In short:

The 2024 National NAIDOC Week Awards ceremony took place in Adelaide on Saturday night, recognising Indigenous trailblazers making a difference to their community.

Among the winners were entertainer Naarah and boxer Alex Winwood, with Aunty Muriel Bamblett being named Person of the Year.

What’s next?

The awards will be travelling to Perth next year.

The National NAIDOC Week Awards in Adelaide on Saturday night embodied this year’s theme: Blak, Loud and Proud.

It was the first major gathering of First Nations people since the defeat of the Indigenous Voice referendum last year, with almost 2,000 people in the crowd breaking last year’s record.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said despite the disappointing referendum result, it was reaffirming to see a large crowd gathered to celebrate Black excellence.

“I think us coming together tonight in such huge numbers is really important to build our spirits and build our joy and our belief in just how incredible our people are,” she said.

Reflecting on the referendum result, she said there were “silver linings”.

“We’re in South Australia — there’s a voice to parliament, there’s a treaty process. The only state that doesn’t have a treaty process or truth-telling process is Western Australia,” she said.

The National NAIDOC Week awards are one of the biggest events on the calendar for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with the awards paying tribute to Indigenous trailblazers making life-changing contributions to their community.

With 200 nominations submitted, only 28 finalists made it through for 10 coveted awards.

This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award went to Meriam woman Aunty Dulcie Flowers AM.

A fierce advocate for her community, Aunty Dulcie has been instrumental in improving health outcomes for First Nations peoples.

Moving from Cairns to Sydney as a young registered nurse, she helped establish the Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) — one of the oldest Aboriginal community organisations in the country.

Determined to break down barriers and improve the lives of her people, she played a key role during the successful 1967 referendum and was recognised for her work in 2019 when she was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).

Aunty Dulcie said she was proud to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, and to have made history by being the first Torres Strait Islander woman to receive the award.

“I’m very proud to think the committee chose a Torres Strait person for the first time, but this will open the gates for other people,” she said.

In light of this year’s theme, her message to the next generation was to “follow the path set down by Elders”.

“Justice and equality are still on our agenda. I think after after all these years this country has to find a way of helping us achieve justice and equality,” she said.

“We’re still not equal.”

Aunty Dulcie Flowers, second from left, with other trailblazers including Female Elder of the Year Auntie Millie Ingram, second from right, after the ceremony.(ABC News: Tiarna Stehr)

Taking out the prestigious NAIDOC Person of the Year Award was Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung, Taungurung and Boon Wurrung Elder, Aunty Muriel Bamblett.

A longstanding CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA), Aunty Muriel was recognised for her strong advocacy for children in out-of-home care.

Among a long list of achievements, some of Aunty Muriel’s most notable work includes championing legislative reforms to the child protection system.

In an Australian first, state powers in Victoria were handed back to Aboriginal community-controlled organisations to help address the high rates of young people in the child protection system, and to help them stay connected to their communities and strong in their culture.

The ceremony featured musical performances as well as recognition of those being honoured.(ABC News: Tiarna Stehr)

In her acceptance speech, Aunty Muriel dedicated her award to her parents.

“Both of them came off missions and reserves — Dad was born on Lake Tyers and was put on the mission at 14 because he had fair skin,” she said.

“It feels like I’m in a dream, [to be] standing up here. But this is an honour and I thank you very much for this honour that you have bestowed upon me.”

Aunty Muriel Bamblett is the 2024 National NAIDOC Person of the Year.(Supplied:

According to the Productivity Commission’s latest Closing the Gap report, 43 per cent of young people in child protection are First Nations.

Aunty Muriel said more work needed to be done to protect children from being disconnected from their community and culture.

“We’re actually starting to work to keep children at home, which is where they should be,” she said.

“We’re teaching mainstream Australia that Aboriginal people can do better for our people, no matter whether it’s in justice, education, family violence [or] health.

“We’ve got to learn from Aboriginal ways of doing.”

The NAIDOC Week Award Winners were:

  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Aunty Dulcie Flowers
  • Creative Talent Award: Naarah
  • Female Elder Award: Aunty Millie Ingram
  • Male Elder Award: Kim Collard
  • Youth Award: Dante Rodrigues
  • Education Award: Warlpiri Education and Training Trust
  • Sportsperson Award: Alex Winwood
  • Caring for Country and Culture Award: Alick Tipoti
  • Innovation Award: Tui Nolan
  • Person of the Year Award: Aunty Muriel Bamblett

The National NAIDOC Week Awards will be travelling to Perth next year.