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Wollongong City Council

Local Government Regional NAIDOC Awards winners announced!

Sunday 31 July 2022

Image: Proud Yuin singer songwriter, Matty Walker, performs at the 2022 Local Government NAIDOC Awards Dinner.

Congratulations to Aunty Jodie Stewart and Uncle Peter Button, who were named Aboriginal Female and Male Elder of the Year respectively at the Local Government Regional NAIDOC Awards Dinner.

On Saturday 30 July, we held the annual Local Government Regional NAIDOC Awards 2022 at the Fraternity Club, Fairy Meadow. The Awards are a prestigious event that brings together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama and Shoalhaven local government areas. The event is hosted, on rotation, between the four Councils with it being held in Wollongong this year.

We’re pleased to be able to announce this year’s NAIDOC Awards winners:

Aboriginal Elder of the Year (Female) – Aunty Jodie Stewart

Aunty Jodie Stewart is an Aboriginal Elder who lives in Gerringong. She is a Yuin Nation Saltwater Woman. She grew up on the coast with her family, the well respected and well-known Stewart family.

In her role at Southern Youth and Family Services (Shoalhaven), Jodie supports families and young people in the Shoalhaven area with an aim of reconciling or restoring young people within the family home, helping family members support their children and young people, helping young people connect with their education, training and employment and community.

Jodie was a founding member in 1986 and a current Board Member and Secretary of the Gerringong Housing Aboriginal Corporation. She is also a talented artist, and she has her artworks displayed in many places including Wollongong Hospital, Nowra Mental Health Service, Gerringong Public school, Southern Youth and Family Service’s new building and at Gerringong around the Kiama Bends.

Aboriginal Elder of the Year (Male) – Uncle Peter Button

Uncle Peter Button is a passionate environmental and cultural advocate. He has been dedicated to protecting the environment within the Illawarra both personally and through his work with the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service.

Peter works tirelessly to protect Aboriginal culture and heritage. He is a representative in the Sandon Point Aboriginal Place Joint Agreement Partnership and a member of Sandon Point Aboriginal Tent Embassy. He is willing to educate and support the education of Aboriginal cultural heritage to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

Aboriginal Community Representative of the Year – Dr Jodi Edwards

Dr Jodi Edwards has shared language and culture with Kiama, Shellharbour, Wollongong Councils. She has worked with schools and multiple agencies and government departments, non-government organisations and childcare centres sharing language and culture.

Jodi recently launched the Dharawal language words, and activities book across the four local government areas, of which money from sales of the book go back to Dharawal Publishing to set up a Literacy fund for Aboriginal literacy programs. She was named Shellharbour Women of the Year for commitment to language culture and community.

Her PhD – ‘Weaving the past into the future the continuity of Aboriginal cultural practices in the Dharawal Yuin Nations’ - provides evidence that Aboriginal people have continued practicing culture since invasion.

Aboriginal Young Achiever of the Year (Female) – Alira Morgan

Alira is a Dharawal and Gamilaroi woman who is in the process of completing Year 12 at Kiama High School.

Alira has been on the Kiama High School Representative Council for the past 5 years. During her time at Kiama High School, she has represented her school for Sorry Day ceremonies, NAIDOC activities, cultural immersion days, reconciliation activities and welcoming dignitaries. Whilst at school she mentors younger First Nations students and raises money for reconciliation.

She regularly shares her talent with all people teaching language, art and dance. In 2022 she led a project to record the anthem in Dharawal and English for Kiama High school and local primary schools.

Aboriginal Young Achiever of the Year (Male) – Aidan Whitehall

Aidan is a 17 year old Dharawal singer songwriter. His early single releases caught the attention of Communion Publishing in the United Kingdom which saw him signing a deal where he joins a roster that includes Bears Den & Catfish & The Bottlemen.

His 2019 single “Butterflies” already has well over 3.5 million streams. 2020 saw this winner record his debut EP “Flies In The Room” with producer Ryan Miller (Angus & Julia Stone/Thelma Plum) which was released in May 2021 and features the singles “Twelve Again & I’m Closed”. He won the Unearthed High Indigenous initiative and landed a spot in the finals for Unearthed High for “Twelve Again”.  He has also recently relished the opportunity to write with some of his favourite artists Josh Pyke and Holy Holy and has a few special collaborations still on the cards.

Aboriginal Community Volunteer of the Year – Julie Street-Smith

Julie Street-Smith is a Minang Noongar woman who grew up in Kalgoorie and the Wollongong region, spending much of her youth and adulthood in and around Bellambi. She has a long history of volunteering with community groups and organisations including Girl Guides, Bellambi Neighbourhood Centre, the State Emergency Service and Wollongong Northern District Aboriginal Community (WNDAC).

Julie has helped to further early childhood education in the northern suburbs and been the driving force behind the Northern Illawarra Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Deadly Awards, NAIDOC week and other cultural events and programs aimed at bringing our community together, advocating for services in the northern suburbs and raising awareness within the broader community.

Aboriginal Organisation of the Year – Illawarra Koori Men’s Support Group

The Illawarra Koori Men’s Support Group is a not-for-profit charity initiated and directed by Aboriginal men. It aims to provide culturally appropriate educations programs and services focusing on social, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing of the whole community. Recently this organisation obtained their accreditation in Men’s Behaviour Change under Domestic Violence NSW. They are the first Aboriginal organisation to receive this accreditation.

Outstanding Contribution to Reconciliation (Aboriginal or Non-Aboriginal) – Cleone Wellington and Hayley Longbottom.

Cleone Wellington is a proud South Coast Wandi Wandandian/Cullunghutti/Jerrinja woman with bloodlines to Jatimatang/Ngarigo. Hayley Longbottom is a proud Jerrinja, Cullunghutti Wandi Wandandian woman, located on the South Coast of NSW.

Together they have raised awareness across the broader community about First Nations people on the south coast, and in particular the Shoalhaven region. They have done this through the development of a Cultural Immersion and Decolonisation program, which invites participants to see local history through an Aboriginal lens, on an intimate journey through true Australian history.

The first Regional NAIDOC Awards event started in 2011, and since then it has been hosted by each of the four councils.

“The Local Government Regional NAIDOC Awards is an important and well-attended community event that sees Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, local government leaders and community members come together to celebrate and acknowledge the incredible achievements of our community and we are thrilled to have been the host for 2022,” Wollongong City Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery AM said.

“Although held outside of NAIDOC Week, this year’s NAIDOC Awards really speaks to the NAIDOC Week theme of ‘Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!’. It’s a message which asks us to consider what we can all do to take meaningful action to champion institutional, structural, collaborative and cooperative change.

“It’s therefore an honour to be able to acknowledge and celebrate the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our community who are leaders for change and are doing fantastic work today to support their community.”

The Local Government Regional NAIDOC Awards are proudly sponsored by Bluescope, Multi Civil and Rail, Big Fat Smile.

Also supported by Southern Youth and Family Services, Booth Partners and the Illawarra Aboriginal Medical Service.

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