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Northern Territory Australian of the Year Award recipients announced
NT Australian of the Year 2011 - Professor Michael Christie
NT Senior Australian of the Year 2011 - Barry Abbott
NT Young Australian of the Year 2011 - Kalinda Griffiths
NT Local Hero 2011 - Djapirri Mununggirritj
Indigenous language expert Professor Michael Christie has been named the Northern Territory’s Australian of the Year 2011 and presented with his award by The Hon Paul Henderson MLA, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory.
A fluent speaker of Yolngu languages, Professor Christie has worked collaboratively with Indigenous elders and communities for more than 30 years to preserve Indigenous culture and heritage and knowledge for all Australians.
Professor Christie worked as teacher linguist at Milingimbi and Yirrkala in the 1970s and 80s and with Yolngu elders to establish the Yolngu studies program at Charles Darwin University which won the Prime Minister’s prize for Australia’s best university teaching program in 2005. His research and teaching brings Indigenous and non Indigenous knowledge systems together to work on ‘both ways’ school curriculum, medical interpreting and Aboriginal housing. In 2008 Professor Christie was awarded a National Fellowship by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council, where he developed a program for enabling Yolŋu elders in remote homeland communities to teach their languages and culture to students around the world using remote digital technologies.
Barry Abbott, from Alice Springs, was awarded Northern Territory's Senior Australian of the Year 2011 for his lifetime commitment to turning around the lives of young men at risk.
Barry is an Arrente stockman who has had remarkable success rehabilitating young male trouble makers and substance abusers of the outback through the Ilpurla Aboriginal Association he established as a treatment outstation in a remote south-west corner of Central Australia in the 1970s. It’s estimated he has looked after about 300 boys over the years, some for as long as 12 months at a time. Drug abuse and petrol sniffing in particular are the main reasons young men end up at Barry’s station. A stockman by trade, Barry gives the boys the opportunity to become part of a working cattle station. They start work at day break and learn new skills like saddlery, vehicles and stock maintenance and break in horses to instil in them a strong work ethic, discipline and a sense of pride and self-worth. Unlike other treatment centres, Barry accepts boys from anywhere, usually at the request of the Alice Springs courts, some arriving at his station still handcuffed - he takes on the hard cases, the ones considered to be hopeless; boys who the doctors say could die at any time, and proves them wrong.
The Northern Territory Young Australian of the Year 2011 is 29 year old Indigenous health researcher Kalinda Griffiths of Casuarina whose research is proving critical for improving Indigenous health and cancer survival rates in general.
An Indigenous woman born in Darwin of Yawuru, Indonesian and Welsh heritage, Kalinda’s interest in Indigenous health stems from witnessing the preventable illness and disease suffered by her immediate and extended family. She began her career in Indigenous health research with a CRCAH laboratory traineeship, gaining experience as a research technician, predominantly on the Diabetes and Related conditions in the Urban Indigenous Darwin (DRUID) study, the largest and most comprehensive dataset on diabetes-related conditions in urban Indigenous populations. Her research now focuses on improving the evidence base for Indigenous health and social policy which will ultimately help reduce the health disadvantage faced by Indigenous people. Until now there have been no statistics on cancer in Indigenous people and Kalinda is analysing large sets of data to determine the difference in rates of cancer survival between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. She has also become a strong voice for Indigenous women, particularly in the area of health and was selected to attend the Oxfam Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Strait Talk Summit 2009.
The Northern Territory’s Local Hero 2011 is Djapirri Mununggirritj of Yirrkala, recognising her commitment to improving her community and the social equity of Indigenous people in general.
As a Yolgnu elder, Djapirri Mununggirritj is committed to addressing the issues facing her community, including drugs, alcohol and violence. In 2004, she was instrumental in establishing the Yirrkala Women’s Patrol which saw Aboriginal elders walk the streets late at night to successfully deal with domestic violence, alcohol and other community safety issues. Djapirri coordinates patrol rosters, participates in patrols and liaises with police and community members. She also spent five years managing Nambara Arts and Crafts and as an accomplished artist herself is committed to the protection and promotion of Yolgnu art. She is currently Manager of the Yirrkala Women’s Centre and is a trailblazer in the political arena. She was the first woman elected as Vice Chair of Yirrkala Dhanbul Council and the first woman to be nominated as Chair. She has worked hard in her community to bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, organising women’s nights where Yolgnu and Balanda (white) women can meet and share culture. She is also working towards reconciliation on a national scale in her role on the board of Reconciliation Australia.
The Northern Territory recipients will now join recipients from all other States and Territories as finalists for the national awards to be announced on 25 January 2011 in Canberra.
Tam Johnston, Program Director for the National Australia Day Council, said the Northern Territory award recipients are all outstanding Australians whose impact is making a real difference, particularly for Indigenous Australians.
“The award recipients are leading the way in addressing health and youth issues, social challenges, equity and human rights in the Northern Territory and beyond,” said Ms Johnston.
Ralph Norris, CEO Commonwealth Bank, offered his congratulations to the Northern Territory award recipients. The Commonwealth Bank has been the major sponsor of the Australian of the Year Awards for more than thirty years.
“On behalf of the Commonwealth Bank, I would like to congratulate the Northern Territory award recipients. Their hard work and achievements are an inspiration to the Australian community,” said Mr Norris.
For more information about the Northern Territory Award recipients, click here.