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23 Indigenous Australians Who Slayed It In 2015

Inspiration for everyone.

1. Johnathon Thurston

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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.

2. Miranda Tapsell

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The actress had an amazing year. Winning two Logies for her role as Martha in the Channel 9 drama Love Child. Tapsell used one of her acceptance speeches to call for more diversity on Australian screens.

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.

6. Nova Peris

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Labor Senator Nova Peris opened up about the years of racism she had endured as an elite sportsperson. Using her story to spark discussion about the toll racism can take on people's mental health.

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

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”.

10. Wayne Blair

Jason Merritt / Getty Images

Wayne Blair is a true artistic chameleon. A successful film director, writer, producer and actor, it was 2015 that finally saw Blair's talents go to Hollywood.

Blair directed the acclaimed feature film Septembers of Shiraz, starring Oscar winner Adrien Brody and Salma Hayek.

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

15. Philly

Anne Moffat / Commonwealth Bank / Via australianoftheday.com.au

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

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

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

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

Joseph West.
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 arielle.benedek+AC@buzzfeed.com.

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