13 September 2022

It's all about community for Wagga's NAIDOC winners

| Chris Roe
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Aboriginal dancers

Jasmine Williams (top left) and the Marrambidya Yurali Waga Dhaanys dance group. Photo: Wagga NAIDOC.

Mental health worker Jasmine Williams says she’s humbled to have been recognised as Community Person of the Year at the 2022 Wagga NAIDOC Ball on the weekend.

“The reason the award meant so much is because it speaks volumes about what the community feels and the feedback from that community, and that means everything to me,” she says.

“To be actually supported by community is a wonderful way to cement the fact that I am doing things the way that my ancestors had set out for me to do.”

Wagga NAIDOC award winners

(Back) Colina Meadows, Ashleigh Pengelly and Rosie Powell; (front) Max Lyons, Megan Norton and Chris Harris. Photo: Wagga NAIDOC Committee.

This year’s NAIDOC Ball saw 160 people gather at the Rules Club to recognise nominees and winners across eight categories celebrating Wagga’s First Nations community.

Chairperson Ashley Pengelly says it was great to see a record turnout for the first event since 2019.

“Our first NAIDOC Ball was in 2015 and we had 80 people attend that one and so to sell out and have 160 people come, it’s completely doubled,” she says.

“The night had a really great feel about it and we had lots of positive feedback.”

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She says it’s a great chance to reflect on and celebrate what matters to the residents as it is they who nominate the finalists.

“We feel it is a really nice way to do it, and for the eight categories we’re really looking for people that not only give back through their chosen field but really go above and beyond their paid work,” Ashley says.

“So we do look for volunteering and community work, leadership, role models and just the general respect I think as well.”

Woman in chair

Aunty Isabel Reid was recognised with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Wagga NAIDOC Committee.

Ashley says it was an honour to present Aunty Isabel Reid with the Lifetime Achievement Award in the wake of her recognition as NSW Australian Senior of the Year.

“I think it’s beautiful that she’s got the local recognition as well from the Aboriginal community here.”

Ashley says Jasmine Williams was a popular and deserving winner of the Community Award.

“Jasmine was nominated many, many, many times across a number of categories, actually,” she laughs.

“But what really stood out was her dedication to community, the respect that she gives to all and her tenacity for being staunch in supporting younger Aboriginal people.

“She puts a lot into young Aboriginal women too, just wanting to share her culture and being so open with her journey.”

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While Jasmine was not there to accept the award, she had performed earlier the night with the First Nations dance group she founded, Marrambidya Yurali Waga Dhaanys, before rushing home to the kids.

“I don’t own a cocktail dress, to be honest,” she says with a smile.

As an Indigenous wellbeing coordinator with LikeMind, Jasmine works to support young ones battling poor mental health.

“It’s about that holistic view of care, and a lot of that is about cultural reconnection, cultural identity, and support for the clients that we have here,” she explains.

Jasmine is proud of the cultural work being done through the dance group and has also been instrumental in founding Wagga’s First Nations youth suicide prevention community action group, helping to identify and remove the barriers to accessing services.

“I’m so passionate about advocating for our First Nations people and our young people specifically and that’s the reason the award meant so much,” she says.

Award winners

The sold-out event featured nine winners across eight categories. Photo: Wagga NAIDOC Committee.

Congratulations to all this year’s NAIDOC Award winners!

  • Lifetime Achievement Award – Aunty Isabel Reid
  • Young Person of the Year – Malcolm Charles
  • Speak Truly Award – Deb Evans
  • Caring for Country & Culture Award – Shyheim Little
  • Yindamarra Award – Luke Wighton
  • Community Person of the Year – Jasmine Williams
  • Innovation Award – Prickly Lizard Events
  • Reconciliation Award – Megan Norton
  • Reconciliation Award – Colette Geier.

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