Following close on the heels of the awarding of the JC Williamson Award to Stephen Page for his outstanding contribution to Australia’s live performance culture, the NAIDOC award acknowledged his 25 years as Artistic Director of Bangarra and his leadership in both the national arts landscape and the Indigenous community over that time. The award also recognised Stephen’s impact on the cultural life of our nation, and on the advancement of his people.
Stephen said, “The stories we share are sacred and I feel privileged to play a role in the vital care taking of these stories, through the intimate weaving of culture and contemporary dance.” Accepting the award he went on to say, " It's about the maintenance of ceremonies and cultural customs - they need to be taken care of. And with that comes language - and they are a huge part of our culture, our kinship system and they need to be maintained."
His stated goal is to provide opportunities for the next generation of Indigenous storytellers. He has nurtured dance and culture with thousands of school children living in disadvantaged communities through workshops and Bangarra’s own youth program Rekindling.
NAIDOC is the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. Its origins can be traced to the emergence of Aboriginal groups in the 1920s which sought to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians.
Held annually in July, NAIDOC Week is a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements and is an opportunity to recognise the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our country and our society.
In 2008, Stephen was named the NSW Australian of the Year for his pioneering choreography work, he received the NAIDOC Award for Artist of the Year in 2012 and, in 2015, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Creative Arts by the University of Technology Sydney.
The other 2016 NAIDOC Award winners were:
Manymak Energy Efficiency Project (NT) – Caring for Country Award winner
Elijah Douglas (QLD) – Youth of the Year
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu (NT) – Artist of the Year
Layneisha Sgro (WA) – Scholar of the Year
Montana Ah-Won (WA) – Apprentice of the Year
Jade North (NSW) – Sportsperson of the Year
Professor MaryAnn Bin-Sallik (NT) – Female Elder of the Year
Dr Robert Francis Isaacs (WA) – Male Elder of the Year
Professor Chris Sarra (QLD) – Person of the Year