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National Indigenous Arts Awards honour leading First Nations artists

29 May 2018

The Australia Council for the Arts is set to celebrate four remarkable artists at the 11th National Indigenous Arts Awards taking place at the Sydney Opera House this weekend.

The National Indigenous Arts Awards (NIAAs) recognise the significant contribution of First Nations artists to the vibrancy of Australian arts.

The event, held on May 27th each year, coincides with the anniversary of the 1992 Mabo ruling, which recognised the rights of First Nations people as the traditional owners of their land. Wesley Enoch will MC the event, along with Australia Council Deputy Chair Lee-Ann Tjunypa Buckskin.

The recipients of the two Red Ochre Awards for Lifetime Achievement will travel from Maningrida in the Northern Territory, and from the northern Queensland community of Aurukun. The prestigious Red Ochre Award boasts an extraordinary group of alumni who have been recognised by this award since 1993, with the addition of a second Red Ochre in 2017.

The Dreaming Award celebrates an inspirational young artist and gives them the opportunity to create a major body of work through mentoring and partnerships, nationally or internationally. The Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Fellowship will also be honoured at this special event, acknowledging the contributions of a leading artist and supporting them to undertake a major creative project.

Chair of the Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategy Panel, Wesley Enoch, said that he and the Panel were delighted to be able to recognise these exceptional artists.

“It is so important that we support and celebrate our First Nations artists at critical moments throughout their careers. The 2018 recipients demonstrate such breadth and richness in their practice, and they represent a profound sense of cultural strength across the generations.”

2018 National Indigenous Arts Awards recipients;

2018 Red Ochre Award (for outstanding lifetime achievement)

- Mr John Mawurndjul, from Arnhem Land (NT)

- Mrs Mavis Ngallametta from Aurukun community (QLD)

2018 The Dreaming Award (for an emerging artist aged 18-26 years)

- Thomas E.S Kelly (NSW)

2018 Australia Council Fellowship (for established artists, supporting creative activity and professional development for up to two years)

- Hetti Perkins (NSW)

Australia Council Chair Mr Rupert Myer AO said this event and the awards are an important way to reinforce the Council’s commitment to investing in and celebrating First Nations arts.

“It is wonderful to be able to pay tribute to these extraordinary artists, and acknowledge their rich contribution to the world’s culture. Their work is vital to our cultural identity and influence, and Australians can take great pride in their achievements,” Mr Myer said.

“I congratulate the recipients of this year’s awards and particularly pay tribute to Red Ochre Award recipients, John Mawurndjul and Mavis Ngallametta. They are such deeply respected leaders who have achieved so much in Australia and internationally, helping to strengthen the visibility of Australia’s diverse First Nations art.

This year’s NIAA awards are supported in part by Australian Council staff and Board members under its workplace giving program. More details can be found on the Australia Council’s website.

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