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Young Aboriginal leaders celebrated

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Twenty young Aboriginal achievers were recognised today at the 16th annual Ricci Marks Awards ceremony at the Korin Gamadji Institute in Richmond.

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Jeanette Powell announced Verhonda Smith from Preston and Benson Saulo from Prahran as the recipients of the 2012 Ricci Marks Award in recognition of young Aboriginal achievers.

"The Victorian Government is committed to advancing the development of Indigenous youth," Mrs Powell said.

"One of the principles guiding the Victorian Government's approach to Aboriginal Affairs is that of aspiration, believing that every Victorian should have the opportunity to reach his or her fullest potential.

"The Ricci Marks Award is one part of the Victorian Government's efforts to recognise, support and celebrate young Aboriginal achievers," Mrs Powell said.

Student of Indigenous Studies and History at Melbourne University, Verhonda (Bonnie) Smith excels in netball and was the captain of the National Indigenous Schoolgirl's Netball team for two years. Bonnie's fundraising efforts for the Indigenous Youth Leadership Program led her to the Kokoda Track and remote Kimberley. Bonnie is motivated to promote healthy living and unite the community through sport.

Benson Saulo is the first Indigenous Australian to be appointed as the Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations and has inspired many young people throughout Australia. Benson is passionate about Indigenous youth leadership and presently holds the position of a National Director of the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Academy.

A $500 Encouragement Award was presented to Edward (Eddie) Bryant, a young Yorta Yorta man from Shepparton. Eddie was the first Aboriginal student at his primary school to become a school captain, and excels in sport and the performing arts. Eddie has learned Auslan so that he may communicate with friends and family. Eddie aspires to be a strong Indigenous leader and a role model for his community.

"I was delighted to watch Eddie perform in Pekan Summer, written by famed Aboriginal soprano and actor Debra Cheetham," Mrs Powell said.

The 20 nominees for the 2012 Ricci Marks Award came from around Victoria, including Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Gippsland, Shepparton and the Wodonga/Albury region.

The award is named after the late Ricci Marks, who in 2000 received what was then the Aboriginal Young Achiever Award. The award title was changed to honour Ricci Marks following his death in 2004 at the age of 21. Each award recipient receives a $5,000 bursary to support their future learning and development.

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