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List of Famous Aboriginal Australians

Vanessa D' Souza Feb 27, 2020
The indigenous people of Australia have kept their community vibrant with a unique cultural mix of the contemporary and traditional types. Some of them have achieved local and international fame for their accomplishments. This Story lists some of the famous Indigenous Australians who have made their community and country proud.
"This has been a dream of mine ever since I was a little girl, and that's why I got really emotional, because this has happened to a little girl like me―an Indigenous Australian."
― Cathy Freeman
The Australian Aboriginal culture is one of the oldest in the world, and the reason for their survival is their ability to adapt to the changing times. These indigenous people are the very essence of Australia, and through their ingenuity and diligence, made the world sit up and applaud them.
The list here contains just a few of the famous Aboriginal Australians who have inspired the world with their prowess, and excellence. Thus attaining international fame in the fields they pursued.

Cathy Freeman

✮ Catherine Freeman, best known as an Olympic champion athlete and a descendant of the Kuku Yalanji tribe, was born on February 16, 1973, in Mackay, Queensland, Australia.

✮ In 1990, she was awarded the Young Australian of the Year, and Australian of the Year in 1998. After retiring in 2003, she became an ambassador for the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation.
✮ In 1990, she won the Gold in the 4x100 meters relay. She also acquired the Gold in the 200 m and 400 m sprint at the 1994 Commonwealth Games. She added another Gold to her kitty in the 400 m sprint at the World Athletic Championships in 1997 and 1999.
At the Olympics in 1996, she bagged a silver medal. At the 2000 Olympics, held in Sydney, she had the honor of lighting the traditional Olympic flame, and she went on to win yet another gold in the 400 m sprint.

Albert Namatjira

✮ A member of the Western Aranda (Arunta) tribe, he was born in 1902 near Alice Springs.

✮ Albert Namatjira was the first Aboriginal Australian to become an internationally celebrated artist.
✮ His first exhibition was held in 1936 in Melbourne, where he became an instant success and his paintings sold out in 3 days. Queen Elizabeth too was a ardent admirer of his paintings. He was awarded the Queen's Coronation medal in 1953.
✮ In 1957, he went on to become the first Aboriginal Australian to attain Australian citizenship. He is best known for his water-color landscapes of the Macdonnell Ranges and the nearby regions. In spite of achieving such profound success, he remained an Outback man and eventually died in 1959.

Kath Walker (Oodgeroo Noonuccal)

✮ Oodgeroo Noonuccal was born Kathleen Ruska, in the tribe of the Noonuccal, in 1920 on North Stradbroke Island.
✮ She was one of Australia's most noted writer, poet, and a political activist, who fought for the rights of the Aboriginal Australians. Her first volume of poetry, We Are Going (1964), was the first book published by an Aboriginal woman. It was a resounding success which gave her instant national as well as international fame.
✮ She successfully campaigned for aboriginal rights in 1967, and was awarded the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire). However, at a protest against the sluggish progress of aboriginal rights during the bicentenary of white settlements in 1988, a frustrated Kath returned the MBE and changed her name to Oodgeroo Noonuccal as a recognition of her Noonuccal ancestors. She died in 1993.

Evonne Goolagong Cawley

✮ Evonne Goolagong was born on July 31, 1951, in Griffith, New South Wales, Australia. Though her parents were not fully Aboriginal, each had native Aboriginal ancestors.
✮ She was the first Australian aborigine to play professional tennis and gain international fame in the sport. She won a total of 14 Grand Slams titles between 1970-1980; seven singles titles (four Australian Open, two Wimbledon, and one French Open), six in women's doubles, and one in mixed doubles.
✮ She was awarded the titles - "Australian of the Year" and "Australian Sports Person of the Year".

✮ She was conferred the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1972 , the AO (Officer of the Order of Australia) in the 1982, and the Centenary Medal in 2001 for her services to Australian society through the sport of tennis. She retired from tennis in 1982.

Patricia 'Pat' O'Shane

✮ Patricia 'Pat' O'Shane was born in 1941 in the small rural community of Mossman, North Queensland in the Kunjandji clan.

