Recognising individuals whose lifelong work has benefited the Australian community.

About the Award

Commencing in 2015, the Award was established to recognise Australians who have contributed a lifelong body of work of high achievement and community benefit.

The Award is administered by the Adelaide Film Festival on behalf of the Jim Bettison and Helen James Foundation. Presented by the Foundation on an annual basis, it provides the beneficiary with the possibility to extend, record or disseminate aspects of their life’s work.

The award recipient’s area of expertise may be in the arts and humanities, social justice, the environment, the sciences or any other area where benefit to the community results from their work.

The Foundation’s Selection Committee reviews all submissions before making its final decision. $50,000 is awarded to single or multiple recipients, based on eligibility and strength of application.

2023 Recipient: Ngarrindjeri/Kaurna Elder Uncle Major ‘Moogy’ Sumner AM

Major Sumner AM – Uncle Moogy – is a world- renowned performer and cultural ambassador of Ngarrindjeri arts, crafts, martial arts and traditional culture. His work spans performance, traditional dance and song, cultural advice and handcrafting of traditional shields, clubs, boomerangs and spears. He is a strong advocate and mentor for his people and his culture, and has featured in film, theatre and documentary across Australia and internationally. 

Uncle Moogy reconnected his communities with the traditional art of canoe building, by crafting the first Ngarrindjeri bark canoe to be made in over 100 years on Ngarrindjeri Boandik country, in south eastern South Australia (using a high-tech cherry picker to get up the tree). He is constantly reminding his audience to consider Ngarrindjeri and other Aboriginal culture as a living culture, spanning thousands of years.

On a day-to-day basis, you can find Uncle Moogy at the Aboriginal Sobriety Group, which he helped found, or at the South Australian Museum working with Aboriginal communities around Australia to bring ancestors home from Museums here and abroad. It is work he has passionately done for decades. 

Uncle Moogy was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 2014, the South Australian Premier’s NAIDOC Award in 2021, and was inducted into the SA Environment Hall of Fame in 2021.

Past recipients

  • Pat Rix (2022)
  • Dr Bob Brown (2021)
  • Professor David Vaux (2020)
  • Professor John Long (2019)
  • Jackie Huggins (2018)
  • Robert McFarlane (2017)
  • Meryl Tankard (2016)
  • Tim Jarvis (2016)
  • Greg Mackie OAM (2015)

Read more about previous Bettison & James Award recipients.


  • The nominee must be an Australian citizen or permanent resident. 
  • The Award is only available for individuals. 
  • Candidates for the Award may be invited by the Foundation, or nominated by a third party. 
  • All recipients of the Award should seek advice on the mitigation of tax related to the Award. 
  • The Recipient may be invited to present a paper or speak about their lifetime work and achievements. 
  • The decision of the Selection Committee remains final and no further correspondence will be entered into.  

About the Foundation

The Jim Bettison and Helen James Foundation was established to realise the vision of Dr Jim Bettison and Ms Helen James through the annual Bettison and James award.

Helen and Jim were far-sighted and creative thinkers, 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.AFF aims to garner innovative partnerships and to create opportunities for Australian key thinkers and practitioners.

AFF administers the Bettison & James Award for the Bettison & James Foundation. Perpetual acts as trustee for the Foundation.

If you have further enquiries about the Bettison & James Award, please contact us on (08) 8394 2505 or via [email protected].


foundation AFF 2020 Logo perpetual