Gay Indigenous Elder Uncle Jack, Activist Elijah Manis Among 2022 NAIDOC Award Winners

Gay Indigenous Elder Uncle Jack, Activist Elijah Manis Among 2022 NAIDOC Award Winners
Image: Uncle Jack Charles (left) and Elijah Manis

Indigenous gay elder and actor Uncle Jack Charles and gay Torres Strait human rights activist Elijah Manis are among those who were honoured at the 2022 National NAIDOC Week Awards.

“It was hoot beyond measure receiving one of the highest, nicest accolades ever,” Uncle Jack posted on social media, after winning the National NAIDOC Male Elder Of The Year 2022 Award. The awards ceremony took place last Saturday at the Melbourne Convention Centre.

“Having Pam Pederson, Uncle Sir Pastor Doug Nicholls’ daughter, handing over the award to me was a very significant moment in my long life being so honoured by this remarkable woman. This night of nights, came spinning out of nowhere,” said the Bunurong, Wiradjuri, Yorta Yorta actor, and a member of the Stolen Generations. 

The Grandfather Of Indigenous Theatre

Uncle Jack is known as the “grandfather of Indigenous theatre” and co-founded Australia’s first Indigenous theatre group, Nindethana at Melbourne’s Pram Factory in 1971. Uncle Jack was also the the first Indigenous Elder to speak at the Victorian Truth-telling Commission. 

Uncle Jack revealed that Saturday also was a special night as his problems with the Reparations Committee were solved. 

Uncle Jack said he had had a “torrid time” and “shocked to the core”, when he was asked by the Stolen Generations Advisory Committee to prove his Aboriginality to receive $80,000 as second instalment under the Stolen Generations Reparation scheme.

“Saturday night was a double whammy for yours truly,” said Uncle Jack after receiving an email that the issue had now been resolved. 

Stand Up And Speak Out

Young gay human rights activist Elijah Manis from the Masig and Poruma islands in the Torres Strait was the winner of the 2022 Youth of the Year award. 

“I felt as if I were blossoming in gratitude,” Manis told Star Observer. “Having my name announced was unbelievable, I never knew that I could be seen and highlighted on a platform such as that. And in standing there being awarded that gift, I had put many places on the maps, and reflecting on that touched me.”

Winning the award has given me a more noticeable stand in society. However, with life itself, I don’t follow with winning or losing. To me, life is about living and being alive in every way possible and not to compare and compete with one another. There needs to be freedom of who one is as a human being, and unfortunately that is quite hard to meet. That is why I advocate and stand to speak and represent what is important,” said Manis. 

The young activist said he was proud of his contribution to the community through social justice and the arts. “Though what I do is not only for me but for those around me and for the younger generations that are behind me watching my every move,” added Manis.

Tennis star Ashleigh Barty, AFL player Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin, Dr Stanley Gran and Dr Lois Peeler were among the others who were honoured at 2022 National NAIDOC Week Awards. 

Catch Uncle Jack Charles at ‘A Night Uncle with Jack Charles’ at The Collingwood Town Hall on Saturday July 9. Tickets on sale here.

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