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Samuel Bush-Blanasi named 2023 NT Australian of the Year for work to empower Indigenous Australians

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A man who spent decades empowering Indigenous Australians both in the Top End and across the country has been named the 2023 Northern Territory Australian of the Year.

Samuel Bush-Blanasi, who is chairman of the Northern Territory Council, was one of four people recognized at yesterday’s awards ceremony for their contribution to the development of the Northern Territory.

The Australian of the Year award recognized Mr Bush-Blanassi’s work in negotiating sea country rights for traditional owners in recent years, including the registration of the Aboriginal Sea Company (ASC) earlier this year.

With family members in the audience, Mr Bush-Blanassi last night spoke of his deep passion for fishing rights and his legacy in contributing to the High Court decision in the Blue Mud Bay case, which gave traditional owners control over 6,000 kilometers of Northern Territory coastline.

“My mom and my grandparents are from Blue Mud Bay,” he said.

Mr Bush-Blanasi says he will continue to help empower Indigenous Australians.(ABC News: Mitchell Abrams)

He said the creation of the ASC “will benefit Indigenous people from the Queensland border to the Western Australian border”.

Mr Bush-Blanasi has worked locally and nationally for years, including handing over large parts of Kakadu National Park to 14 local clans.

He was also involved in drafting the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which laid the foundation for a referendum on an indigenous voice in parliament is coming up.

“[The Referendum] it’s very important for us Indigenous Australians because we need to be included in the Constitution,” he said.

NT Senior Australian of the Year: Bernard Tipilura

Bernard Tipilura, 83, has been named NT Senior of the Year for his two decades of suicide prevention work in the Tiwi Islands of the Northern Territory and Queensland.

elderly aboriginal man in striped collared top next to woman in green dress
Bernard Tipilura says the connection to culture is central to mental health.(ABC News: Mitchell Abrams)

Mr. Tipiluri’s efforts have been credited with a drop in the islands’ suicide rate since 2006.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Mr Tipilura explained his approach to improving the mental health of young Indigenous people.

“I teach them about their father’s homeland, their mother’s homeland, their mother’s dance, their father’s dance… because I strongly believe that this is the only way we can improve young people to understand and improve, to continue the culture that we have created. , and this is my firm belief,” he said.

“Our job is to continue to educate young people to continue the culture that we’ve created.”

NT Young Australian of the Year: Jadhai Vigona

a young man in a collared shirt and jacket holds an award
Mr Vigona says he wants to be a role model for other young people.(ABC News: Mitchell Abrams)

Originally from the Tiwi Islands, Jadhai Wigona, 21, works to improve health in Aboriginal communities, including by spreading messages about how young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students can seek help with mental health issues.

He was named the NT Young Australian of the Year last night and was named the NT Young Australian of the Year earlier this year.

He has been involved in programs to assist Indigenous men in his own communities and is currently chairing the 2022 New Kingdom Youth Roundtable.

“As a young man growing up here in the Territory, I had no other role models as young people coming from my circumstances,” he said at the ceremony last night.

“It’s just about being a voice, being someone that these young people can look up to as themselves. And this is my service.”

NT Local Hero: Sasha King

Social worker Sasha King, 32, won an NT Local Hero Award for her work since 2019 to improve access to mental health support in the Northern Territory.

two blond women - one older, the other younger - hold an award
Sasha King (right) was recognized for improving mental health support.(ABC News: Mitchell Abrams)

She founded Two Two One to deliver accredited mental health training and community workshops in the North West.

She also organizes events in Darwin to allow young people to relax, connect and get support.

Ms King said the Northern Territory suffered from a combination of high demand for mental health support and insufficient services.

“What I’m pushing for is basic rights regarding our mental health, just as we have rights regarding our physical health,” Ms. King said.

“Part of your work and life and everything you do every day is mental health.”

The four NT award winners will travel to Canberra for the national Australian of the Year awards in January.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-11-01/nt-winners-australian-of-the-year-awards-2023/101598542

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