Marshall Carter remembered, Ngarrindjeri celebrated at 2021 NAIDOC Week awards

The Ngarrindjeri nation's best and brightest have been recognised at an annual awards ceremony in Murray Bridge.

This story was originally published behind Murray Bridge News’ paywall. Paywalled stories are unlocked four weeks after publication. Can’t wait that long? Subscribe here.

Mathew Brooks, Jarrod Wingard, Rosslyn Richards, Jessie-Mae Walsh, Seth Rankine, Ellie Tabe, Lucas Holland and Kathy Rigney receive their 2021 NAIDOC Week awards. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

A significant absence has been felt at a NAIDOC Week ceremony celebrating the Ngarrindjeri nation’s outstanding achievers for 2021.

The late Uncle Marshall Carter was announced as the winner of an award for the male elder of the year on Monday morning.

Shirley Hartman’s voice wobbled as she paid tribute to the former president of reconciliation group Ngoppon Together, who died in July.

“He was one of the most kind and generous parkanu to us all, a great Ngarrindjeri man,” she said.

“Year after year he devoted his time and energy for the advancement of the Ngarrindjeri nation.

“It is with much respect to his family and with much love that we acknowledge the work of this amazing, wonderful man after his passing.”

Ngarrindjeri, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags fluttered in a cloudy sky above the Murray Bridge council office.

A crowd gathered there after the traditional walk across the old road bridge to cheer all the award winners.

Kathy Rigney was named female elder of the year for her decades of work in child protection and the community sector, making sure that all First Nations people in the Murraylands were looked after.

A record number of nominations were received for the female winner in the worker of the year category: Jessie-Mae Walsh, a liaison officer with the Department of Correctional Services.

“This worker is shy, humble, modest and doesn’t receive much credit or praise,” Ms Hartman said, quoting one of the nominations.

“Ask all the Aboriginal clients how they feel about her and your heart would overflow.

“It is really comforting to pick a client up who has been helped by (Ms Walsh) to ensure that they have housing, support, identification and clothes.”

Jarrod Wingard also picked up a worker of the year award for supporting young people at Murray Bridge High School and its Independent Learning Centre, and even starting a group for young men to learn the yidaki, or didgeridoo.

Forestville and Murray Bridge Bullets basketballer Seth Rankine was named sports person of the year, having won an MVP award with the local association and persevered through two knee operations in six months.

An artist of the year award was presented to Aunty Rosslyn Richards, whose donated works can be seen at Murrundi Reserve and the memorial hall at Wellington.

Young person of the year awards were given to “cheeky, astute and intelligent” horticulturalist Mathew Brooks, a member of the council’s open space team; and to committed basketballer, netballer, canteen volunteer and umpire Ellie Tabe.

Lucas Holland took home a junior encouragement award for his 100 per cent attendence at school, positive behaviour and participation in a Ngarrindjeri choir – “he is growing into a determined young por:li”.

Award winners were chosen based on their excellence, status as role models, leadership, impact within the Ngarrindjeri nation and commitment to empowering local Aboriginal people.

Monday’s event also featured a performance by Rritjarukar dancers Rita and Michael Lindsay, as well as a display of a reconciliation quilt sewn by members of South Australian Red Cross groups.

NAIDOC Week is ordinarily observed in July, but this year’s celebrations were postponed due to COVID-19.