THE inaugural NAIDOC Week awards night was a huge success with eight indigenous people honoured over four different categories.
Eighteen nominations were received for recognition in sporting, academic and professional achievement as well as contribution to the community.
Chief executive officer of Winanga-Li Aboriginal Child and Family Centre, Wayne Griffiths, said the calibre of all nominees had been outstanding with the judging panel having a difficult task choosing two winners in each section.
“It is a shame that everyone could not be given an award, however, each person nominated will receive a framed certificate,” he said.
“I congratulate all of you for your hard work and I am thankful that I was not on the judging panel.
“We would also like to thank our sponsors the Chief Aboriginal Lands Council, Gunnedah Rugby League Football Club, Jobs Australia and Medicare Local.”
Renee Horne was nominated in two separate categories and was honoured to receive awards for professional achievement and contribution to the community.
A preschool educator at Winanga-Li Aboriginal Child and Family Centre, Renee is described as “an amazing support person who puts everyone before herself and is always there to support other workers and every child in the centre”.
A strong Aboriginal woman who is proud of her heritage, Renee’s work at Gunnedah Supported Playgroup included getting Kamilaroi mothers and babies to attend playgroup, introducing local language and ways of teaching families to value their culture and connection to people and place. She has volunteered at local primary schools for six years, helping to organise and participate in NAIDOC Week activities and helped design and carve the scar trees on Pensioner’s Hill.
Renee’s enthusiasm to share her culture has been described as “inspirational” dating back to her school days.
Breeza resident Mitchum Neave was also honoured for his contribution to the community, acknowledging his tireless volunteer work in the village, at fundraising bingo events, local Rural Fire Service, where he captains the brigade, ferrying elders and other members of the community to various locations around NSW.
Gymnast Rita-Lee Gillard and cricketer Zoe Fleming were recognised for their achievement in sport, with Rita-Lee missing the function due to her commitment as a representative for Gunnedah Gymnastics Centre at the state and country championships in Sydney.
Rita-Lee (12) trains five days a week after school and on Saturday mornings and the results are reflected in her achievements as Level 1 state champion (2012), Level 2 state champion (2013), Level 4 state champion (2014) and Level 5 north west regional champion.
Thirteen-year-old Zoe Fleming was selected in the NSW team to compete in the Australian School Sports Cricket Championships at Bendigo in January.
She played exceptional cricket during the titles which helped NSW win the tournament. She has now been selected in the Central North Cricket Academy Squad and is already preparing for next season.
Zoe’s citation described her as “an outstanding cricketer and a wonderful ambassador for the whole community, inspiring other girls to become involved with cricket through her dedication and hard work. Zoe inspires others with her pride and is a proud Kamilaroi role model”.
Kyran Kleinschafer and Jay Smith received the awards for academic achievement and although Kyran was unable to attend the dinner, his success was applauded by the audience.
Kyran was nominated by his Gunnedah South School year teacher, who praised his diligence and hard work in achieving outstanding progress in reading.
The youngster began the year reading at Level 3 and has progressed to Level 13, reading at Level 16 with assistance – the expected level for children in Year 1. Kyran is described as a vibrant, happy and resilient member of the class, polite at all times and a great member of the school community.
At the other end of the scale, St Mary’s College Year 12 student, Jay Smith, is highly motivated to further his education at university and is considering a career in either zoology or psychology.
Jay is a dedicated student studying advanced English, studies of religion, 2 unit maths, biology, chemistry and physics.
He participated in an industry placement at UNE to broaden his knowledge of career opportunities, following on from selection to attend the Industry Placement Camp, which was another beneficial learning experience. He was further described as “a good role model for his peers with his communication skills and application to work”.
Wade Natty was recognised in the professional achievement award for his contribution to the success of Gunida Gunyah since 2005, where he began as a CDEP participant painting, mowing lawns, chopping wood and other activities.
He was engaged as the first housing trainee in 2006 and has developed his knowledge and skills, rising to the position of senior property manager, managing a team
of 11 employees and 367 properties with more than 800 tenants and family.
He was described as “exceptionally professional and diligent in his duties, and a sound role model for young Aboriginal males, showing that with hard work and dedication, a professional career is possible”.
Other local indigenous people nominated include Mikaela Jane Aldridge, Jade Jolliffe, Raymond Smith, Caleb Dorrington (sport award), Riley Price (academic award), Biannca Small,
Debbie Steadman (professional achievement), James Paull, Tom Bush, Dylan Fermor (community contribution).