Victoria’s youngest registered Aboriginal psychologist and a climate change advocate have taken out the top gongs at the Ricci Marks Awards, which recognise outstanding young Victorian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
At a ceremony at Melbourne Museum, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gavin Jennings named Ashley Paxton and Staycee Charles as this year’s Ricci Marks Awards recipients for their respective work in the fields of mental health and environmentalism.
A psychologist with the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, Ms Paxton is a proud Waywurru woman who has worked as a mentor and to promote healing for her people, as well as examining ‘whitewashed’ approaches to psychology.
Ms Charles is a psychology student whose passion for protecting the environment led her to the Seed Indigenous Climate Network, where she now works as the regional coordinator in Hamilton, mobilizing fellow young Aboriginal people in support of climate justice.
The Ricci Marks Awards are named in honour of Ricci Marks, a community leader and proud Wotjobaluk man from Halls Gap who worked as a cultural officer for the Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural Centre before dying in a car accident in 2000.
Ms Paxton and Ms Charles receive a $5,000 bursary, while Courtney Ugle and Bianca Lauricella receive $1,500 as recipients of the Rising Star Awards.
Originally from Bunbury in Western Australia, Ms Ugle is proud Noongar woman who coordinated an early intervention and prevention program promoting healthy relationships to Aboriginal youth. She is the captain of the Essendon Football Club VFLW team and is working to increase female participation in Aussie Rules across the state.
Ms Lauricella is a proud Wotjobaluk woman who was elected as school captain at the Horsham Special Development School and has been commended on her work within her local community, including representing her state at netball.
Now in its 23rd year, the awards acknowledge the individual achievements and aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 16 to 25 in training, education, arts, sports, culture and community leadership.
As noted by Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gavin Jennings
“Congratulations to all the nominees and the winners – they represent just a portion of the vast array of skills and strengths of the Victorian Aboriginal community.”
“Their stories are inspiring and we are proud to recognise the work they have done and the achievements that they will continue to make.”