Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Bryan & Kathy Massey, Rachel Meldrum, Chowdhury Sadaruddin
7:30PM DARWIN: A blind indigenous singer/songwriter, a couple who changed a community, a scientist who aims to save the banana industry and a Muslim community leader have tonight been named as the Northern Territory recipients in the Australian of the Year Awards 2009.
Chief Minister, the Hon Paul Henderson MLA presented the recipients with their awards in a ceremony this evening and congratulated all finalists on having earned such a prestigious honour from their fellow Northern Territory citizens.
The NT award recipients are:
The NT Australian of the Year 2009 is Indigenous singer/songwriter Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu.
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu is from the Gumatj nation in North-East Arnhem Land. Blind since birth, he is a gifted musician who has the unique talent of playing right-handed strung guitars left-handed. A former member of Yothu Yindi and a long-time member of the Saltwater Band, his debut solo album, Gurrumul, was released to critical acclaim. Hailed as one of the greatest musicians Australia has ever produced, Geoffrey sings in a mixture of local language and English. He performs in an almost classical setting with just an acoustic guitar, grand piano and double bass accompanying him. As a deeply traditional man, his songs focus on his spiritual connection with the land, his love of country, and the importance of his ancestors. Named male artist of the year at the 2007 Northern Territory Indigenous Music awards and awarded two arias at the ARIA Awards 2008, he has been acclaimed for his performance on the world stage in New York, Los Angeles and London. Geoffrey has also performed for the Queen and the Pope and supported Elton John on his recent Australian tour. He is an example of triumph over adversity, and of extraordinary talent.
The NT Senior Australians of the Year 2009 are dedicated community supporters Bryan and Kathy Massey.
Bryan and Kathy Massey arrived on Groote Eylandt as missionaries nearly 40 years ago. They knew very little about Aboriginal culture or what lay ahead. In the years that followed, Bryan and Kathy developed a trusting, close partnership with the Aboriginal community of Angurugu. They introduced a program to counteract alcohol and substance misuse, a Meals on Wheels program, and disability services. Their greatest success was fulfilling the community's long-term wish to have an aged care facility, which was built in the shape of the Angurugu totem, a swordfish, to signify community dreams and commitment. Bryan and Kathy's devotion to Indigenous welfare has also extended beyond their immediate community. For many years Bryan has been a board member on the Council on Aboriginal Alcohol Prevention, and in 1997 both Bryan and Kathy travelled to Katherine as part of flood relief efforts. The couple have also raised awareness about Machado Joseph Disease, a fatal nerve wasting condition, affecting a significant number of the Angurugu community and communities in West Arnhem Land. As a long line of missionaries and other non-Indigenous staff have come and gone over the years, Bryan and Kathy have remained, committed to assisting the community they have grown to love so deeply.
The NT Young Australian of the Year 2009 is talented scientist Rachel Meldrum.
Rachel Meldrum is on a mission to help the local banana industry. Panama disease in bananas is regarded as one of the most destructive diseases in the recorded history of agriculture. A particularly virulent strain of the disease, known as Tropical Race 4 (TR4), was identified in the Northern Territory in 1997 and caused the closure of several banana plantations. In the last 11 years this strain has caused a 60 per cent decline in the Northern Territory's banana production. At present there are no commercial resistant banana varieties, and no method for eradicating the fungus from plantations. Rachel is investigating whether banana weevils are assisting the spread of this soil-borne fungus. As Rachel explains, her award-winning project will 'expand our knowledge of TR4 epidemiology and, in doing so, help our local banana industry.' Rachel has demonstrated that the influence, creativity and skills of young scientists are vital to our nation's wellbeing.
The NT Local Hero of the Year 2009 is Muslim community leader Chowdhury Sadaruddin.
Chowdhury Sadaruddin's contribution to the Islamic community in Darwin is significant. As President of the Islamic Society of Palmerston he has been working to establish a centre for the Muslim community in Palmerston to cater for the religious, cultural and social needs of the Muslim community. The Centre will serve as a venue for open days to promote harmony between Muslims and those of other faiths, strengthening the local community and fostering mutual respect and understanding. Chowdhury has also been instrumental in establishing the Territory's first Islamic school, is involved in organising Islamic Awareness Week, has represented Darwin at the regional level of the Islamic Council meetings and was involved in the Bringing Communities Together Expo 2007. The Expo included two workshops open to the public on 'Enhancing Social Participation' and 'Challenges for Future Generations of NT Muslims.' Although a Muslim, Chowdhury readily extends his support to those of all faiths. His effort to improve his community's standing and lifestyle in the Territory is boundless. The Top End is a better place as a result of his compassion and kindness.