Bangarra’s founding artistic director, Stephen Page and the visual artist who invented the word ‘Blak’, Destiny Deacon have both won $50,000 Red Ochre Awards for 2022.

Last year, Page announced he was stepping down as artistic director of Bangarra Dance Theatre after 31 years in the job. The Brisbane boy who’s a descendant of the Nunukul people and the Mununjali clan of the Yugambeh nation in south-east Queensland, has created more than two dozen works for the Indigenous dance company over the past three decades and has been named an Officer of the Order of Australia. Now, it is time to take a break. But he has many plans afoot, and both the recognition of his peers and the money will assist these achieve reality.

Destiny Deacon’s career has been equally long and meritorious. The Kuku and Erub/Mer artist based in Melbourne has broken many boundaries in the visual arts world – often in partnership with the late Virginia Fraser – culminating in her 2020 solo retrospective, ‘Destiny‘ at the NGV in 2020.

Having faced significant health challenges over the past three years, Deacon told ‘The Guardian‘ that the $50,000 prize money would take the pressure off, and enable her to relax and enjoy her achievements.

Also at the 2022 First Nations Arts Awards, singer-songwriter Emma Donovan received the Arts and Culture fellowship. Other winners included Gumbaynggirr actor and playwright Brittanie Shipway – recently featured on AAD for her play, ‘Missing Molly’ – and Wiradjuri poet and artist Jazz Money, who each won $20,000 Dreaming awards which support youthful artists to develop a major body of work.

Wamba Wamba playwright and performer Brodie Murray and Yuin soundscape artist Hayden Ryan both won the $10,000 Emerging career development award, aimed at helping artists under 30 with professional development.

The First Nations Arts awards, shown on NITV, are held on 27th May each year to mark the anniversary of the 1967 referendum and the start of National Reconciliation Week.

The common thread between all the recipients, said Franchesca Cubillo, the Australia Council’s newish head of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts, is that “the stories they share are key to Australian cultural life and national identity”.