✮ She became the first aboriginal Australian barrister in 1976. She was also the first aboriginal woman to be appointed the head of a government department in Australia, when she was made the permanent head of the New South Wales Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, in 1981.
✮ She was honored with the title of the Member of the Order of Australia, in 1984, (Aboriginal welfare), and the Centenary Medal in 2001 for her service to Australian society. She was also bestowed with the Marcia Langton Award For Lifetime Achievement In Leadership.

Neville Bonner

✮ Neville Bonner was born in 1922 on Ukerebagh Island on the Tweed River, New South Wales in the Jagera tribe.

✮ Even though he had no formal education, he became the first Aboriginal Australian to sit in federal parliament as a senator, in 1971.
✮ He was awarded the title Australian of the Year, in 1979, and received an Honorary Doctorate from Griffith University. He died in 1999. The federal electorate of Bonner, in Queensland, was named in his honor in the year 2004.

Mandawuy Yunupingu

✮ He was born in 1956 in Yirrkala, Arnhem Land Northern Territory, Australia, in the Gumatj clan.

✮ Dr. Yunupingu was an Aboriginal Australian musician and educator. He was the first indigenous person in Arnhem land to gain a university degree, he was also the Principal of the Yirrkala Community School.
✮ However, he was known as the front man of Yothu Yindi, a predominantly Aboriginal band. The band's hit song 'Treaty' topped the music charts in Australia and stayed there for 22 weeks. It was the first song sung in an Aboriginal language (Yolngu-Matha).

✮ Dr. Yunupingu was named Australian of the Year, in 1992, for his contribution in the education of Aboriginal children. He died in 2013.

David Gulpilil

✮ David Gulpilil was born on July 1, 1953, in Maningrida, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia. According to Yolngu culture, when he came of age, he was initiated into the Mandipingu group.

✮ He is an internationally-acclaimed traditional dancer, actor, and writer.
✮ He is best known for his roles in Crocodile Dundee (1986), Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002), The Tracker (2002), and Australia (2008).

✮ He won the Best Actor Award at the 67th Cannes Film Festival for his role in Charlie's Country.

Ernie Dingo

✮ Ernie Dingo was born on the 31st July, 1956, on Bullardoo Station in Western Australia in the Yamatji Aboriginal tribe.

✮ He is a television presenter, actor, and writer.
✮ He is known for his roles in Crocodile Dundee II (1988), Bran Nue Dae (2009), and Fast Forward (1989). He is also known for hosting the television series "The Great Outdoors".
✮ He received an Order of Australia in 1990. He, now, mentors the young indigenous people and supports political and social causes. Today along with the other Australian artists he works towards the recognition of the "Stolen Generation" and a compensation for their suffering, from the government.

Lionel Rose

✮ Lionel Rose was on born on June 21, 1948, in Warragul, Victoria, Australia, in the Gunditjmara tribe.

✮ He made history by becoming the first Aborigine World Champion boxer by winning the bantamweight title in 1968.
✮ Lionel Rose's fan following grew leaps and bounds after he knocked out Rocky Gattellari at Sydney stadium in round thirteen. He won 42 out of a total of 53 fights in his boxing career.

✮ He was awarded the Australian Of The Year, in 1968. He died in 2011.

Other Famous Aboriginal Australians

Faith Bandler
Writer, Campaigner for Indigenous rights

Burnum Burnum
Advocate, activist

Mick Dodson
Advocate, representative, Australian of the Year

Adam Goodes
AFL player, community leader, Australian of the Year
Dr. Gary Foley
Activist, academic, actor

Vincent Lingiari
Aboriginal leader, land rights campaigner

Sir Douglas Nicholls
First Indigenous state governor, footballer
Peris Nova
Olympic athlete, senator

Warwick Thornton
Film director, screenwriter, cinematographer

David Unaipon
Inventor, preacher, author, spokesman
Many of the personalities listed here have made a vital contribution in different fields and continue to serve as role models for their communities.