Celebrating First Nations artists at National Indigenous Arts Awards

The Australia Council for the Arts celebrates First Nations artists at the 12th National Indigenous Arts Awards (NIAA), presented at the Sydney Opera House on Monday 27 May, coinciding with the anniversary of the 1967 referendum.

Respected elders actor Uncle Jack Charles and Pakana shell artist Aunty Lola Greeno were honoured with the prestigious Red Ochre Awards for Lifetime Achievement. They were joined by visual artist Jenna Lee, who receives the Dreaming Award for a young and emerging artist and theatre maker Jacob Boehme who is the recipient of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Fellowship.

Aunty Lola Greeno, tunne necklace (detail), 2012, mussel shells, gumnuts, ochre, wire, diameter 34.5cm. Photograph: John Leeming, QVMAG

NIAA recognise the centrality of First Nations artists to Australian culture. They celebrate the significant contribution of First Nations artists to the vibrancy of Australian arts.

Australia Council Deputy Chair Lee-Ann Tjunypa Buckskin said, ‘On this auspicious date, it is significant that we are supporting and celebrating our First Nations artists at important stages in their careers. There is a profound sense of cultural strength as we acknowledge these artists from across the generations, from emerging to mid-career, to some our most celebrated and acclaimed elders.’

Uncle Jack Charles. Photograph: Dale Lynch

First Nations artists have also received extensive acknowledgement in the Australia Council Awards and the Australia Council Fellowships this year. At the NIAA event, Fellowship recipients Vernon Ah Kee (visual art) and Ali Cobby Eckerman (literature) were joined onstage by three additional First Nations artists, who received Australia Council Awards earlier this year – Rachael Maza, Rhoda Roberts and Vicki Van Hout.

Jenna Lee, Their Words, 2019. Courtesy the artist

Australia Council CEO Adrian Collette said this was a significant moment to reflect on the achievements of First Nations artists: ‘It will be a proud moment when we see these nine extraordinary artists on stage being honoured for their achievements across multiple artforms. It’s a powerful demonstration of the centrality of First Nations arts in Australia’s cultural fabric,’ he said.

australiacouncil.gov.au