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Celebrating First Nations excellence at the First Nations Arts and Culture Awards 2024

Senior First Nations artists Uncle Badger Bates and Aunty Mabel Juli have both been awarded the prestigious Red Ochre Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 2024 First Nations Arts and Culture Awards.

The awards are proudly presented by Creative Australia each year on May 27, marking the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum and the start of National Reconciliation Week.

Recipients Dean Brady, Tibian Wyles, Sara Prestwidge, Brenda Gifford, Uncle Badger Bates, Meleika Gesa

Uncle Badger, a proud Barkindji man, is renowned for his intricate emu egg carvings, linocut prints and public artworks highlighting his deep connection to the Barka (Darling River) and its cultural heritage. He said:

“I am truly overwhelmed to be the nominated recipient of this award. It is a dream come true for someone who grew up on the Barka riverbank and almost never went to school or art school. It has always been very important for me to bring my people along with me, and I am hoping this award will give confidence to younger First Nations artists.”

Aunty Mabel is a celebrated Gija artist, known for her striking black and white paintings depicting the Moon and Star Dreaming stories. She is also an important ceremonial singer and dancer.

Creative Australia Executive Director First Nations Arts and Culture Franchesca Cubillo said:

“These awards are a celebration and recognition of the remarkable achievements of First Nations artists. We are very proud to honour their excellence and artistry, as well as their invaluable contributions to our arts and culture. We acknowledge the role of First Nations artists in sharing untold stories, creating innovative works and forms of expression, and safeguarding our traditional knowledge.”

Indigenous, Pasifika and West Asian writer Meleika Gesa, and First Nations and Zimbabwean emerging R&B artist Dean Brady were both awarded the Dreaming Award, for young emerging artists, supporting the creation of a major body of work.

Other award recipients include:

Brenda Gifford (First Nations Fellowship), a Yuin woman, accomplished saxophonist, pianist, and trailblazing composer in contemporary classical and jazz, is the recipient of the First Nations Fellowship.

Tibian Wyles (First Nations Emerging Career Development Award): A Warrgamay and Kalkadoon descendant, and rising star in the acting industry.

Sarah Prestwidge (First Nations Emerging Career Development Award) a Darug, Boorooberongal national descendant, accomplished soprano and music educator. She said:

“My career development project aims to equip me the skills necessary to have an international operatic career. I hope to set a powerful example for other Indigenous artists. This not only challenges stereotypes but also inspires and paves the way for other young Indigenous artists, demonstrating that they too can pursue their dreams beyond borders while maintaining a connection to their roots. Ultimately, I hope to return to Australia to share the knowledge and skills I’ve learnt to inspire the next generation of young First Nation opera singers”.

The First Nations Arts and Culture Awards recipients were each presented with a uniquely designed ceramic piece created by senior artists from Ernabella Arts, Australia’s oldest continuously running Indigenous Art Centre.


Red Ochre Awards for Lifetime Achievement
Uncle Badger Bates (Male Recipient)
Aunty Mabel Juli (Female Recipient)

Dreaming Award
Meleika Gesa
Dean Brady

First Nations Emerging Career Development Award
Sarah Prestwidge
Tibian Wyles

First Nations Fellowship:
Brenda Gifford

More information is available on the Creative Australia website.

Media contacts:

Brianna Roberts, Media Manager, Creative Australia

Phone: (02) 9215 9030 / 0498 123 541