Last Wednesday the 10th of May 2017, I was proud to convene and host the 4th annual National Indigenous Human Rights Awards last Wednesday at Australian Parliament House, in additional recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Mabo decision.
We were lucky enough to have Senator Malarndirri McCarthy as our Keynote Address on the night (https://vimeo.com/217336317?ref=tw-share), and were pleased to invite NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award winner Mr Tauto Sansbury to close the evening (https://vimeo.com/217124158?ref=tw-share).
The winners this year were:
For the Eddie Mabo Award for Lifetime Social Justice Achievement, Ms Gayili Marika Yunupingu. Gayili is a prominent suicide prevention campaigner and is credited for reducing suicides in her Arnhem community of Nhulunbuy. Gayili is a board member of the Federal Government Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Advisory Group. Gayili is also the driving force behind Wesley Mission’s One Life program which has now reached more than 70 communities around the nation. Born on the shores of Melville Bay at the Galupa Community where she still resides to this day, Gayili has promoted the traditional stories of her community and has been given permission by the senior elders of the Gumatj, Galpu, Wanguri, Djapu, Djumbalupungu & Rirratjingu clans to reproduce clan designs. Gayili trained as a health worker and is regarded as a traditional healer by her community. Gayili’s Arts and Craft have been sold to clients all around the world, and with her husband Banduwa produces fine artifacts as well.
For the Dr Yunupingu Award for Human Rights, Mr Mervyn Eades. Mervyn is last year’s Eddie Mabo Social Justice Award recipient for his transformative work in moving prisoners from incarceration and into work. Mervyn is a relentless human rights campaigner and has dedicated the Ngalla Maya Aboriginal Corporation to the transformation of the lives of the most margainalised, of the most vulnerable, of those who finish up in prison. Ngalla Maya has become the nation’s leader in pre- and post-release transformations, seeking to ‘close the gap’ in incarceration by mentoring, training and educating to help secure employment for graduates. Mervyn also has experience in native title law, fighting to prevent the imminent extinguishment of his Noongar peoples’ native title rights. Mervyn has also campaigned for a Royal Commission into Native Title to address past and ongoing wrongs in this vital legal space. While changing lives at Ngalla Maya, while leading a Native Title rights repair and while leading the struggle to prevent the extinguishing of rights for his peoples, Mervyn works tirelessly to support, help and listen to the struggles of the most vulnerable.
For the Anthony Mundine Courage Award, Professor Chris Sarra, who was represented on the night by NSW Legal Services Commissioner John McKenzie. Professor Sarra is a Goreng Goreng man who has experiencing first-hand the challenges facing Indigenous students at school. He is a teacher who has been a champion of improving education methods and outcomes through his ‘Stronger Smarter’ approach. After qualifying as a teacher, Chris became the first Aboriginal principal at Cherbourg State School in South East Queensland in 1998, and has pioneered his ‘Stronger Smarter’ philosophy encouraging students to be both strong in their cultural identity and smart by attending school and making the most of their educational opportunities. In 2004, Chris was selected as Suncorp Queenslander of the Year and received the Chancellor’s Alumnus Award from Queensland University of Technology for his outstanding work. He was also acknowledged as the 2006 NAIDOC Scholar of the Year and was Queensland’s nominee for the Australian of the Year. In January 2017 Professor Chris Sarra was appointed to the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council.
Congratulations to everyone involved on an important night! I hope we can continue recognizing the hard work and important achievements into 2018 and beyond.
For media coverage of this event, please see:
The Human Rights Awards, a night to feel star struck by deadly Aboriginal people making a difference
Indigenous elder honoured for work fighting suicide in East Arnhem Land