NAIDOC Week 2020 celebrated with awards, walk in Murray Bridge

The Ngarrindjeri nation's highest achievers have been recognised at a ceremony on Monday morning.

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The winners of NAIDOC Week awards in Murray Bridge for 2020, and friends and family members accepting awards on behalf of others. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

Hundreds of people have turned out to celebrate the Ngarrindjeri nation’s highest achievers at the 2020 NAIDOC Week awards in Murray Bridge.

The crowd of about 250 gathered at the east end of the old road bridge on Monday morning and paraded across, then down Bridge Street, waving Ngarrindjeri and Aboriginal flags in the sunshine.

The event – originally scheduled for July, before COVID had its way – then continued with a ceremony at the council office on Seventh Street.

Nine awards were given out, recognising Ngarrindjeri people who had inspired, empowered and acted as role models for others during the past 12 months.

The male elder of the year was 70-year-old Uncle Kevin Rigney, a transport driver for the Moorundi Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service who emcee Kathy Rigney said was always willing to help others.

Female elder of the year was Auntie Porky Walker, a Moorundi board member, businesswoman, and a student and teacher of the Ngarrindjeri language.

She was currently working towards a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, and sang and wrote songs for vocal group the Deadly Nannas.

Male youth of the year was Jaeleo Penny, a young man full of eagerness to help, confidence as a speaker and pride in his language and culture.

“He has a very bright future as a leader if he continues to show such deadly traits,” Ms Rigney said.

Female youths of the year Georgia Trevorrow and Nikki Jackson, both year nine students at Unity College, were recognised for their research into diabetes and breast cancer.

They also raised a donation to Moorundi by washing cars and serving a barbecue, and regularly perform welcomes to country or offer cultural advice to their school.

Moorundi’s David Crompton was named male worker of the year for his dedication to helping local people stay healthy, for sharing his wisdom about family and always being ready for a chat or to help out.

Aninna Tarasenko’s leadership in the area of mental health, advocacy for cultural safety and – incidentally – captaincy of the Murraylands Swans women’s football team won her the award for female worker of the year.

Basketball and netball organiser Shirley Hartman was named sports person of the year for her tireless work behind the scenes, recruiting players, putting in registrations and organising canteen volunteers and coaches.

A junior encouragement award was given to Kearna Wilkinson for, among other things, her enthusiasm for learning traditional weaving techniques and for teaching other children.

She had an outstanding attendence record at Murray Bridge North School, Ms Rigney said, participated in Little Athletics and netball, and often played school with her siblings and cousins, teaching them the importance of education.

One last award went to Harley Hall, artist of the year, for his work on a Ngarrindjeri mural on Seventh Street and for sharing his skills with the next generation.

Several award winners were absent from the ceremony but had their trophies collected by friends or family members.

The ceremony also included a flag-raising, a minute’s silence and a speech by Mayor Brenton Lewis, who recognised the theme of NAIDOC Week 2020: “always was, always will be”.

More events will follow around the Murraylands during the rest of the week.

Watch a video of the entire ceremony below.

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