Indigenous artist, activist, historian and Victoria University educator and academic, Dr Gary Foley has been named the 2015 Red Ochre Award winner.
The $50,000 award is Australia’s most esteemed peer-assessed honour for an Indigenous artist.
Dr Foley, a Victoria University associate professor, is a lifetime advocate for Indigenous people to tell their own stories.
The Red Ochre prize was established in 1993 by the Australia Council for Indigenous artists and its wider arts community to recognise outstanding contributions of fellow artists.
Council Director Lee-Ann Buckskin said Foley was chosen because of his many achievements in Indigenous arts, beginning with his acting debut in the revue Basically Black in 1972.
His Australian film credits include a starring role in Backroads, as well as roles in Going Down, Buckeye and Pinto, Pandemonium, and the cult film, Dogs in Space, in which he played himself.
He also starred in or wrote various films, documentaries and television series, and in 2012 staged a one-man autobiographical show, Foley, at the Melbourne and Sydney Festivals.
Dr Foley was the first Aboriginal director of the Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council in 1983, and senior curator for Indigenous cultures at Museum Victoria in 2004.
He is also well known for establishing community services such as Redfern’s Aboriginal Legal Service and the Aboriginal Medical Service in Melbourne.
“Gary Foley has left a lasting legacy across Australia’s cultural and political landscape, and is in the unique position of not only being part of history but also shaping it,” Ms Buckskin said.
Dr Foley’s extraordinary life began in northern NSW, where he went from being expelled from school at 15 to entering academia at the University of Melbourne and Victoria University.
He started lecturing at Victoria University’s Moondani Balluk Indigenous Academic Unit in 2008, and this year, was promoted to associate professor in History. He is also a highly-regarded researcher.
Dr Foley will receive his award today at a ceremony at the Sydney Opera House.
Previous Red Ochre Award recipients include actor David Gulpilil in 2013; musician Archie Roach in 2011; and Rabbit-Proof Fence author, Doris Piklington Garmimara in 2008.