National Indigenous

National Indigenous Human Rights Awards

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 (, and were pleased to invite NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award winner Mr Tauto Sansbury to close the evening (


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



To an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of Human Rights for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples. Dr Yunupingu is the first Aboriginal from Arnhem Land to achieve a university degree. In 1986 Dr Yunupingu formed Yothu Yindi in 1986, combining Aboriginal (Yolngu) and non-Aboriginal (balanda) musicians and instrumentation.

In 1990 was appointed as Principal of Yirrkala Community School, Australia’s first Aboriginal Principal. Also in that year he established the Yothu Yindi Foundation to promote Yolngu cultural development, including Garma Festival of Traditional Cultures Dr Yumupingu was named 1992 Australian of the Year for his work in building bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities across Australia.


In memory of Eddie Koiki Mabo (1936-1992), this award recognises an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of Social Justice for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Eddie Koiki Mabo was a Torres Straits Islander, most notable in Australian history for his role in campaigning for indigenous land rights.

From 1982 to 1991 Eddie campaigned for the rights of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to have their land rights recognised. Sadly, he died of cancer at the age of 56, five months before the High Court handed down its landmark land rights decision overturning Terra Nullius. He was 56 when he passed away.


To an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person who has displayed significant courage and determination in their advocacy of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Anthony Mundine is an Australian professional boxer and former rugby league player. He is a former, two-time WBA Super Middleweight Champion, a IBO Middleweight Champion, and an interim WBA Light Middleweight Champion boxer and a New South Wales State of Origin representative footballer. Before his move to boxing he was the highest paid player in the NRL.

In 2000 Anthony was named the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Person of the Year in 2000. He has also won the Deadly Award as Male Sportsperson of the Year in 2003, 2006 and 2007 amongst others.

He has a proud history of standing up for Indigenous peoples, telling a journalist from the Canberra Times: “I’m an Aboriginal man that speaks out and if I see something, I speak the truth.”

(below) Photos from the 2017 National Indigenous Human Rights Awards dinner.

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