NAIDOC week celebrations have begun in Naarm (Victoria) with the recent holding of the annual Victorian NAIDOC awards ceremony.

Some 24 individuals were nominated across five categories of Ms NAIDOC, Mr NAIDOC, NAIDOC Sportsperson, NAIDOC Care for Country and NAIDOC patron/Elder.

The Ms NAIDOC award was won by Yorta Yorta, Wiradjuri and Trawlwoolway woman Naomi Bamblett.

Passionate about education, family and community, Ms Bamblett was acknowledged for her work as an Aboriginal capacity builder at the Boorndawan Willam Aboriginal Healing Service.

Awardees were presented with a commemorative sash as part of the awards presentation.

Yorta Yorta, Wemba Wemba and Gunditjmara man Yemurraki Egan was awarded Mr NAIDOC for his contribution to the University of Melbourne’s infrastructure and Indigenous cultural themes in placemaking.

The 19-year-old mechanical engineering student has also started his own consultancy business offering mentoring and integrated learning opportunities for Indigenous people as well as consulting with property and construction firms about their Reconciliation commitments.

The NAIDOC Sportsperson award was taken out by amateur boxer and volunteer boxing coach, Gunditjmara and Bunitj woman Nikita Rotumah.

A mother of five, Ms Rotumah was nominated for her contribution to the Aboriginal youth in Victoria’s northern suburbs after establishing boxing programs for Indigenous youth aged 10-22 at her local gym at Preston.

Ms Rotumah’s inspiration for establishing the youth boxing programs stems from her love of boxing from her teenage years along with her insight into challenges faced by Aboriginal youth in her community through her work as a mental health worker with high risk Aboriginal children.

“It literally started because my 12 year old was getting into a bit of trouble at a shopping centre with a big group of Aboriginal kids”, she said.

“I started thinking how can I help, because I couldn’t get through to my son so I’m going to go for the whole age group then and hopefully he’ll follow”. 

Along with the assistance of fellow volunteer trainers, Ms Rotumah now offers training sessions followed by a hot meal for up to 50 young Indigenous and multicultural boxers four times a week.

Taungurung woman Stevie-Lee Ryan, a senior health practitioner and site manager at First People’s Health and Wellbeing, was the successful applicant for the Care for Country award after being nominated by her work colleagues.

“It felt amazing, I just felt very grateful… I’m at First Peoples Health and Wellbeing doing what I love for community. Community is my heart,” Ms Ryan said.

“You’ve got to care for your community to care for your country”.

Uncle Henry Atkinson was presented with the patron / elder award.

The 33-year-old has worked in Indigenous health for more than nine years and has no plans of a career change anytime soon.

“I absolutely plan to do this until I retire”, Ms Ryan said.

Wolithiga Elder Uncle Henry Atkinson was awarded the prestigious Patron/Elder award for his lifelong contribution to cultural awareness in Victoria.

Originally from Echuca, Mr Atkinson has made outstanding contributions to both the University of Melbourne and Deakin University’s education faculties through raising awareness in Aboriginal education. 

Mr. Atkinson has also made significant contributions to Country as a founding member of The Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations and through his relationship with the City of Knox local council.

The awards were held at Naarm (Melbourne’s) Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre.