New awards recognise Indigenous trailblazer

David Woodroffe
David Woodroffe took out the overall prize at the inaugural Charles Darwin University Alumni Awards.

Trailblazing Northern Territory lawyer and Indigenous rights advocate David Woodroffe has topped an exceptional group recognised at the inaugural Charles Darwin University Alumni Awards.

A descendant of the Jingili Modburra clan and Stolen Generation, Mr Woodroffe graduated from Northern Territory University in 1999 and has since forged an exceptional career as a lawyer, advocate and leader of his people.

“I wanted to study law for my family, so that in some way I could ensure that injustices such as the Stolen Generation would never happen to Aboriginal people again,” Mr Woodroffe said.

“It’s a privilege to win this award from CDU and be recognised for all the hard work. Over the past 20 years CDU has played a major role in the development of a home-grown legal profession and justice system.”

Mr Woodroffe was among the first Indigenous law graduates in the Northern Territory and is currently one of the most senior Indigenous lawyers in the nation – serving as Principal Legal Officer for the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency.

On top of winning the overall category, Mr Woodroffe also received the Indigenous Alumnus Award.

The night also saw four other gifted alumni recognised for their outstanding achievements since graduating.

Emre Celik took out the Alumnus Award for Community Service for his work to increase understanding, acceptance and celebration of his culture, not only in Australia but also internationally.

A Muslim Australian, Mr Celik was recognised for taking a key role in bringing together diverse communities in five major cities: Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Washington DC and New York.

Indigenous Policy Development Diploma graduate Teleiah Bayfield was rewarded with the Alumnus Award for Early Career Achievement.

Ms Bayfield has become one of the youngest directors in the Queensland Department of Education, currently serving as the Director of Indigenous Education.

The Alumnus Award for Industry Excellence was taken out by media professional Sophie Verass.

Since graduating in 2013, Ms Verass has risen rapidly to play a prominent role with television channels NITV and SBS, as well as writing for the Sydney Morning Herald and Canberra Times.

CDU Students’ Association president Ben Poveda Alfonso received the International Alumnus Award.

Mr Poveda Alfonso was recognised for his role as National Secretary of the Council of International Students Australia as well as establishing the Kindness Shake – a community-led initiative that provides weekly free meals to people suffering serious financial hardships due to COVID-19.

Four other alumni received special commendations on the night including Mohd Nauman (Alumnus Award for Early Career Achievement), Jahna Cedar (Indigenous Alumnus Award), Mark Mayo (Indigenous Alumnus Award) and Rikki Bruce (Alumnus Award for Early Career Achievement).

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