Respected local First Nations resident Willie Hannah-Rodgers is 2021’s Elliott Award recipient in recognition of his lifelong contribution to preserving, protecting and promoting the living Aboriginal culture of our region.
The Elliott Award is Sunraysia’s highest arts accolade and recognises outstanding contributions to the arts in our community, particularly where that contribution has not previously been formally acknowledged.
The prestigious award was appropriately presented as part of the Easter weekend’s Mildura Corroboree at Nowingi Place in front of the assembled crowd and event participants.
Willie, known by many as ‘Uncle Willie’, has selflessly dedicated more than three decades to sharing his knowledge and culture with community and schools.
Mildura Arts and Culture Advisory Committee Chair Donald Mayne said sharing this knowledge in schools was something Willie was particularly passionate about.
“He has a passion for teaching and sharing Aboriginal culture with the young in particular, and through his work in schools he has inspired multiple generations of children to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal culture,” Mr Mayne said.
“Through his work in schools across the Mallee, ‘Uncle Willie’ as he’s known, has come to be held in high regard in the local and broader community for his generosity in sharing his knowledge.
“Willie is both inspired and inspiring as he visits schools and community events, telling his story, explaining artefacts and language, performing demonstrations such as spear-throwing and didgeridoo-playing, and softly speaking his lived experience in his culture.”
Mr Mayne said despite dedicating more than 30 years to preserving, protecting and promoting Aboriginal culture, Willie has done so with very little public recognition, making him a very worthy Elliott Award recipient.
“Willie has done this with minimal accolades, despite the mountainous respect he has earnt and the major contribution he has made to bring people together from all cultures to learn and understand the cultural traditions of his people,” he said.
“He is a man of culture. A man who lives, works and breathes his culture. He has made this community a better place for all of us.”
Previous Elliott Awards recipients have been recognised for the length of service to arts and culture, the breadth of their contribution throughout the term of their involvement, their encouragement and nurturing of children and youth, their championing of arts and culture involvement to the broader community, and their creation of a significant positive community legacy in our region.
In previous years the Elliott Award has been awarded to Des Tobin, 2006; Tom McCullough, 2007; Vaughan Stirrat, 2008; Neil Noyce, 2009; Mollie Kalms, 2010; Shirley Bowie, 2011; Neil Fettling, 2012; Kay Sylvester, 2013; Peta Lynne Buchanan and Janine Kerr, 2014; Len Krause, 2015; Yvonne Hedley, 2016; Henry Tankard, 2017; Mavis Francis, 2018; David Searle 2019, and most recently in 2020 to Megan Sullivan.