazer, Tracy has spent over two decades working to reduce the burden of mental illness in Aboriginal people and ensure minimum standards of cultural competence in her profession
2018 QLD Australian of the Year
NRL player and indigenous mentor
He is known as the best player in Rugby League, but Johnathan Thurston is also one of the most giving.
The captain of the North Queensland Cowboys, Johnathan is an Australian international, Queensland State of Origin and Indigenous All Stars representative halfback, five-eighth and goal-kicker.
In 2015, he became the first four-time Dally M Medallist for the NRL season’s best player, and later the first ever three-time winner of the Golden Boot Award for the world’s best player. Johnathan’s willingness to give is just as legendary. An ambassador for the Queensland Reconciliation Awards, Johnathan has lent his voice to the Recognise campaign to acknowledge Indigenous people in the Constitution.
In 2017, he helped launch the $9.5 million NRL Cowboys House, a home for 50 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from remote north Queensland. Johnathan’s qualities of humility, sportsmanship, leadership and loyalty are admired both on the football field and off, making him an inspiring role model for Indigenous people and a great Australian.
State: Australian Capital Territory
Entrepreneur and community leader
When he chose a controversial name for his business, Dion Devow wanted to reclaim a derogatory term and express pride in his Aboriginal culture and heritage. Darkies Design, which Dion started in 2010, produces contemporary Aboriginal-themed apparel and print media for mainstream, sports and promotional use.
One of Dion’s first concepts was a t-shirt with a simple logo: 100% Pure Australian. Darkies Design collaborates with Indigenous artists and designers to produce his designs, and has also supplied ceremonial uniforms to the Department of Veterans Affairs for the teams participating in Australia’s First World War Centenary Commemorations on the Western Front.
Quiet yet outspoken, Dion now champions other Indigenous people to build businesses and achieve economic independence.
In 2014, Dion created the Canberra Business Yarning Circle, an Indigenous business owners network. An ambassador for Indigenous Community Volunteers, Dion also sits on the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body and is working hard to help other Indigenous business owners achieve their dreams
2018 NT Senior Australian of the Year
State: Northern Territory
Educator and pioneering academic
A senior Elder from Gäwa in north-east Arnhem Land, Kathy Guthadjaka is passionate about preserving traditional knowledge and sharing this with the greater global community.
Gotha, as she is known, has worked as an educator since the mid-1960s. Growing up on a mission, Gotha was working as a teaching assistant when her father chose to establish homelands in a remote area of Elcho Island. Gotha was tasked with starting a school.
For the first year, Gotha taught without pay under a tarpaulin near the beach. But the school was successful, and Gotha created a bilingual educational model that delivered high attendance and graduation rates.
Since then, Gotha has pioneered new education methods, represented Australia at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem and at the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Geneva.
In her role as a Yolngu researcher at Charles Darwin University, Gotha is leading academic research into language, knowledge, culture and country with widespread practical application.
2018 NT Local Hero
Town: Elcho Island
State: Northern Territory
Anti-domestic violence campaigner
An Aboriginal Community Police Officer in the East Arnhem community of Galiwin’ku, Bettina Danganbarr has offered her home as a safe haven to dozens of domestic violence victims.
The Yolngu woman is admired throughout her community as a peacemaker. A tireless campaigner for the rights of women, particularly those experiencing family violence, Bettina has championed the establishment of the Galiwin’ku Women’s Space, a community-led response that addresses family violence in a culturally appropriate, Yolngu-led way. Prior to this, Bettina operated a makeshift women’s shelter in her own home, acting as a counsellor and mediator to families and couples while also caring for her three children and two foster children.
Bettina’s expertise and knowledge working in two worlds – both the Yolgnu and Balanda, or non-Indigenous – means she can provide culturally-appropriate support and responses to conflict. She trains other police officers to understand Yolgnu culture. Her influence has prevented many crimes, and supported many Yolgnu people as they move forward with their lives.
2018 SA Young Australian of the Year
State: South Australia
Role model for Indigenous youth
Braving two battles with cancer, Kyran Dixon is a role model for young Indigenous people in his community.
After being diagnosed with bone tumour in his hip when he was just 11, this talented Australian Rules footballer had to press pause on his sporting ambitions. Working his way back to football, Kyran joined the Port Adelaide Football Club Academy before disaster struck.
A second diagnosis, this time Acute Myeloid Leukemia in 2014, demanded lifesaving treatment. While enduring rounds of chemotherapy, Kyran maintained his university studies, graduating in 2016.
He’s now an ambassador that actively promotes cancer awareness and research. As a proud member of the Kaurna and Narungga clans, Kyran is a founding member of the Aboriginal Youth Cancer Advisory Group, and promotes healthy lifestyle choices among Aboriginal young people.
Whether he’s a guest speaker or a mentor for at-risk youth, Kyran spreads a message of hope, strength and resilience, and motivates others to make the most of their chances.
2018 TAS Young Australian of the Year
Dr Jessica Manuela
Dentist helping Indigenous communities
Dental surgeon, Dr Jessica Manuela is determined to improve oral health in Tasmanian Indigenous communities.
As an Indigenous Tasmanian, Jess established her first dental practice three years ago and a second one in 2017.
She now has more than 4,000 active patients, but also finds time to speak with school students about oral hygiene and to run community information evenings.
Together with the Royal Flying Doctor Service Tasmania and the South East Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation, Jess has established a culturally-appropriate program that helps Indigenous Tasmanians access dental care to improve their health and wellbeing.
She was the chairperson for Oral Health Promotion on the Tasmanian Dental Council and has been involved with policy making and regulating the dental profession.
She is also lobbying to save important schemes such as the Medicare Child Dental Benefit Scheme. Jess is passionate about educating her patients so that they have the skills to look after their health for a lifetime.