The multi-talented David Gulpilil OAM has won this year’s Red Ochre Award, the highest peer-assessed award for an Indigenous artist with a prize money of $50,000, presented today at the Sydney Opera House as part of the National Indigenous Arts Awards.

The Red Ochre Award has been in existence since 1993, and acknowledges the outstanding contribution of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artist at both the national and international level.

Also being presented today is a $20,000 Dreaming Award, to emerging Indigenous artist Rhonda Dick, a photographer who hails from South Australia; along with two fellowships $45,000 a year for two years to visual artist, Jennifer Kemarre Martiniello, and writer, activist and musician, Richard Frankland.

“The Australia Council’s National Indigenous Arts Awards highlight the outstanding achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists,” says Rupert Myer AM, Chair of the Australia Council. “They celebrate the continuity and dynamism of contemporary Indigenous cultures in Australia.”

“These awards and fellowships are a significant recognition of the unique and important work of each of the recipients,” says Lee-Ann Buckskin, Chair of the Australia Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board.

“The Red Ochre Award for David Gulpilil is wonderful acknowledgement from his peers of David’s continual efforts to bring the experiences and wishes of his people to national and international attention,” says Lee-Ann. “He is unquestionably one of the most respected Australian actors on the international film stage, and a major contributor to the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.”

David Gulpilil has been a part of the film industry since he was first cast in the film Walkabout in 1971 at the age of 15. He had never acted before, but possessed a great talent for dancing. The success of his role has seen him appear in many films since then, most of which have helped define Australian culture: Storm Boy, Mad Dog Morgan, The Last Wave, Crocodile Dundee, Two Hands, Rabbit Proof Fence, The Tracker, Ten Canoes and Australia. He has also appeared in a number of television roles.

David’s performance in Walkabout, was so strong, so imbued with a new type of graceful naturalism, that it redefined perceptions of Aboriginality in the field of acting for the screen, says director, Rolf de Heer.

His performance in The Tracker is his most critically acclaimed role to date, receiving numerous awards in 2002 including Best Actor at The Australian Film Institute Awards, the Inside Film Awards, and the Film Critics Circle Awards.

David’s latest completed film, Satellite Boy, directed by Aboriginal director Catriona McKenzie, is set in Western Australia and will open in Australian cinemas on June 20.

“Beyond his work on screen, David’s contribution to our people is astounding,” says Lee-Ann. “He has been, and continues to be, an inspiration to many people, opening doorways and creating career pathways where there were previously none.”

David has a master plan to create economic development in Arnhem Land to generate jobs, social benefits and a new dimension for Australian tourism and the arts. David is already widely recognised as being a major influence on the growing number of Indigenous professionals across Australia.

26-yo Rhonda Unurupa Dick is the recipient of the 2013 Dreaming Award, given to an artist aged between 18 & 26 to support them to create a major body of work, while being mentored in a chosen discipline by another established professional artist or by an arts institution nominated by the artist.

Rhonda is Pitjantjatjara and a photographic artist from the community of Amata in South Australia. Soon after starting a job as an arts worker at the local Tjala Arts Centre in January 2012 she discovered her love of photography and devoted herself to its practice.

“Rhonda’s work is about her family, her community and her country,” says Lee-Ann. “It attracted attention as soon as she started to show it, receiving the inaugural Desart Annual Aboriginal Arts Worker Prize 2012, for her series entitled My great grandmothers’ country. It’s a joy to support this emerging artist who will undoubtedly create something wonderful from the opportunity.”

The Dreaming Award comes with a prize of $20,000 which Rhonda will use to study photography at the Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney under the mentorship of photographer Nici Cumpston. After spending a year developing new work and her practice Rhonda’s works will be displayed at a solo exhibition at the Outstation Gallery in Darwin and at Gallery Gabriella Pizzi in Melbourne.

Fellowship recipient Jennifer Kemarre Martiniello is a Southern Arrernte woman. She is an award-winning poet, writer, and visual artist as well as an academic, teacher and community leader. In 2008 the Adelaide-born artist, now resident in Canberra, worked with glass for the first time and was immediately hooked on the medium.

Since then she has become known for her extraordinary evocations of traditional weaving in hot blown glass. Jennifer’s Fellowship will allow her to undertake an extensive program of glass blowing, kiln work and coldworking to create a significant body of 70-90 pieces based on traditional Aboriginal woven eel traps, fish traps, baskets, fish scoops and dillibags.

She will also travel to the US in mid-2014 to participate in advanced skills workshops at Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle and the Corning Museum of Glass Studio in New York State, and to attend the Glass Artists International Conference.

Richard Frankland plans an ambitious musical based on Indigenous Australian history, to be developed with the assistance of his two-year Fellowship.

Richard has written, directed and produced more than 50 film and video projects. As a musician he formed The Charcoal Club and once supported US star Prince. His work as a field officer with the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody inspired his award-winning play Conversations with the Dead.

A Gunditjmara man raised in south-western Victoria, Richard Frankland has long been recognised for his passionate advocacy of social justice in writing, film and music. Now he plans to combine the three art forms to tell the story of ˜Indigenous Australians from invasion to today’ in a stage musical to be offered to theatre companies in 2014.

Red Ochre Award recipients 1993-2013

2013 David Gulpilil
2012 Warren H Williams
2011 Archie Roach
2010 Michael Leslie
2009 Gawirrin Gumana
2008 Doris Pilkington Garimara
2006 Tom E. Lewis
2005 Seaman Dan
2004 John Bulunbulun
2003 Jimmy Little
2002 Dorothy Peters
2001 Bunduk Marika
2000 Mervyn Bishop
1999 Justine Saunders
1998 Bob Maza
1997 Jimmy Chi
1996 Maureen Watson
1995 Rita Mills
1994 Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri
1993 Eva Johnson