Western Australia saw a record number of Aboriginal people recognised with Australian Honours this year.
The Australian Honours System was established in 1975 to recognise the special contribution Australian citizens make to their communities locally, nationally, and internationally across a wide range of fields. Activities meriting an honour have included voluntary work, contributions to the Arts, Industry, Commerce, Education, Health, Charities, Professions, the Armed Services, and acts of bravery.
Awards and honours are approved by the Governor-General and are announced on Australia Day, 26th January and on The Queen’s official birthday. Below is a list of Aboriginal people from Western Australia recognised in 2022.
Anyone can nominate any Australian for an award in the Order of Australia. If you know someone worthy, nominate them here.
Ms Carol Ann Innes AM
Ms Carol Innes received a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in recognition of her significant service to the Aboriginal community of Western Australia. A proud Noongar woman with Willmen, Whadjuk, Ballardong, and Wardandi connections, she is the current co-Chair of Reconciliation WA and has served on its board since 2016. Ms Innes has worked tirelessly to raise cultural awareness and has actively encouraged business and government to provide economic opportunity for Aboriginal Western Australians, as well as to preserve and advance their culture and health. Ms Innes is a Board member for Screenwest and North Metropolitan Health Service, as well as Manager of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage and Arts at the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority.
Ms Carol Petterson OAM JP
Ms Carol Petterson JP received a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to the Indigenous community of Western Australia. Ms Pettersen is a Menang Gnudju elder who has spent her life advocating for Aboriginal people, especially women. Ms Pettersen began her career in 1975 as an Aboriginal Health worker before serving as a community development officer with the WA Alcohol and Drug Authority. She served as principal advisor on Women’s Issues with the Department of Premier and Cabinet in the 1980s and currently assists the Aboriginal Land and Sea Council. Ms Petterson is also an Ambassador and Founder of the Song-line Genestream Sculpture Project.
Ms Lena Nyadbi AO
Ms Lena Nyadbi was recognised for distinguished service to the visual arts as a contemporary Indigenous artist with an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO) award. Warmun Art Centre, Artist, since 1998.Her artwork is contained in a range of collections including at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of South Australia, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Murdoch University Art and Poster Collection, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria (Ian Potter Gallery), the Harvey Wagner Collection, USA, the Kaplan Collection USA, the National Australia Bank, the Kerry Stokes Collection, the Harold Mitchell Foundation, and the Wollongong Art Gallery Collection, since 1998.
Mr Daniel James Ford OAM
For service to the Indigenous community of Western Australia, Mr Daniel James Ford was recognised with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM). Danny, as he likes to be known, is a Noongar man with connections to Whadjak, Ballardong, Wilman and Yuat clans. Danny has tertiary qualifications in teaching and social work, and has worked in the public sector for 29 years in child protection, family support, Aboriginal affairs, housing and training. During the last few years, he has developed a consultancy business, Kambarang Services. Danny’s work has always focused on addressing the disadvantage of Aboriginal people and the provision of appropriate services. He is also keen on exploring and understanding how dispossession and colonisation continues to have a lingering impact on Aboriginal peoples. To this end Danny advocates that with support Aboriginal peoples need to look at developing the solutions to address the issues facing them.
Professor Dennis Gordon Eggington AM
Inducted as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), Professor Dennis Gordon Eggington was recognised for significant service to the Indigenous community of Western Australia. CEO of Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia (Inc.), Dennis Eggington has a vision of social justice for Aboriginal people based on fundamental human rights and a ‘fair go’ for all. A Nyungar man, Dennis has served his people passionately for most of his life. As a pragmatic and esteemed leader, he is very often the voice of the Nyungar people. Mr Eggington is an articulate man of great foresight and principle, he opposed the Northbridge curfew, supported Aboriginal land rights as the basis for enabling Indigenous Australians to live a good life and strongly opposed those who have sought to blame Aboriginal culture for domestic violence and child abuse in Indigenous communities. His call for a Human Rights Act, both in WA and nationally, is indicative of his unshakable moral standpoint.
Mr Glen Kelly OAM
Recognised with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to the Indigenous community of Western Australia is Mr Glen Kelly. Mr Kelly has more than 25 years’ experience in Aboriginal Affairs, native title and negotiation with an emphasis on providing strong leadership which is based on integrity and knowledge, as well as seeking and achieving outcomes that are empowering and sustainable. This has included: Chief Executive Officer of the National Native Title Council – peak body of the Indigenous Native Title Sector and Chief Executive Officer of the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council – which has included fulfilling the role of Chief Negotiator for the South West Native Title Settlement, the largest and most comprehensive of its type in Australia.
