National NAIDOC Awards 2023 (Image credit: NAIDOC Week / Flickr)
National NAIDOC Awards 2023 (Image credit: NAIDOC Week / Flickr)

Lala Gutchen receives Caring for Country and Culture award at the National NAIDOC Awards Ceremony

Author  Leah Hawkins
Date 6 July 2023

Congratulations to Mapping the Digital Gap co-researcher Lala Gutchen, Meuram woman from Erub Island in the Torres Strait, on her receipt of the Caring for Country and Culture award at the National NAIDOC Awards Ceremony.

The award recognises Lala for her tireless commitment to the preservation of her country, language, and culture.

Lala is a dedicated community leader and educator, and is working to preserve the Erub Mer language for future generations. Working closely with her father, Kapua Gutchen, an Erub Mer mentor and language holder, they have recorded over 2000 unrecorded words in Erub Mer. She has worked with the Australian Literacy and Numeracy foundation, as well as tech giants Google and Apple, to create an Erub Mer literacy app, the first of its kind, as well as informing development of an early literacy game.

She was the first Torres Strait person to give on-country evidence as a key cultural witness in the successful Queensland Land Court case Waratah Coal vs Youth Verdict, showing the impact the Waratah Coal’s Galilee Coal Project would have on the Torres Strait which are threatened by rising sea levels due to climate change.

She has also been working as a co-reseacher with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making & Society’s (ADM+S) Mapping the Digital Gap research project over the last couple of years, providing invaluable expertise, local knowledge, and contributing to data collection that will provide a map of digital inclusion outcomes in Erub and contribute to the Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) data snapshot of digital inclusion in remote First Nations communities across Australia.

Practising her culture as a fisherwoman and traditional gardener, Lala works on land and sea, demonstrating her exemplary strength, dedication, and her passion for preserving cultures and protecting the land.

Murrawah Johnson, Birdi Woman and Youth Verdict lead campaigner said, “Lala has done more in the last five years in her community than a lot of people do in their lifetime – and really, she is just getting started.”

Watch the National NAIDOC Award coverage on ABC iview (Lala from 1:17:44)