Star Observer’s very own photographer Ann-Marie Calilhanna has been nominated for one of the most prestigious LGBTI awards in Australia.

Calilhanna has been shortlisted to receive the Community Hero Award in this year’s Honour Awards for being one of “Sydney’s most prolific and consistent documenters of the LGBTI community over the past 15 years”. The Honour Awards are hosted by ACON to acknowledge outstanding service to, or achievement within NSW’s LGBTI community.

“To get into that category of community hero and to be narrowed down to only four people is important and serious,” she said.

“I felt shocked and flattered, I thought ‘wow, I’m included with gay royalty’.”

Calilhanna has been nominated alongside Glen Hansen/Candy Box, Uniting Church’s Rev Dorothy McRae-McMahon and Peter Bonsall-Boone and Peter de Waal.

“To be able to document our colourful world, I take my job seriously even in the fun times,” Calilhanna said.

“It’s a privilege to be part of a unique and diverse community… to be trusted to capture the history, it’s a real gift for me.

“I’m grateful to all the people who jump in front of my camera and pose for me. Thank you to all the people who recognise what I do.”

The award nominees were announced on Monday and received widespread criticism for the lack of diversity among the names shortlisted to win an Honour award.

Today host Karl Stefanovic for his apology for offending trans people. Many critics suggested he should not have been nominated because of his offensive remarks and because he has not actually done that much reporting on LGBTI issues.

Dameyon Bonson, the winner of the Dr. Yunupingu Award for Human Rights and founder of Indigenous LGBTI suicide prevention group Black Rainbow, was disappointed there was not one Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander nominated in this year’s Honour Awards.

“For a community that demands diversity and inclusion from the heterosexual community we do a pretty crap job of it ourselves,” he said.

“That there is more commentary about a straight guy (Stefanovic) as a finalist, for an apology mind you, rather than the lack of Indigenous representation speaks volumes of the commentators of the community as well. It is really disappointing and what it does is that is send a rather significant message that in the NSW LGBQTI there were no Indigenous LGBQTI people worthy.”

ACON responded to the criticism saying it receives nominations from a broad range of individuals and organisations in the community who put forward candidates that people may either agree with or not.

“Those who nominated him believed he should be recognised for his earnest contrition and using his position to publicly acknowledge his need for greater education and inclusiveness, and that his example is one that many other people would benefit from,” an ACON spokesperson said.

In regards to the lack of Indigenous representation in the awards Acting ACON CEO Karen Price, said the organisation promotes the nomination process through a number of media channels, media partners and around the state. ACON also targeted its marketing of the awards nominations specifically to Aboriginal communities in NSW.

“I can’t explain why more nominations weren’t received in that area, we would welcome them, ” she said.

“The sense of running an awards night of any sort there’s a lot of community views, not just about who got nominated as a finalist, but we do our best to try and recognise a range of people from a range of backgrounds and a range of settings.

“The Honour Awards have always raised questions of representation. We are defending ourselves year to year, because people focus on who missed out a nomination rather than celebrating the achievements of people who have been nominated and selected as finalists. We get a negative set of commentary and I don’t think that’s fair to the people being celebrated.”

Bonson responded by saying that the “old trope of ‘we didn’t get any Indigenous nominees’ is getting really tired and is just lazy”.

“We don’t need a special mention category, Indigenous LGBQTI people are active contributors,” he said.

“But these awards, the message they send is that us mob aren’t good enough. Not good enough to be a judge, not good enough to be a nominee. But you can guarantee that there will be welcome or acknowledgement of country, because thats what we worthy of, apparently. ”

The Honour Awards will be announced on Thursday September 29.

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