10. Mandawuy Yunupingu (singer/musician/songwriter)
Born in Arnhem Land in 1956, Yunupingu was a member of the Gumatj people. He was the first Aboriginal from Arnhem Land to obtain a university degree and in 1985 started a band with another famous Australian - his nephew Gurrumul Yunupingu, a multi-instrumentalist and singer. The band would become Yothu Yindi and by 1988 they were supporting Midnight Oil in Australia and North America. In 1991 they came to national prominence with their hit song "Treaty". Yunupingu died at the age of 56 in 2013 (it for this reason his photo is not included out of respect for Aboriginal beliefs).
9. Linda Burney (politician)
In 2016, Linda Burney became the first Aboriginal woman to be elected to the House of Representatives. The "proud member" of the Wiradjuri nation also served for 13 years in the NSW Parliament. Burney, a mother of two, is the Labor shadow minister for Families and Social Services and the shadow minister for Indigenous Australians. Born in 1957, Burney began her working life as a teacher in Western Sydney, and in 2002 Charles Sturt University awarded her an Honorary Doctorate in Education. “I have to say I hadn’t fully appreciated how happy and proud this would make thousands of people,” she said at the time of her Federal Election win in 2016. “I have had thousands of messages from around Australia.”
8. Adam Goodes (AFL football player)
Before all the controversy that punctuated the final years of his stellar career, Adam Goodes was simply known as a sublime footballer and all-round nice guy. Goodes hails from South Australia, and his mother, who was of Adnyamathanha and Narungga descent, was a member of the Stolen Generations (Indigenous Australian children who were removed from their families by the government from 1905 and into the '70s). When his family moved to Victoria, he played Australian rules football for the North Ballarat Rebels and was drafted to the Sydney Swans in 1997. During his brilliant career he won two Brownlow Medals and two premierships. From 2013, Goodes was booed by AFL crowds, stemming from an incident in 2013 where he pointed out a young Collingwood supporter who had called him an "ape". The 2014 Australian of the Year retired in 2015 and the AFL officially apologised to him for the booing in April, 2019.
7. Noel Pearson (lawyer, activist)
Land rights activist Noel Pearson is one of the most respected Aboriginal community leaders in Australia. He is a lawyer and founder of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership. He comes from the Guugu Yimithirr community on the Cape York Peninsula, went to school in Brisbane and studied at the University of Sydney. "It is time to ask: are we Aborigines a serious people?" wrote Pearson in Quarterly Essay in 2009. "Do we have the seriousness necessary to maintain our languages, traditions and knowledge? The truth is that I am prone to bouts of doubt and sadness around these questions. But I have hope. Our hope is dependent upon education."
6. Leah Purcell (actress, writer)
Born in Murgon, Queensland, Leah Purcell is an actress, playwrite and film director. She has appeared in the celebrated films Lantana and Jindabyne and in TV's Love My Way, Redfern Now (for which she won a Best Lead Actress AACTA Award), Wentworth and more. She has also won awards for her play Box the Pony. "I believe very strongly in the Aboriginal spirituality," Purcell once said. "I believe in my ancestors and I believe that they have given me my ability to be a storyteller, a song woman, a performer."
5. Jessica Mauboy (singer)
From the moment she walked on to our TV screens as a contestant in the fourth season of Australian Idol in 2006, Australians fell in love with Jessica Mauboy. The Darwin-born singer was the runner-up in the show (to Damien Leith) but her career never faltered. She's released four albums, was a member of the Young Divas, has starred in two films (Bran Neu Dae and The Sapphires) and stars in the hit TV series The Secret Daughter. "There's been moments where I've felt, as an Indigenous woman growing up in Australia, there's been that kind of rivalry of being Indigenous," she once said. " I've had that experience of someone saying, 'I don't know if she's going to go that far.'"
4. Samantha Harris (model)
At the age of 11 she entered Girlfriend magazine's Covergirl comp and landed a contract with Chic Model Management - and hasn't looked back since. Born in Tweed Heads, NSW, the 1.79m model began her professional life as a brand ambassador for Seafolly. She first graced the cover of Vogue in 2010 and in 2011 was a fashion ambassador for David Jones. She's walked the runway for designers such as Alex Perry, Lisa Ho and Rachel Gilbert. Her mother, who was a member of the Stolen Generations, was from the Dunghutti tribe in the Macleay Valley of NSW.
3. Deborah Mailman (actress)
Born in Mt Isa, Queensland in 1972, Deborah Mailman first entered our lives as Cherie Butterfield in the iconic Australian series The Secret Life of Us. The mother of two, who studied at the University of Queensland, has a long list of film credits including Rabbit Proof Fence, Bran Neu Dae, Oddball and The Sapphires, and is set to appear alongside Rachel Griffiths in the ABC's Black Bitch. She hails from the Bidjara people in Queensland and also has Māori heritage.
2. Ernie Dingo (actor, presenter)
One of the most recognisable Indigenous Australians, Ernie Dingo grew up in remote Mullewa, WA, and is a descendant of the Yamatji people of the state. The actor, presenter and writer appeared in the popular films Crocodile Dundee II, Blackfellas and Bran Neu Dae. The father of four has also appeared in many classic Australian TV shows including The Flying Doctors and Rafferty's Rules. And who could forget his hosting of The Great Outdoors for its 16 year run? "If you can look in the mirror at the end of the day and pop a few questions towards yourself and say, ‘Yeah, I did a good job today, I tried my hardest, I had a go at it and I made a few inroads,' that's what it's like to be an Australian,” Dingo once said. “Have a go and enjoy your day."
1. Cathy Freeman (athlete)
She was the athlete who stole the show at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and captivated a nation’s heart. She was first seen at the “best-ever” Games lighting the cauldron during the Opening Ceremony, before winning Gold in the 400m, which has been heralded by many as one of Australia’s greatest sporting achievements. Born in Mackay, Qld, in 1973, Freeman began athletics from an early age, competing in sprints, high jump and long jump. In 1988, she won a scholarship to Toowoomba's Fairholme College, and in 1990 was selected for the 4x100m relay team for the 1990 Commonwealth Games. At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, she won her first Olympic medal - silver in the 400m behind her rival, France's Marie-Jose Perec. Since retiring in 2003, she created the Cathy Freeman Foundation which assists Aboriginal children with their education. “I want to be a positive role model, especially for kids and Aboriginal people,” said Freeman.