28 March 2019

For the most up to date information about the Bettison & James Award, please visit the main information page HERE.

The Adelaide Film Festival (AFF) today announced the highly accomplished writer, historian, and social justice activist Jackie Huggins AM FAHA, a Bidjara / Birri-Gubba Juru woman from Queensland, as the recipient of the annual Jim Bettison and Helen James Award.

The award will enable Dr Huggins to pursue her chosen project in researching and writing a book on the social impacts surrounding the history of Aboriginal soldiers in both World Wars, soldiers who went to war without their people yet being citizens of their own country.

The prestigious award both recognises a lifelong body of work that has shown an exemplary, significant and inspiring contribution to the wider Australian community, while granting $50 000 to enable the recipient to further their work through a nominated project or activity. The recipient may have any area of expertise that may encompass, among others, the arts and humanities, social justice, the environment or the sciences. The award was established in 2015 through The Jim Bettison and Helen James Foundation.

Jackie Huggins’ phenomenal body of work has seen her make dynamic and highly significant contributions to the wider Australian community for more than four decades. Having worked extensively across academic, government and community spheres, Dr Huggins has published widely on Australian Indigenous issues, and in particular on history and women’s studies. She has served on many committees, advisory boards, inquiries and commissions, notably in the areas of Reconciliation, Indigenous education and employment, domestic and family violence, the prison and corrections system, constitutional reform and philanthropy. Dr Huggins is currently the co-chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, the peak organisation representing the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Dr Huggins’ book will tell a story of great significance nationally, and also to her personally, coming from an Aboriginal military background. Her grandfather, John Henry Huggins I, served in World War 1 and was wounded twice in Belgium. Her father, John Henry Huggins II, was a POW in World War 2 on the Thailand-Burma Railway. He died at the age of 38 from his war injuries, leaving her mother to raise four children on her own. To further her research, Dr Huggins travelled to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore in February 2019 in a delegation of Aboriginal descendants of POWS as part of the Australian War Memorial project.

Dr Huggins will join the alumni of exceptional Australians who are previous recipients of the award: social documentary and arts photographer Robert McFarlane, pre-eminent figure in Australian dance Meryl Tankard, Adventurer and environmental scientist Tim Jarvis and creator of the Adelaide Festival of Ideas Greg Mackie OAM.


Doreen Mellor, spokesperson for the Jim Bettison and Helen James Foundation:
“We have the greatest admiration for Jackie Huggins’ longstanding and valued contribution to the Australian community through her work with Indigenous issues in the social justice arena, and as an author and historian. The Jim Bettison and Helen James Foundation is delighted to be able to honour her contribution and provide this opportunity for Jackie to pursue a project close to her heart.”

Dr Jackie Huggins AM FAHA:
“I am elated to receive this prestigious award from the generous benefactors, The Jim Bettison and Helen James Foundation. After writing my Mother’s biography, it is indeed a dream come true that I now pen my Father’s. Two stories of remarkable Aboriginal people.”

Mat Kesting, Adelaide Film Festival CEO and Creative Director:
“The Adelaide Film Festival is proud to be associated with the Jim Bettison and Helen James Foundation. This award has enabled some outstanding individuals to continue and extend their brilliant work. The Festival is thrilled by today’s announcement that Jackie Huggins is the next recipient, joining a number of impressive individuals who have all made substantial contributions to the Australian community.”

Dr Alison Ravenscroft, Reader/Associate Professor in English, La Trobe University:
“Dr Jackie Huggins has made outstanding contributions to social justice in this country. She has also been a champion of Indigenous arts and scholarship, supporting the recognition of the centrality of Indigenous contributions to the most urgent ethical and political debates of our times. This award is a wonderful recognition of the breadth and importance of her work.”


The Jim Bettison and Helen James Foundation was established to realise the vision of Dr Jim Bettison and Ms Helen James, who were committed to supporting a wide range of activity in the community through philanthropy and professional engagement. Jim co-founded Codan, a successful and award-winning Adelaide company, established the Developed Image Photographic Gallery and served as Deputy Chancellor at the University of Adelaide. Helen was an exhibiting studio artist. She served on various key arts committees and was a founding member of the National Library of Australia’s Foundation Board. http://bettisonandjamesfoundation.com

The Adelaide Film Festival is set to hold Pop Up Event 5 – 7 April, with the Australian Premieres of the hotly anticipated Australian titles and Adelaide Film Fest FUND features TOP END WEDDING and ANIMALS. More: www.adelaidefilmfestival.org
The ADL Film Fest has secured a reputation around the globe as an essential screen culture event and was named in Variety Film magazine’s 50 Unmissable Film Festivals list. The ADL Film Fest takes place immediately after the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, signifying the beginning of the awards season. Australian screen industry icons Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton are patrons of the festival.


Interviews: available with Dr Jackie Huggins – please forward all requests.
Media contact: Alicia Brescianini, ABCG Film ph: 0400 225 603 e: [email protected]