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23 Indigenous Australians Who Slayed It In 2015

Inspiration for everyone.

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1. Johnathon Thurston

Johnathon Thurston is fast becoming a rugby league legend. Leading The North Queensland Cowboys to their first ever NRL grand final win over powerhouse team the Brisbane Broncos.

Thurston's work with underprivileged children is well documented and he's also an ambassador for several charities and community organisations.

A photo of Thurston with his daughter after the grand final was shared internationally and cemented Thurston's humble image.

3. Adam Goodes

Mark Kolbe / Getty Images

The former Sydney Swans player Adam Goodes retired in October, leaving quietly and with dignity in the face of ugly ongoing racist attacks.

Despite the controversy, his stellar sporting achievements remain. A dual Brownlow Medallist, Goodes played 372 games, the eighth highest of any player in the AFL and the most games for an Indigenous player.

Aside from football Goodes also became the face of department store David Jones.

4. Jessica Mauboy

Stefan Postles / Getty Images

Quite possibly the hardest working woman in the Australian music industry, pop star Jessica Mauboy was red hot this year. It seemed like she performed at every major event in the country.

Mauboy topped off the year with her very own fragrance and sang with legendary chanteuse Tina Arena at the Aria awards.


5. Ken Wyatt

Lukas Coch / AAPIMAGE

Liberal MP Ken Wyatt made history this year as the first Aboriginal person to sit on the front bench in federal parliament, taking up the role as assistant health minister.

It's the second time Wyatt's made history. In 2010, the member for Hasluck was the first Indigenous member of the House of Representatives.

7. Jenny Munro

Allan Clarke / BuzzFeed

Veteran activist and elder Jenny Munro has spent her life fighting for Indigenous people, but this year saw her face her biggest fight. Munro spent almost a year camping in a tent in Sydney's 'The Block'. Munro refused to leave until there was a guarantee that affordable Aboriginal housing would be built there.

Even after being taken to the Supreme Court, Munro remained staunch and, in the end, the Aboriginal Housing Company agreed to honour her demand.

8. Nakkiah Lui

Instagram: @nakkiah

Nakkiah Lui has long been lauded for her writing prowess and this year was no exception.

Lui was awarded the prestigious Philip Parsons Fellowship for Emerging Playwrights earlier this year, and just wrapped season two of ABC TV's Black Comedy, a series she both writes for and acts in.


9. Yarraka and Quaden Bayles

Four-year-old Quaden Bayles and his mother Yarraka have campaigned tirelessly this year to raise awareness around dwarfism and created the Stand Tall for Dwarfism campaign.

Despite Quaden having serious medical complications due to his achondroplasia Yarraka says, "he doesn’t let the pain get to him - he just smiles and puts up with it”.

11. Stan Grant


It was a big year for journalist Stan Grant. Stepping down from Sky News as their International editor, Grant will continue hosting Indigenous news and current affairs program Awaken on NITV and was appointed the Indigenous affairs editor for Guardian Australia.

To top it all off Grant won a prestigious Walkley award for Indigenous affairs coverage for his a series of poignant opinion pieces on racism and identity.

12. Linda Burney

Dean Lewins / AAPIMAGE

New South Wales opposition deputy leader Linda Burney honed her brand of sophisticated politics this year and proved that she's capable of being the head of a major party.

The Labor MP also managed to call out racism in regional NSW and advocate for domestic violence victims after revealing she had also endured an abusive relationship.


13. Joe Williams


The boxer and former rugby league player spoke publicly and candidly this year about his life long struggle with depression and drugs.

Williams tried to commit suicide after his league career ended and now uses his past to help others overcome their problems.

14. Ian Zaro

Instagram: @ian

Ian Zaro's love of the lip-syncing app Dubsmash saw him land a starring role on season two of landmark show Black Comedy.

Zaro's Dubsmash videos are so good that they went viral, and the creators of the app have featured him several times on their site.

15. Philly

Anne Moffat / Commonwealth Bank / Via

It was virtually impossible not to hear Philly's cover of the Bob Marley classic Three Little Birds this year.

Philly performed the stripped back cover on Triple J's Like a Version in July, and since then the Mildura rapper's career has taken off.

16. Casimira Tipiloura

Instagram: @luke___carroll

Casimira Tipiloura made history when she became the first student in over one hundred years to graduate from year 12 in the Tiwi Islands with an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR).


17. Bree and Rosalina Curtis

Lane Sainty / BuzzFeed

The Curtis twins are founding members of Brothers and Sisters NT, an advocacy group for Indigenous transgender people. Earlier this year, the Alice Springs Women’s Shelter changed its policies to become explicitly trans-inclusive, a move prompted by the work of Rosalina, Bree and others.

18. Kai Clancy

Instagram: @kaiclancy

In 2015, 19-year-old Kai Clancy became the face of the Brotherboy community, Indigenous transgendered people who fight stigma on a daily basis.

Clancy actively lobbied for greater understanding of Brotherboys and unashamedly and publicly documented his transition from the female body he was born with to the man he always knew he was.

19. Jack Charles

Victorian Australian of The Year awards.

The Victorian Senior Australian of The Year had a great year personally and professionally. Charles appeared in several theater productions and got confirmation that his one-man autobiographical show Jack Charles v The Crown will tour North America next year.

He did all this while lobbying for reforms to the taxi industry to stamp out racial profiling.

20. Tony Albert

Instagram: @tonyalbert

At just 34-years-old Tony Albert is the hottest thing in Australian art. Albert has a blistering portfolio and numerous awards under his belt. His ability to produce work that is not only visually powerful, but also nuanced has the art world sitting up and taking notice.


21. Charlie King

Ready to talk about Adam Goodes with@GerardWhateley and@francisleach on Offsiders #cheeringforgoodes #offsiders

The ABC Sports broadcaster and anti-domestic violence campaigner Charlie King spent much of 2015 demanding the government, through the No More campaign, commit more resources to tackling family violence.

King's determination to end family violence prompted several high-profile sporting clubs to sign domestic violence action plans.

22. Rosalie Kunoth-Monks


Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, 2015 NAIDOC Person the Year, continued her unwavering stance on Indigenous sovereignty.

The firebrand elder from the Central Desert continues to be an inspiration for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as one of the community's most respected and vocal elders .

23. Major Joseph West

Major Joseph West co-ordinated the first ever ceremony in Gallipoli earlier this year, recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who fought there.

Eight Indigenous servicemen took part in the historic ceremony.

Formerly with BuzzFeed News, Allan Clarke is a NITV reporter based in Sydney.

Contact Allan Clarke at

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