NAIDOC Awards recognise Mildura community leaders

Community contributors and emerging leaders honored

Mildura’s Koori community recognised the contributions of its leading citizens in an awards night ceremony to wrap up NAIDOC celebrations on Saturday night.
About 220 community-members attended the NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day of Celebration) Ball and awards night.
The highlight of the ceremony was the induction of a highly active and much-loved community leader into the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Honor Roll.
Ada Peterson was inducted into the Honor Roll and recognised with the Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors the contributions of long-serving community leaders for her dedication and commitment to advocating for the Mob and her positive contributions as a Cultural Ambassador, and in community engagement, partnerships, leadership and management, particularly in the family violence sector.
Aunty Colleen Johnson was awarded the Aunty Bev Peter Award for Community Excellence in recognition of her role as a mentor and a strong community leader who is passionate about keeping her Aboriginal culture alive. Colleen shares her knowledge and experiences to her next generations through her own family and many local schools.
They were among seven community achievers recognised at Saturday night’s ceremony.
“It’s been a fantastic NAIDOC celebration – just a really positive and happy week of celebration of our community and our Koori culture,” said the event coordinator Pam McCormack.
“The awards night in particular allows us to recognise the contributions and commitment of some really special people who are taking us forward, and others who are developing into leaders of our community for the future.”
The awards night was the highlight of what has been a hugely-successful 2022 NAIDOC celebration.
“It’s great to watch community involvement in NAIDOC growing each year,” said MDAS Acting CEO Dallas Widdicombe.
“It’s exciting to see more organisations coming on board and people looking forward to getting involved in celebrating our culture each year now.”
He said it was pleasing that so many mainstream organisations and community-members getting involved in partnership for NAIDOC Week as organisers and participants.
“It’s a chance to learn more about our art, dance and storytelling and more people of all backgrounds are getting on board with NAIDOC every year.  We are loving that,” he said.
Lifetime Achievement and Honor Roll
(Sponsor: Sunraysia Community Health Services)

Ada is a proud Barkindji, Ngiyampaa and Killulla tribe member.
Ada has been working in the Mildura community for over 30 years. She has committed herself to advocating for the mob in community and makes a positive contribution while striving for community excellence in all fields in her career pathways.
These career pathways include Cultural Ambassador, Community Engagement, Partnerships with Stakeholders Government and non-Government, Events - Projects, Leadership and Management. 
Ada is well known for her work in Leadership and Management, Community Engagement and the Family Violence sector in the Mildura – Mallee region over the past 30 years where she partook in development of the Orange Door concept model for our region working with Family Safety Victoria, VACCA and Thinkplace.  She was also part of the development of the Mildura and Swan Hill Aboriginal Police Protocols and the Orange Door – Mallee and second access point in Swan Hill. She sits as Respected Person on the MCV – Koori Magistrates Court and Koori Country Court as cultural connection to the Magistrates and Judges.  She acknowledges the value and importance of diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders voices, knowledge and wisdom, from who we all learn. 
She is committed to strengthening understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians so that we may walk together towards reconciliation. Ada’s connection with the non-Aboriginal community has earned her respect from those colleagues and are always calling upon her for advice and collaboration on cultural matters in the community. 
She has been at the forefront of developing a vision and achieving corporate goals by embedding the ‘cultural strengthening’ lens and understanding across community, that is, embracing cultural diversity inclusion where we unite as one. 
Ada’s philosophy for mentoring is a challenge to both leaders and young people; challenging leaders to inspire the same curiosity, creativity, and deeper thinking in their employees that great teachers inspire in their students. 

Aunty Bev Peter Award – Community Excellence
(Sponsor: Koori Court)

Colleen is an Elder form the Barkindgi nations, she was born in Bourke NSW and grew up in Wentworth and Coomealla.
Colleen is passionate about keeping her Aboriginal culture alive by sharing knowledge and experiences to her next generations.  She takes her children and grandchildren out bush on a regular basis and has learnt to track emus through the knowledge passed down by her mother May Johnson.
Colleen not only shares her knowledge and experiences with her family but also shares with many local schools.  She is well known in all preschools as they book her in to tell her story every year.  Her program is called ‘The Emu Story’ which she put together herself.  She shows photos, tells stories and teaches about bush safety, and most importantly teaches about our Aboriginal culture.
Colleen demonstrates excellence just simply by sharing her culture to family and students in her local community.  This gives Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students a better understanding of Aboriginal culture.  Colleen believes it’s best to share the Aboriginal culture while the students are still young to give them a good understanding at a young age, a respect of culture at a young age and a better understanding of safety in the bush.

Youth Award
(Sponsor: Haven Home, Safe)

Milla is a proud Wiraduri descendant and currently studying her Bachelor of Art (Drawing) at University.  She is a bright and upcoming artist with her work being recognised and used in Mildura and surrounding communities, it was featured on last years MDAS NAIDOC shirts and it’s her work that is the Mildura Covid Response Network logo.
In 2020 Milla was the very first Aboriginal school captain of Mildura Senior College and has shown her younger community members that striving for your aspirations through education can lead to great things.
Not only has this made a difference in her Aboriginal Community but also has made an impact on the wider community in teaching art in a mainstream studio and teaching and informing about her culture on a continuous basis.

