Basketball player and Indigenous rights advocate Patty Mills has been named the 2022 ACT Australian of the Year for his work inspiring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youths on and off the court.
Since leaving his home in Canberra in 2007 on an American sports scholarship, Mills has had a legendary basketball career.
He became an NBA Champion in 2014 with the San Antonio Spurs, and recently competed in his fourth Olympics, leading the Boomers to their first-ever podium finish in Tokyo 2021.
That same year he made history being the first-ever Indigenous person to carry the Australian flag into an Olympic Games opening ceremony.
“As the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flag bearer my connection between our country – the land, the sky, the sea, our culture, our history and this particular moment runs extremely deep,” he said.
Off the basketball court, the 33-year-old has used his international profile to inspire, support and enact positive change. Patty is the founder of the Team Mills Foundation – an organisation dedicated to supporting and championing culture, diversity, and underprivileged families.
Using the power of sport to create pathways and opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth, he launched Indigenous Basketball Australia, whose programs, competitions, and inspirational and motivational sessions are a national first.
In 2020, Patty donated his $1.5 million salary to organisations tackling racial inequality
The proud Kokatha, Naghiralgal and Dauareb-Meriam man was honoured in a ceremony at the National Gallery of Australia on Thursday night, along with three other Canberrans.
And while Mills couldn’t be there in-person to accept the award due to training commitments in the US, his life-long friend and former ACT Australian of the Year, Katrina Fanning accepted the honour on his behalf.
The rugby league pioneer and Wiradjuri woman told the ceremony what Patty achieves on the court will be “nothing” compared to what he achieves in his life away from sport.
The other winners of the night included – Valmai Dempsey, a long-serving St John Ambulance volunteer who was named ACT Senior Australian of the Year for her efforts responding to the Black Summer bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic.
CanTeen youth leader Sean Dondas picked up ACT Young Australian of the Year, having spent 13 years providing support for families battling with a cancer diagnosis.
And the ACT Local Hero is Woden School youth worker Luke Ferguson, who is empowering young people with disability to engage with the community and achieve their goals.
The four winners will now head to the national awards which will be announced on January 25.