Celebrating First Nations excellence at the First Nations Arts and Culture Awards

Creative Australia 2024 First Nations Arts and Culture AwardsSenior First Nations artists Uncle Badger Bates and Aunty Mabel Juli have both been awarded the prestigious Red Ochre Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 2024 First Nations Arts and Culture Awards.

The awards are proudly presented by Creative Australia each year on Monday 27 May, marking the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum and the start of National Reconciliation Week.

Uncle Badger, a proud Barkindji man, is renowned for his intricate emu egg carvings, linocut prints and public artworks highlighting his deep connection to the Barka (Darling River) and its cultural heritage.

“I am truly overwhelmed to be the nominated recipient of this award. It is a dream come true for someone who grew up on the Barka riverbank and almost never went to school or art school,” said Uncle Badger. “It has always been very important for me to bring my people along with me, and I am hoping this award will give confidence to younger First Nations artists.”

Aunty Mabel is a celebrated Gija artist, known for her striking black and white paintings depicting the Moon and Star Dreaming stories. She is also an important ceremonial singer and dancer.

“These awards are a celebration and recognition of the remarkable achievements of First Nations artists. We are very proud to honour their excellence and artistry, as well as their invaluable contributions to our arts and culture,” said Creative Australia Executive Director First Nations Arts and Culture Franchesca Cubillo.

“We acknowledge the role of First Nations artists in sharing untold stories, creating innovative works and forms of expression, and safeguarding our traditional knowledge.”

Indigenous, Pasifika and West Asian writer Meleika Gesa, and First Nations and Zimbabwean emerging R&B artist Dean Brady were both awarded the Dreaming Award, for young emerging artists, supporting the creation of a major body of work.

Other First Nations Arts and Culture Awards recipients include:

Brenda Gifford (First Nations Fellowship), a Yuin woman, accomplished saxophonist, pianist, and trailblazing composer in contemporary classical and jazz, is the recipient of the First Nations Fellowship.

Tibian Wyles (First Nations Emerging Career Development Award): A Warrgamay and Kalkadoon descendant, and rising star in the acting industry.

Sarah Prestwidge (First Nations Emerging Career Development Award) a Darug, Boorooberongal national descendant, accomplished soprano and music educator.

My career development project aims to equip me the skills necessary to have an international operatic career. I hope to set a powerful example for other Indigenous artists,” said Sarah Prestwidge.

“This not only challenges stereotypes but also inspires and paves the way for other young Indigenous artists, demonstrating that they too can pursue their dreams beyond borders while maintaining a connection to their roots.”

“Ultimately, I hope to return to Australia to share the knowledge and skills I’ve learnt to inspire the next generation of young First Nation opera singers,” said Prestwidge.

The First Nations Arts and Culture Awards recipients were each presented with a uniquely designed ceramic piece created by senior artists from Ernabella Arts, Australia’s oldest continuously running Indigenous Art Centre.

For more information about the First Nations Arts and Culture Awards and recipients, visit: www.creative.gov.au for details.

Image: (top) Tibian Wyles, Sarah Prestwidge, Aunty Mabel Juli and Meleika Gesa | (bottom) Dean Brady, Uncle Badger Bates and Brenda Gifford – courtesy of Creative Australia