Sports Person Award
(Sponsor: Mallee Sports Assembly)

Channy is a proud 21-year-old Barkindji woman who grew up on the lands of the Latji Latji people in Mildura. These years ‘Get up, Stand up, Show up’ theme resonates deeply with Channy as she shows up for her mob every day and works extensively to inspire the next generation - this is a testament to her ongoing desire for change.
Channy aspires to be drafted into the AFLW and is moving mountains to get there, working two jobs and running her own business to fund her development for her future career in sport.  At a young age Channy was inspired by the Sunraysia women’s football league and at 19 started her career with Nangiloc.  She is a weapon on the field and was picked to play in the AFLW Richmond Football Club although COVID stopped this from progressing.  She went on to play two seasons with Bendigo Pioneers, did a training season with Richmond AFLW and now plays for Woodville West Torrens Eagles in the South Australia National Football League and begins the 2023 season in September. 
Channy’s athleticism, skills and aspiration has now seen a documentary being created about her journey to the AFLW.  She hopes to inspire other Aboriginal girls in her hometown and across Australia to never give up on their dreams and move mountains to achieve.  In her football career she has achieved: Best and Fairest 2019, Coaches Award 2019, Spirit Award 2019 and Best and Fairest Runner Up 2021.

Trainee/Apprentice Award
(Sponsor: Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc)

Kylia is currently the Aboriginal Health Worker Trainee with the maternity team at Mildura O & G and works closely with midwives Jacinta Malloy and Amy Hunt.  She supports Dr Erin Kelly at her weekly maternity and women’s health clinics. 
Kylia has made a difference at her workplace and is a dedicated, hard working and passionate health worker that goes above and beyond for her team and clients.  She helps to engage, educate and empower women and families within the MDAS and Mildura community.
Kylia regularly builds her skills and knowledge by attending her VACCHO training, which is the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation. 
She is very committed, often arriving early to work or staying late to support clients, help other departments when short staffed or dedicating her weekends to immunisation clinics.
Kylia is passionate, hardworking and gentle.  She has an easy-going nature and gets along with everyone she works with and the clients she cares for.  She puts everyone at ease and genuinely serves and cares for those that cross her path.

Volunteer Award
(Sponsor: Mallee Family Care)

Dominic is a proud, 23-year-old Barkindji, Muruwari and South Sea Islander man who grew up on Latje Latje Country in Mildura.
This year’s theme, Get up! Stand up!  Show up! resonates deeply with Dominic.  He shows up for his mob daily and his extensive work with grass roots community members and organisations is a major testament to his ongoing desire for change. 
Dominic started out his working career as a Youth worker with MDAS where he supported vulnerable young people through their transitions from primary to secondary school. 
From here, in 2019 Dominic became a mechanical labourer for the Broken Hill pipeline and if not for the hard work of Dominic and his peers on this project, Broken Hill would have been without water by the end December.  He helped build two major water pump stations and rainwater tanks in the Wentworth area to ensure the community had greater water security.  For the next 2 years he assisted in supplying clean energy to surrounding townships of Ouyen while at the Kiamal Solar Farm. 
He then returned to MDAS to pursue his passion for improving community health outcomes – this time as an alcohol and drug support worker at the Wiimpatja Healing Centre.  Today, Dominic works as a liaison support officer at both Coomealla High School and Dareton Public School.  He is an active member of the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group and assists in organising NAIDOC week events and school holiday programs.  He is an Executive member of the Koori Youth Council and volunteers his time with the Korin Gamagdji Institute’s leadership program at the Richmond Football Club.
Throughout all this Dominic has coached several basketball teams in the Mallee’s local league including Mildura’s B-grade men’s side at state-wide Aboriginal Basketball carnivals in Shepparton. 

Partnership/Organisation Award
(Sponsor: Hands Up Mallee)

Pam is a local young Aboriginal Barkindji/Malayangapa woman who was born in Wagga Wagga NSW but grew up in Sunraysia from the age of 3. 
Pam started out her working life at McDonalds, went on to the Workingman’s Club before gaining a traineeship with Chemist Warehouse as a Pharmacy Assistant where she worked for 5 years. 
In 2014 a great opportunity came up at MDAS and Pam was appointed the Customer Service Officer Trainee role.  Pam knew she wanted to work for Mildura’s local Aboriginal Service since she was a child watching her mother and father at MDAS and the excellent work they did in achieving best outcomes for Aboriginal people, she knew she wanted to do that too. Over the next few years while in her Customer Service role Pam completed studies in Business Administration, Leadership and Management and she continued to take on trainees and upskill them.  When they moved on she employed and upskilled more young Aboriginal people.  Most of the trainees were inexperienced or didn’t finish school but she gave them a chance and always says ‘I have the chance to give people a chance and I’ll do it while I can.’
Soon Pam was the coordinator of both Family Services and Health Services Receptions at MDAS.  All the while she had a position on the MDAS Board for 8 years. 
Currently Pam is the Aboriginal Community Engagement Coordinator and has been very active in this year’s NAIDOC events and tonight’s event here at Club DaVinci. 
Pam has given Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people a chance to work and successfully helped hem gain a certificate, other employment and help bring community back into the organisation.  She is a strong leader for our young people in our community and they certainly look up to her. 

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MALLEE DISTRICT ABORIGINAL SERVICES  “Our Vision: "Self-determined, healthy, robust and culturally strong Aboriginal communities across the Mallee region."

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