The Premier’s NAIDOC Award recognises the outstanding achievements and service of an extraordinary South Australian who has made a significant contribution to the lives of Aboriginal people in South Australia.

An event to celebrate the accomplishments of selected finalists for the award was held on Thursday 11 July 2019 during NAIDOC Week. The field of nominees was broad and impressive, and the finalists selected from those nominees have made a particularly significant contribution to the lives of not only Aboriginal South Australians but the entire community.

The finalists announced for 2019 are as follows.

Dr Jennifer Caruso

Jenni Caruso is a strong survivor of the Stolen Generations and an academic who has worked tirelessly to implement changes in the Stolen Generations Reparations Scheme, to include people from the Northern Territory.

Jenni is involved with Stolen Generations community groups and committees, and uses her PhD as a way of giving Aboriginal people knowledge about the policies that led to their removal; and educates non-Aboriginal people and organisations about how those policies still affect Aboriginal people today.

A fierce advocate for social justice for Aboriginal people, Jenni’s work and activities have ensured greater awareness of the experiences of Aboriginal people, educated the non-Aboriginal and wider community, and built recognition of Aboriginal people as the First Australians.

The Deadly Nannas

Initially a project borne out of a collaborative partnership with Moorundi Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service, local Elders, Rural City of Murray Bridge Council, and song writers, the Deadly Nannas are a collective of grandmothers and Elders who work to connect the next generations – Aboriginal young people – with language and culture from the Ngarrindjeri Nation.

The group focusses on health and wellbeing and the demonstrable impact these have on cultural pride and self-esteem across the generations. Through lullabies and songs, the Deadly Nannas also help connect babies to culture and language and establish the neural pathways to resilience and learning at the earliest opportunity.

Mr Parry Agius    

Parry’s career in South Australian business and community leadership spans almost 30 years and includes many significant achievements. With a strong background in leadership, Parry has held influential positions including Chief Executive Officer, South Australian Native Title Services; Executive Officer, Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement, Native Title Unit; and Regional Manager, Commonwealth Department of Human Services and Health, Port Augusta.

He has cemented successful partnerships between Indigenous groups, government and industry to settle Native Title claims that have generated economic and social benefits for all stakeholders; and earlier this year Parry finished his long and accomplished service as a member of the Alinytjara Wilurara Natural Resources Management Board, serving six of these as Presiding Member.

Parry is a member of the Aboriginal Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Board, working to develop education and transition to work programs for the economic independence of remote Aboriginal communities; and now as an independent consultant, Parry continues to maintain a consistent and unwavering commitment to Aboriginal people and communities.

Uncle Lewis Yerloburka O’Brien AO

The fourth finalist, Uncle Lewis Yerloburka O’Brien, was announced as the winner of the Premier’s NAIDOC Award 2019.

In the 1960s Uncle Lewis became involved in many of the early political actions of the Aboriginal community, including with the first Aboriginal Community Centre and the Aboriginal Advancement League, which worked to expose and overcome racial discrimination in the workplace and the repeal of discriminatory legislation.

From this time, he continued to be involved in Aboriginal community interests, exerting influence on a number of fronts including South Australian Heritage Committees; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission; SA Jubilee Committees; Aboriginal Council of South Australia; and South Australian Aboriginal Sport and Recreation Committees.

In the late 1970s Lewis began working in the education sector, teaching children traditional Aboriginal knowledge and values. For more than 30 years he has been a mentor for hundreds of Aboriginal children, families and inmates, and it is widely agreed that since this time, there is hardly a sector of Aboriginal education and training in South Australia that Uncle Lewis has not been involved in developing.

As one of Adelaide's most loved and respected Aboriginal Elders, as well as a renowned researcher and educator, Uncle Lewis has developed an outstanding capacity to share culture and bring together Aboriginal knowing with western philosophy. His research and scholarly work has been substantial, and importantly includes keeping Kaurna language and culture alive. He has been recognised by the Australian Council for Educational Leaders for his enormous contribution to researching, maintaining and sharing Aboriginal knowledge, and has been a driving force in re-establishing a Kaurna presence into Adelaide’s cultural and topographical landscape and bringing Aboriginal knowledge and protocols to light.

Uncle Lewis has been a persevering and proud contributor to improving the lives of Aboriginal people in South Australia across many fronts, and the Premier’s NAIDOC Award goes some way to recognising his tireless efforts, including to restore, maintain and evolve not only Aboriginal culture but also language, particularly poignant in this United Nations-declared Year of Indigenous Languages; as well as the national NAIDOC theme for 2019: Voice.Treaty.Truth.

Dr Alice (Alitja) Rigney Prize

Presented alongside the Premier’s NAIDOC Award, the Dr Alice Rigney Prize commemorates renowned educationalist and Australia’s first female Aboriginal school principal, Dr Alice Rigney, by recognising a young Aboriginal person in South Australia dedicated to their education, in either Year 10, 11 or 12.

Sixteen-year-old Year 11 Warriappendi School student, Fraser Raggett, was announced as the recipient of the Dr Alice Rigney Prize for 2019, in recognition of his commitment to learning, excellent work ethic, and outstanding leadership across his school.

Winners of 2019 Premiers NAIDOC Awards

Pictured left to right (rear): Bec Gollan; Sandy Wilson; Uncle Lewis Yerloburka O’Brien AO; Pauline Walker; Vicki Hartman; Lena Rigney.

Left to right (front): Parry Agius; Georgina Trevorrow; Deputy Premier, the Hon Vickie Chapman MP; Dr Jennifer Caruso; Vicki Cummings; Diana Murphy; Fraser Raggett.

Previous award winners

Past recipients of the Premier’s NAIDOC Award include:

  • 2018 – Joyleen Thomas PSM
  • 2017 – Frank Wanganeen and Alice Rigney (posthumous award)
  • 2016 – Wendy Edmondson
  • 2015 – Lavene Ngatokorua and Kali Hayward
  • 2014 – Josie Agius
  • 2013 – Nici Cumpston
  • 2012 – Linda Clayton
  • 2011 – Vince Coulthard
  • 2010 – Marj Tripp
  • 2009 – Sharon Gollan
  • 2008 – Jean Agius
  • 2007 – Faith Thomas