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Tiwi Islands duo and Northern Land Council chair crowned in NT Australian of the year honours

Tom Zaunmayr -

Two Tiwi Islands community leaders and the Mayili chairman of the Territory's most powerful land council have been bestowed the highest honours in the annual NT Australia of the Year awards.

Northern Land Council chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi was on Monday night named 2023 NT Australian of the Year at a ceremony in Garramilla (Darwin).

Mr Bush-Blanasi was chosen for his decades of service to empower Indigenous Australians and joins three other Territorians in the running for the national awards on January 25 next year.

In his NLC roles, the judges said Mr Bush-Blanasi had been instrumental in securing sea country rights in Arnhem Land for Traditional Owners, native title claims, land hand-backs and reforming of the Australian constitution.

He was also pivotal in the 2022 incorporation of the Aboriginal Sea Company, which will enable Traditional Owners to oversee commercial fishing, aquaculture and other fishing-related activities along the Arnhem Land coastline.

Mr Bush-Blanasi was one of three Indigenous Territorians to share in the four awards.

Tiwi Island Elder Bernard Tipiloura was named NT senio Australian of the year for his campaigning on mental health, which has led to a dramatic drop in suicide rates.

Mr Tipiloura and wife Lynette Johnson visited schools each week to encourage young people to be proud of who they were and draw strength from their homeland.

He is also a kidney donor, Red Cross volunteer and anti-smoking campaigner.

Fellow Tiwi Islander Jahdai Vigona was bestowed the NT young Australian of the year title for his passion for changing the lives of Indigenous people.

Mr Vigona, 21, has led health messages and mental health programs, and regularly presents at forums and community events.

Social worker Sacha King was honoured as the 2023 NT local hero for her work in mental health in the region.


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