In its 60th year, the Australian of the Year Awards for 2020 have announced an array of national talent with many First Nations peoples leading the way.

With a First Nations winner in every State and Territory bar one, here is NIT’s wrap on the First Nations Australian of the Year Awardees for 2020.


Australian Capital Territory

Katrina Fanning – ACT Australian of the Year 2020

An advocate for self-determination of First Nations people, Katrina Fanning has worked for over 25 years in many areas of life to advance the success and freedoms of her people.

A proud Wiradjuri woman, she was appointed manager of the Indigenous Women’s All Stars rugby team, Chairperson of the Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council and former President of the Canberra and Australian Women’s Rugby League Associations.

2014 Canberra Woman of the Year and ACT NAIDOC Person of the Year, Ms Fanning was appointed in 2019 to the Canberra Raiders Board of Directors. She also sits on the Fred Hollows Foundation Board.

Ms Fanning’s career includes senior management roles within Centrelink, Aboriginal Hostels and the Department of Education and more. She currently is the Director of Coolamon Advisors, an Indigenous majority-owned and managed consultancy.


New South Wales

Corey Tutt – NSW Young Australian of the Year 2020

From Dapto on the south coast of NSW, proud Kamilaroi man Corey Tutt is the founder of Deadly Science – an initiative that sends donated science materials to remote schools around Australia.

The initiative has connected with over 90 schools nationwide, improved student engagement with STEM-based subjects by 25 percent and has seen over $33,000 raised to purchase 4,300 books and equipment such as 70 telescopes.

Deadly Science has awarded 28 Deadly Junior Scientist Awards across the country aimed to encourage young First Nations students to pursue careers in STEM.


Northern Territory

Banduk Marika AO – NT Senior Australian of the Year 2020

Known for her incredible lino prints of ancestral creation stories, Banduk Marika AO and her sisters are some of the first Yolngu women to have, with the encouragement of her male relatives, painted ancestral stories.

Born in Yirrkala in northeast Arnhem Land, Ms Marika was one of seven artists who won a court case against a Vietnamese company who illegally reproduced their work. The 1997 documentary Copyrights, tells her story and explores ownership of Aboriginal stories and artwork.

She is an artist-in-residence at both the Canberra School of Art and Flinders University in South Australia and is a Traditional Owner with custodianship of Country in Yirrkala.


Shirleen Campbell – NT Local Hero 2020

Shirleen Campbell, a Warlpiri and Arrente woman, is a third-generation resident of Alice Springs Town Camp, Lhenpe Artnwe and is the co-ordinator of the Tangentyere Women’s Family Safety Group (TWFSG) that empowers local women to stand against family and domestic violence.

TWFSG trains women to identify early signs of abuse and violence and support one another appropriately, acknowledging and celebrating the women’s skills, knowledge and relationships within community.

After a tragic attack on an Aboriginal woman at Todd River was unreported and ignored by local media outlets, Ms Campbell and TWFSG led a non-violent protest of about 300 people through Alice Springs.

Ms Campbell is showcasing her film, Not Just Numbers at the Winda International Indigenous Film Festival. Not Just Numbers speaks to strong opposition of First Nations women against family and domestic violence and shares the stories of those empowering their communities and moving towards solutions.



Ashleigh Barty – QLD Young Australian of the Year 2020

Proud Ngaragu woman, Ashleigh Barty, is a former cricketer now tennis star who currently sits as the world number one singles tennis player in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rankings.

She won six singles titles on the WTA tour including the 2019 French Open Grand Slam.

Ms Barty also sits within the top 20 doubles players and won one Grand Slam doubles title at the 2018 US Open.

The Ipswich-born sportswoman inspires many First Nations peoples not only in her role as a National Indigenous Tennis Ambassador for Tennis Australia or her sporting career but in her down-to-earth, kind-hearted personality and resilience.


South Australia

Zibeon Fielding – SA Young Australian of the Year 2020

From Mimili, a remote Indigenous community in the far northwest of South Australia on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, Zibeon Fielding has dedicated much of his time to raising money to better support First Nations health accessibility and outcomes in remote and regional Australia.

In 2016, Mr Fielding was selected for the Indigenous Marathon Project, completing the New York, Boston and Tokyo Marathons. He also cycled in 2019, 700kms across the outback to raise awareness for improvement of Aboriginal health. As an Aboriginal health worker, Mr Fielding conducted health checks on children, educated communities about healthy living and ran bike workshops along the way.

He raised $40,000 for a new gym in his community, along with previously raising $50,000 for Purple House, an organisation that provides dialysis to some of Australia’s most remote communities.



Archie Roach AM – VIC Australian of the Year 2020

Iconic Aboriginal singer, songwriter, musician and activist, Archie Roach AM, has been a prominent voice for First Nations peoples for decades.

Mr Roach was forcibly removed from his family at age two, overcame teenage alcoholism and homelessness and lost his beloved wife in 2010.

In 1992 he won two ARIA awards for his debut album Charcoal Lane, which hosted his most famous work Took the Children Away. He was the first songwriter to be awarded a Human Rights Achievement Award for the same work.

He has had a long career releasing 12 albums and touring nationally and internationally. A member of the Order of Australia, Mr Roach continues to empower First Nations people through arts and culture with his organisation the Archie Roach Foundation.


Western Australia

Yarlalu Thomas – WA Young Australian of the Year 2020

Yarlalu Nanmurr Thomas, a proud Nyangumarta Pitjikarli man, is the first in his community to complete his high school certificate and has completed a Bachelor of Medical Science and Doctor of Medicine at the University of Sydney.

Mr Thomas was awarded the inaugural Roy Hill Community Foundation Fellowship and now works for the WA Register of Developmental Anomalies, Genetic Services WA and Cliniface, which aims to create more accessible genetic health services for First Nations peoples within remote communities.

Mr Thomas also works with Pilbara Faces, an initiative which provides accessible and direct diagnosis for children with genetic diseases. He also launched the UNESCO-endorsed Lyfe Languages program, which translates medical terminology into First Nations languages to enable a more comfortable and culturally safe healthcare experience for First Nations peoples.


By Rachael Knowles