An athlete from the fast-growing sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) has been recognised for her work helping to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.

Shantelle Thompson, a three-time World Champion in BJJ, has been handed this year’s Sports Person of the Year Award at the NAIDOC Awards Ceremony in Canberra.

Known as the ‘Barkindji Warrior’, Thompson is a fighter and warrior for her people, opening conversations about mental health with people around the country.

“When I first started to share with people that I wanted to try to be a world champion, it challenged a lot of people’s perceptions,” she said.

“I realised that a lot of our people had forgotten the ability to dream.”

She started training in BJJ in 2011 to help treat her severe post-natal depression after the birth of her twins. She is now a brown belt and is currently ranked 7th in the world.

Thompson found a way to empower herself through her sport and has made it her life’s work to help others feel that empowerment too.

“To all the kids from my community… if I can do this, so can you,” she said.

Thompson’s next goal is to compete in wrestling at the Commonwealth Games.