2018 Premier’s NAIDOC Awards

The Premier’s NAIDOC Award recognises the outstanding achievements and services of an extraordinary South Australian who has made a significant contribution to the lives of Aboriginal People in South Australia.



  • His Excellency, the Honourable Hieu Van Le AC, Governor of South Australia
  • The Honourable Kyam Maher, Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council and Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation
  • Members of the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee
  • Aboriginal Elders
  • Chief Executives of Government Departments
  • Commissioner, Dr Roger Thomas
  • Past recipients of the Premier’s NAIDOC Award


I thank Kirstie for her introduction and Uncle Lewis O’Brien for his generous welcome to country.

I acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional lands of the Kaurna People and we respect their spiritual relationship with their country.

We also acknowledge the Kaurna People as the custodians of the Adelaide region and that their cultural and heritage beliefs remain as important to the living Kaurna People today.



I am privileged to be here this evening as part of the 2018 NAIDOC Week celebrations.

The theme of this year’s celebrations – Because of her, we can! – recognises the invaluable contributions that Aboriginal women have made, and continue to make, to the rich history of our nation.

For more than 65,000 years, Aboriginal women have carried dreaming stories, song lines, languages and knowledge.

They have greatly enriched our world’s oldest continuing culture.

NAIDOC Week 2018 provides us with an opportunity to acknowledge the many achievements of Aboriginal women.

Their voice.

And their unwavering passion for their people.

The achievements of Aboriginal women have empowered past generations and paved the way for generations to come.

This ceremony is our opportunity to formally recognise the outstanding contribution of this year’s NAIDOC award nominees to the lives of Aboriginal South Australians.

Through the Dr Alice Rigney Prize, we will also be recognising a high school student who is demonstrating exemplary dedication to studies.

Before announcing the finalists and the award winners, I would like to take the opportunity of my first NAIDOC Awards presentation as Premier to say a few things about my commitment to Aboriginal Affairs in this State.



As Premier, I have taken responsibility for the Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation portfolio.

I have done so because I believe that right across government, we have to find more practical and timely ways to support our Aboriginal communities.

I have asked all of my Ministers to discuss with their agencies, actions that can be taken to make a difference for Aboriginal people.

These will be taken into a two-year Action Plan with accountability for measurable outcomes clearly attributed to the responsible ministers.

Government can’t solve all problems.

But I believe we must be much more responsive.

This Action Plan is an important starting point and will be released by the end of this year after consultation with Aboriginal community representatives.

I recognise that Aboriginal communities want a strong relationship with the Government.

They want regular engagement.

They want to be able to present their views to Ministers and to senior people in government agencies.

They want their views considered, responded to and where possible, actioned.

They also want governance processes within their own communities to ensure that when they are engaging with the Government, the representation of their people’s views is effective.

I believe we can do all of these things in working together to deliver practical outcomes in key areas such as economic participation, justice, health and education.

My Government will work with Aboriginal people in a collaborative, respectful, place-based manner to develop the mechanisms that enable this to happen.

We will do this to ensure the services we deliver are those that are needed the most.

Are coordinated.

And delivered to meet local needs.

I believe this is the best way to meet the aspirations of Aboriginal South Australians for a stronger and more productive relationship with the Government.



An important part of the relationship between government and Aboriginal people is Reconciliation, and NAIDOC Week provides us with the ideal opportunity to each contribute to this important agenda.

There are many events, both government and non-government organised, taking place this week.

They provide an opportunity for the wider community to become engaged, to celebrate and to connect with Aboriginal people, communities and culture in South Australia.

My department has co-ordinated a calendar of events, which is available on the Department of Premier and Cabinet website.

I encourage South Australians to attend these events and show their support for NAIDOC Week.



Ladies and Gentlemen, let us now turn to why we are here – to celebrate the significant contributions of some individuals who are with us in the room this evening.

In doing so, let me first recognise and commend the work of the Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division of my Department in organising these Awards while at the same time having to implement the machinery of government changes that have followed the March election.

On your behalf, I thank all those departmental officers involved led by their Executive Director, Nerida Saunders, and Director, Kirstie Parker.

Before I announce the winner of the 2018 Premier’s NAIDOC Award, I would like to highlight some of the achievements of the four short-listed nominees.

Each one of these nominees has made a significant contribution to the lives of Aboriginal South Australians, and truly deserves the recognition and commendation they are receiving this evening.

As I announce their names, can the nominees please come to the front.



Frank is a Jardwadjali elder born in Bordertown.

In January 1964, Frank joined the Australian Army.

His postings included 12 months active service in Vietnam from May 1966.

While in Vietnam, he spent 321 days on operations, patrolling paddy fields, rubber plantations and jungle areas.

It was here that Frank demonstrated his strength of character when, despite being wounded himself, he played a lead role in ensuring the safety of his platoon after it came under fire.

Following his retirement in 2000, Frank continues to give his time freely and without remuneration to engage with students, speaking about his Army experiences and Aboriginal land issues.

He participated in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander War Memorial Committee which commenced in 2007 to raise funds and plan the memorial now established at the Torrens Parade Ground.