Mr Kevin Andrew O’Keefe OAM
In recognition of service to Indigenous education, Mr Kevin Andrew O’Keefe received a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM). Mr O’Keefe joined the corporate executive team at the Department of Education as a principal advisor on Aboriginal education and teaching and learning In 2019 where he provides advice and guidance drawn from his extensive experience in Aboriginal education in school and system contexts. He has held a number of teaching and senior leadership positions in a range of schools, including leading a multi-campus remote community school in the Western Desert as executive principal of the Ngaanyatjarra Lands School. Mr O’Keefe was also an executive director in the former Department of Education and Training with oversight for Aboriginal education and training, and was a senior research officer at Edith Cowan University leading a national research project into indigenous education.
Dr Michael Jon Donaldson OAM
For service to the Indigenous community of Western Australia, Dr Michael Jon Donaldson was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM). With a nearly 50-year career in mining exploration and geological survey, Dr Donaldson has photographed and published Aboriginal rock art in some of the remotest parts of the Kimberley. His three volumes of Kimberley Rock Art, published in 2012 and 2013, are still in print. These important works feature photographs and detailed descriptions of rock art that date back thousands of years. His contribution to the Kimberley Region includes his service as a member of the Science Advisory Committee for the Kimberley Foundation and as a founding member of the Kimberley Society.
The below have been recognised for their ongoing work with and for Aboriginal communities but do not identify as Aboriginal people.
Major Neil McArthur (Mac) Jensen OAM RFD JP (Ret’d)
Major NM (Mac) Jensen OAM RFD (Ret’d) was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the 2022 Queen’s Birthday Honours for service to the Indigenous community of Western Australia. Mac has lived a life of service to remote Indigenous people, both military and civil, over the past 35 years. As an Army officer, he recruited, trained and led remote Indigenous soldiers for the Australian Army in the Kimberley and northern Australia for over 15 years, including operational border protection tasks when commanding Kimberley Squadron NORFORCE. He remains a strong advocate for remote Indigenous ex-servicemen. For the past 20 years, he has continued his training and capacity building work with remote Indigenous communities in the Kimberley and western desert regions of WA in civil employment, particularly with remote Indigenous land management and cultural heritage ‘ranger’ programs, and leading successful remote Indigenous training, employment and capacity-building initiatives.
Mrs Asha Bhat OAM
Mrs Asha Bhat was awarded an Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to the Indigenous community of Western Australia. As Chief Executive of the Southern Aboriginal Corporation since 2013, Mrs Bhat has provided family and domestic violence legal services, housing and homelessness support, employment opportunities, suicide prevention and health promotion for the Noongar community. In her spare time she is the chair of the Albany Family and Domestic Violence Action Group and the WA volunteer team leader for national women’s charity Share the Dignity. She was named City of Albany Citizen of the Year in 2017 and given the judge’s choice Collaborator Award in the Pro Bono Australia 2022 Impact 25 Awards in March of 2022.
Professor Sandra Claire Thompson AM
For significant service to tertiary education, to rural and regional health and to Indigenous health, Professor Sandra Thompson was awarded a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia. Professor Thompson has served as a clinician and researcher in regional and metropolitan areas of New South Wales, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Her work in regional practice has made an enormous improvement to indigenous wellbeing. Professor Thompson has driven best practice for Aboriginal health in rural, regional and remote WA communities. She has guided government policy and academia in the field including as Director of the Western Australian Centre for Rural Health, School of Population and Global Health. Professor Thompson is also a highly regarded author, having published many leading works in her field.
Ms Anna Maria Wyatt PSM
For outstanding public service to improving education and health outcomes for Aboriginal people in Western Australia, Ms Anna Maria Wyatt was awarded a Public Service Medal (PSM). Ms Wyatt currently serves as the Director of Aboriginal History at the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries. During her 45-year career, Ms Wyatt facilitated access for Aboriginal families to their ancestral histories, helping them to reconnect with country. She developed the first map of its kind identifying local traditional Aboriginal place names in WA. She also developed a Regional Education, Skills and Jobs Plan for the Kimberley region, addressing unemployment and building capacity. Her work has secured millions in Commonwealth funding to upskill Western Australian Aboriginal health workers.
The Australian Honours system recognises those who give back to their community. If you know someone who you believe deserves recognition, we encourage you to nominate them today.