Reconciliation Australia Chief Executive Leah Armstrong has extended her warm congratulations to this year’s Senior Australian of the Year recipient Laurie Baymarrwangga.
“The Australian of the Year Awards provide a great opportunity to acknowledge the hard work that so many Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australians out there do,” Ms Armstrong said.
“Laurie is an inspiring Aboriginal woman who has been doing incredibly important work for Aboriginal people for decades by preserving her culture and keeping it alive for future generations to share.
“It is great to see her formally acknowledged for this—for promoting, preserving and protecting language and culture.”
In the 1960s, Laurie established a housing project on her homelands in the Northern Territory that has benefitted generations of kin. Speaking no English,
with no access to funding, resources or expertise, she initiated the Yan-nhangu dictionary project.
Her cultural maintenance projects include the Crocodile Islands Rangers, a junior rangers group and an online Yan-nhangu dictionary for school children.
Laurie is the second Indigenous Australian to be awarded Senior Australian of the Year. The first was Sally Goold OAM, a nurse and mentor, in 2006.
This year 10 Indigenous Australians were selected as state or territory finalists. Of those, three went through to the national finals:
Laurie Baymarrwangga NT – Senior Australian of the Year 2012
Rebecca Richards SA – Young Australian of the Year 2012
Julie Tongs ACT – Local Hero 2012
In addition three non-Indigenous Australians were honoured for their work with Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander people:
Robyn Layton QC SA – Australian of the Year 2012
Dr Sam Prince ACT – Young Australian of the Year 2012
Dr John Boffa NT – Australian of the Year 2012
Ms Armstrong said Reconciliation Australia recognised all of the Indigenous finalists—and those non-Indigenous Australians working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people—in this year’s Awards for their deep and diverse contributions to the nation.
“Inspirational figures are important for reconciliation—not only do they inspire the nation but they inspire individuals,” she said.
“There are a lot of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people out there that are doing a lot of really good things for their communities—so I am pleased to see some of these great Australians commended here in Canberra tonight.”
“I would also like to congratulate Geoffrey Rush, Marita Cheng and Lynne Sawyers for their Australian of the Year awards.”
“I don’t think you can celebrate what it means to be Australian without considering the First Australians and the history that all Australians share,” Ms Armstrong said.
“Whether you call it, Australia Day, Invasion Day or Survival Day, January 26 is a time to acknowledge successful and inspiring Australians and what they add to this nation—and that is very important for reconciliation.”
According to the last Australian Reconciliation Barometer more than 90 percent of the general population believed the relationship between Indigenous and other Australians was important.
It also showed that 70 percent of the general public felt that Indigenous culture was important to Australia’s national identity.