Frank’s volunteering commitments enabled him to take part in an activity with students on the APY Lands researching the history and making memorial crosses for 14 Aboriginal soldiers killed in action.

I congratulate Frank on his nomination this evening.



Winnie Warrior has been an advocate for Aboriginal people all her life.

She dedicated 20 years to working in education.

This was first as a volunteer, then as an Aboriginal Education Worker culminating in becoming an Aboriginal Education Manager in northern Adelaide.

Winne currently coordinates community engagement for the Making an Impact Project.

This aims to reduce the number of young Aboriginal people in the Youth Justice System in northern Adelaide.

She has also brought together a group of young Aboriginal people who were involved in serious offending to co-design a program which those participating called ‘Yunga Nungas’.

Winne is known for going above and beyond the call of duty through her after hours visits to the Aboriginal families participating in the program.

I am told that eight of the 10 young people involved in the program have not reoffended.

Winnie is described as someone whose generosity appears unlimited and who always goes the extra mile to help bring positive change to the lives of young people.

Congratulations Winne on your nomination.



Joyleen Thomas is a highly respected and proud Kokatha woman.

She has worked as the Co-Chair of the Kokatha Mula Olympic Dam Board of Directors and the Co-Chair of the Kokatha Uwankara Native Title Management Committee.

Her personal commitment and tireless leadership in advancing native title for the Kokatha Nation is highly commended by her community.

Joyleen has also championed Aboriginal employment in the public sector for over 30 years, working tirelessly during that time to improve the opportunities of Aboriginal employees.

She took the lead on the first Aboriginal traineeship program within the Department of Planning, Training and Infrastructure and was recognised as a leader and mentor for young Aboriginal employees.

She has also been pivotal in developing Reconciliation strategies for government agencies, recently providing leadership in the development of the ‘Safe to be You’ cultural safety framework for work health and safety issues.

I am told that to date, the framework has been distributed to over 50,000 employees and is providing guidance about the impact that practices, policies and behaviour have on others.

This, coupled with her contribution to the Department’s Reconciliation Action Plan, ensure the Department continues to develop respectful and inclusive relationships with Aboriginal people and promotes cultural inclusion.

Joyleen has also been a champion for increasing awareness of Aboriginal culture.

This has included more than five years as Chair of the South Australian NAIDOC Committee during which she has demonstrated her commitment, dedication and outstanding leadership in the arrangement, governance and celebration of NAIDOC Week activities here in Adelaide.

Joyleen is described as someone who is highly respected and often called upon by members of her community to deal with administrative, political, social and cultural issues.

Congratulations Joyleen on your nomination this evening.



Ian Sansbury is currently Program Manager of the Western Adelaide Aboriginal Specific Homelessness Service.

He has been in this role since mid-2013.

With assistance from Disability SA and the Exceptional Needs Unit, Ian established an independent program which supports Aboriginal women experiencing mental health issues.

He also sits on the panel for the Nunga Court at the Elizabeth Courthouse, a position reserved for Aboriginal Elders and respected members of the Aboriginal community.

Ian is described as a positive, encouraging and caring person in his approach to his family and the wider Aboriginal community.

He is well-respected and his work has resulted in significant changes to the lives of many Aboriginal people, providing them with long term housing, employment and sporting opportunities and encouraging them to live drug and alcohol free.

Congratulations Ian on your nomination, and to the other three nominees.


2018 Premier’s NAIDOC Award Winner

Ladies and gentlemen, I am now pleased to announce the winner of the 2018 Premier’s NAIDOC Award.

I congratulate a person who has provided unstinting support to her own community and many others in South Australia – a woman who is always extremely generous with her time and efforts on behalf of Aboriginal People.

Please join me in recognising Joyleen Thomas as the winner of this year’s Premier’s NAIDOC Award.



I now turn to the Dr Alice Rigney Prize.

This is an accolade which recognises a young Aboriginal person dedicated to their education.

This year’s recipient will receive a laptop and a signed letter of commendation.

A grant of $1,500 will also go to the recipient’s school for the benefit of all students.

I am advised that the winner has been attending Wiltja Anangu Secondary College for the past five years and is on track to complete her SACE at the end of this year in addition to completing a Certificate III in Sport and Recreation.

She is described as bright, bubbly, ambitious and dedicated to her education.

I am also told that she has made an excellent contribution to Wiltja Anangu Secondary College and the Avenues College community in 2018, showing excellent commitment to her schooling and growing in confidence throughout the year.

She is also the first Aboriginal pool lifeguard at the Mimili pool and is using her new skills to help deliver a pool lifeguard course in the Pitjantjatjara language.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I now invite Peshwah Fielding to come forward to collect the Dr Alice Rigney Prize, accompanied by Wiltja Anangu Secondary College Principal, Daniel Lasscock.

Congratulations Peshwah.

I wish you all the best in your studies and your future endeavours.



In conclusion, can I compliment all those who nominated someone for the Premier’s NAIDOC Award.

I also particularly thank our four short-listed nominees and of course the winner, Joyleen Thomas, and Peshwah Fielding for her Dr Alice Rigney Prize.

Thank you.

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