The achievements and contributions of Cessnock City’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were celebrated at Kiray Putjung Aboriginal Corporation’s awards dinner on Friday night.
The organisation – formerly known as Black Creek Aboriginal Corporation – has held the awards every second year since 2014.
Kiray Putjung’s chairperson Susan Mulyk received the Uncle Les Elvin Award, in recognition of her exceptional leadership in the local Indigenous community.
The award is presented in memory of Les Elvin, the respected Aboriginal elder and artist who died in 2015, and who was instrumental in establishing the awards night the year before his passing.
Ms Mulyk said she was overwhelmed to receive the award, as Uncle Les played a huge part in encouraging her to take on the role of chair of the corporation.
“At the time I didn’t see myself as a strong leader, the way Uncle Les did,” she said.
“He made me who I am and inspires me every day.
“He encouraged me to believe in myself.”
Ms Mulyk paid tribute to the Kiray Putjung board and events committee for their hard work and dedication.
“I’m very proud of every one of them – we all want to give 100 percent to the community,” she said.
“This award is for all of us.”
It was the first year the corporation had allowed its board members to be nominated for the awards, which were judged by an independent panel.
The scholar of the year awards went to Sapphire Dawson, who is employed as a graduate with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and was also recently admitted as a legal practitioner in the ACT; and Joseph Smith, who completed his HSC at Mount View High School in 2017, competed at the Special Olympics National Games in Adelaide in April, and will soon start his university studies.
The sportsperson of the year awards went to siblings Jasmine and Jesse Knight. Both have represented the Hunter and Newcastle in hockey; Jasmine ran an after-school sports program for children at Kitchener Public School in 2017 and attended the NRL Indigenous Youth Leadership Summit in February this year; and Jesse has represented Cessnock High School in numerous sports.
The junior volunteer of the year award went to Jaydan Herring, in recognition of his contribution to community events such as Kiray Putjung’s NAIDOC family fun day, and the Cessnock High School Junior Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG).
Kiray Putjung treasurer Bec Bell received the senior volunteer of the year award for her involvement with the corporation, which has included establishing a visiting service, all while studying for a a Bachelor of Aboriginal Professional Practice and Bachelor of Law.
The artist of the year award went to Aunty Sharon Edgar-Jones, a proud Wonnarua woman who has been working tirelessly to revitalise, preserve and protect her traditional language by running adult language classes for Kiray Putjung Aboriginal Corporation, and for Aboriginal students at Cessnock High School.
Rising country music singer Finnian Johnson received the youth of the year award, for his growing list of achievements which have included winning the Reg Lindsay Memorial Talent Quest in 2017; the Coca-Cola Battle of the Young Stars in Tamworth and the junior Mo Award. Finnian is also a member of his school’s AECG and is is involved in cultural events including Harmony Day, Reconciliation and NAIDOC Week.
A posthumous award was presented to Michael Griffiths, in recognition of his work in health care in Aboriginal communities. Mr Griffiths, who died in a road accident near Yass 2013, was a registered nurse who worked in many capacities including chronic diseases, drug and alcohol and mental health, renal screening and smoking cessation programs.
His daughter Lucy Reed, who accepted the award, remembers her father as being a man of passion and dedication who found his life purpose in improving and advocating for better delivery of health care services to Aboriginal people across all of NSW.
The awards were held at East Cessnock Bowling Club and featured performances by the Birrawal Dancers, Uncle Perry Fuller, Keisha Calderwood, Finnian Johnson and Sharnee Fenwick.
The event was part of Cessnock’s extensive NAIDOC Week program, which runs until July 25 (see the full program below).
NAIDOC Week 2018 IN Cessnock City: PROGRAM
Saturday, June 30
Art workshops for young people and their families with Wonnarua artists Lesley Salem and Madeline Jackman – Cessnock Youth Centre, 10am-2pm. Call 4993 4355 for details.
Tuesday, July 3
Intergenerational Aboriginal Art Workshop – Kurri Kurri Library, 5pm-6pm, $5 per person. Bookings essential; call the library on 4937 1638.
Wednesday, July 4
Corroboree at Cessnock High School – 4pm start, featuring Birrawal dancers, bush tucker, information stalls and more. Call the school on 4990 1977 for more information.
Intergenerational Aboriginal Art Workshop – Cessnock Library, 5pm-6pm, $5 per person. Bookings essential; call the library on 4993 4399.
Thursday, July 5
Cultural Treasures of Wollombi– a talk by Leanne King at Cessnock Library, 5.30pm-6.30pm.
Friday, July 6
‘Gathering Stories’ exhibition opens at Cessnock Regional Art Gallery, featuring portraits of inspirational women and other artworks by Lesley Salem, Saretta Fielding, Tamika Elvin and Aunty Cynthia. Runs until August 12.
July 6-August 12
NAIDOC Week Art Trail – Cessnock Regional Art Gallery, Hunter Valley Visitor Information Centre, Kurri Kurri and Cessnock Libraries, and Council Administration Building.
Saturday, July 7
Family history workshop – Cessnock Library, 10am-12pm.
Kiray Putjung Aboriginal Corporation NAIDOC family fun day and street parade – Cessnock TAFE Park, 10am-2pm. Flag raising, street parade, music, culture, workshops, stalls, food and kids’ activities.
Monday, July 9
Basket weaving workshop – Cessnock Library, 11am-12.30pm, $5 per person. Bookings essential; call Cessnock Library on 4993 4399.
Tuesday, July 10
Barkuma’s NAIDOC Family Fun Day – New location: ‘Binarri Jinama-Gu’ (1075 Old Maitland Road, Sawyers Gully), 10am-2pm. Call 4937 1094 for more information.
Koori Cook-Off – Kurri Kurri Hospital, 10am. Come along and learn some new recipes, and try some surprising ingredients. (Check out last year’s event here).
NAIDOC Storytime – Cessnock Library, 10am-10.45am. For kids aged 2-6.
Wednesday, July 11
NAIDOC Storytime – Kurri Kurri Library, 10am-10.45am. For kids aged 2-6.
Basket weaving workshop – Kurri Kurri Library, 2pm-3.30pm, $5 per person. Bookings essential; call the library on 4937 1638.
Native plant giveaway at Cessnock and Kurri Kurri Libraries. Present your library card to receive one free native plant per household. While stocks last.
Thursday, July 12
Bush Tukka Cooking for Young People – Cessnock Youth Centre, 11am-2pm. Bookings essential; call 4993 4355.
Wednesday, July 25
Stanford Merthyr Infants School boys’ dance group performance – Kurri Kurri Library, 2pm.