The artistic director of Indigenous performance company Bangarra Dance Theatre Stephen Page has taken out the inaugural Global Sydney Award.
Opera House boss Louise Herron was also among the main winners at a Monday night ceremony, run by advocacy and public policy group Committee for Sydney.
Mr Page's award celebrated those who put Sydney front and centre on the world stage but he described it as a win for the whole dance group.
"I might be the leader of this company artistically, but Bangarra started as a clan. It moves as a mob," he said.
"So when you are the one up the front accepting this award, you know you have a clan of people that that are accepting this as well."
Bangarra has evolved into a globally significant dance company following its foundation in 1989, performing in more than 60 cities around the world.
Mr Page said dance was a universal language and his company captured the combination of old and new knowledge through contemporary and traditional sounds.
"When we go overseas, we feel a responsibility," he said.
"We're not just there for self expression, we're carrying deep cultural significance, cultural values. It's the old and the young character of the country."
Ms Herron's City Visionary Award acknowledged her role in overseeing the renewal of the world heritage-listed Opera House.
She said the scale of the achievement became clear when she first heard the Sydney Symphony Orchestra play the overhauled concert hall in recent weeks.
"It was completely mind-blowing to see and hear what a difference the acousticians, architects, engineers and designers have been able to achieve."
Ms Herron said she was determined to shake off a myth that the Opera House was a place of privilege.
"The Opera House is a gift," she said.
"It's the greatest building of the 20th century and now it's ready for the 21st. However you want to enjoy the Opera House, it's yours to enjoy."
Other winners on Monday night included Josh Ross and Adam McCurdie, who co-founded the ticketing site Humanitix and were recognised as emerging leaders.
Catherine Keenan, who runs creative writing workshops at the Story Factory for children in under-resourced communities, picked up the Unsung Hero Award.
Hedayat Osyan, whose business CommUnity Construction has trained and employed more than 75 refugees over the past five years, received the Western Sydney Champion award.