Choking back tears, long-term primary school teacher Beverley Jan timidly approached the stage to loud applause after she was announced Person of the Year at this year’s Kullarri NAIDOC Awards last Saturday.
A pioneer in Aboriginal language education, Ms Jan was hailed the epitome of a dedicated teacher, having established the Bardi and Yawuru programs at Broome Primary School, with a focus on ensuring all indigenous students received quality education.
Ms Jan was one of a dozen outstanding achievers recognised this year.
NAIDOC Week pioneer Rosie Sahanna-Pitt received the achievement award for her contribution to the community.
Ms Sahanna-Pitt first proposed an idea to launch NAIDOC celebrations in 1987.
Together with a friend, she formed a team of volunteers to work on the event which has now become significantly recognised by the community each year.
This year’s NAIDOC patron Edie Wright was also commended for her contribution to Aboriginal education.
Ms Wright is the current manager of Aboriginal education at the Kimberley district education office where she focuses on improving outcomes for Aboriginal people.
Former Broome Shire councillor of 20 years, Elsta Foy, was awarded elder of the year for her continual work in ensuring indigenous community members had a say in local government process.
The lifetime achievement award was given to Neville Poelina for his lifetime commitment to Kimberley communities, having worked in areas of pearling, diving, training and tourism.
His daughter, Buna Tuaty-Poelina accepted the award on his behalf and described her father as “one of the most amazing men” she knew.
Young role model and St Mary’s College student Alice Shadforth received the youth of the year award for demonstrating excellence and leadership through her involvement with the college.
Ms Shadforth represented the Kimberley through the Melbourne and Taiji student exchange program and also attended a National Centre of Indigenous Excellence workshop in Sydney.
Brian Lee was acknowledged with the Caring for Country Award for maintaining the focus on sustainable development with minimal environmental impact.
Mr Lee has worked with Kooljaman at Cape Leveque for 14 years.
Filmmaker Mitch Torres received the artist of the year award, having written, produced and directed indigenous films since the 1990s. Her latest documentary, Jandamarra’s War won a string of accolades, including an Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts award Suzie Haslehurst received the reconciliation award, thanks to her passion for arts and sensitivity to indigenous concerns.
Ms Haslehurst made her mark as the chief executive of Magabala Books for 12 years, transforming the organisation into an award winning indigenous-publishing house.
Other award recipients were April Nulgit for scholar of the year, Brent Gore for sportsperson of the year and Magabala Books for the focus organisation award.