by Mayrah Sonter
The annual celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander achievement in music, sport, entertainment and community, known as the Deadlys, is about to turn 18. Billed as Indigenous Australia’s Oscars, Grammys and Emmys all rolled into one, the Deadlys is the brainchild of communications specialist Gavin Jones.
Beginning at Boomalli Artist Co-op in Redfern in 1994 with just seven categories based around music, the Deadlys has grown to become a highlight on the Australian events calendar. The word ‘deadly’ is used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to describe anything that is excellent.
“Frankly, I never thought it would go as far as it has,” Gavin says. “It is so much more than an event – it’s true togetherness and when we stand together there is an overwhelming sense of sustainable hope for the future.”
Event Ceremonies Producer Kerrie Hayes, who has been the Director of Ceremonies of the AFL grand final for more than 20 years, agrees.
“The Deadlys are the pinnacle of excellence. It is where the Indigenous communities talent, drive, creativity, strength, resilience, commitment and energy is showcased,” she says.
The Deadlys have grown so much that they now present 28 awards celebrating Indigenous sport, music, entertainment and community in two cemonies at the Sydney Opera House, on the land of the Eora people.
Gavin believes the Deadlys have contributed to improving the lives of Indigenous Australians.
“In some way, the Deadlys aim to undo the ongoing inter-generational feelings of low self worth and low expectations. We want Indigenous Australians to reach their highest potential and the Deadlys can contribute to this,” Gavin says. “I see the Deadlys as a vehicle to empower our people.”
A Deadly award winner for best actor, Luke Carroll, knows how important it is to celebrate Indigneous achievement.
“It means so much to our people to have these awards for the contribution we have made not only to our communities but to the mainstream community as well,” he says.”To be recognised by your own people is a feeling of total satisfaction and is totally unique.”
This year’s Deadlys Awards celebration on September 25 is shaping up to be the deadliest celebration yet with performances by Circus Oz, opera singer Deborah Cheetham and Jessica Mauboy.
“I say it’s a labour of love. It’s excruciatingly hard work, but it is a lovely gift to Indigenous Australians every year,” Gavin says.