Emma Donovan wins 2022 First Nations Arts And Culture Fellowship

The win will see Donovan produce a new solo album for children written in traditional language

Emma Donovan has been awarded the First Nations Arts and Culture Fellowship at the 2022 First Nations Arts Awards.

The First Nations Arts Awards recognise the outstanding achievements and work of First Nations artists, and are held annually – and broadcast by NITV – on May 27, the date of the 1967 referendum and the start of National Reconciliation Week.

Formally awarded the First Nations Arts And Culture Fellowship at this year’s ceremony, Donovan has been enabled to produce a new solo album, which will feature songs for children written in her traditional language.


Donovan’s grandparents, Micko and Aileen Donovan, were regarded as royalty in Aboriginal country music. They formed a band, The Donovans, in 1984, which also featured their five sons and daughter, Agnes. Emma would occasionally sing with the group as a child, and was encouraged by her mother to enter talent competitions.

Donovan – best known for her work with soul band The Putbacks – said in her acceptance of the prestigious recognition: “This award gives me the opportunity to stand beside many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices in the industry today, and to continue that, and to walk alongside many.

“I humbly receive this award on behalf of my grandparents’ legacy, for their music and their voice to continue through me.”

You can watch Donovan’s full acceptance of the Fellowship below:

Elsewhere at this year’s awards, the prestigious Red Ochre Award for Lifetime Achievement was handed to self-prescribed “old-fashioned political artist” and multi-disciplinarian Destiny Deacon, as well as artistic director of the Bangarra dance company, Stephen Page.


Franchesca Cubillo, Australia Council’s executive director for First Nations arts and culture, said of the awards in a statement: “The 2022 recipients traverse a range [of] artforms and experience – from music to theatre, dance, visual arts, and poetry.

“The common thread between them is they all storytellers, and the stories they share are key to Australian cultural life and national identity.”

With The Putbacks, Donovan won three titles at the 2021 Music Victoria Awards, taking home prizes in the Best Soul, Funk R&B Or Gospel Act, Best Group and Best Album categories. The band earned the latter award for their 2020 album, ‘Crossover’.

The group were also among the finalists for the 2021 Australian Music Prize, nominated for last year’s ‘Under These Streets’ release.

Donovan is set to perform with The Putbacks at the inaugural Wanderer Festival. Taking place this September, she is billed alongside the likes of DMA’s, Winston Surfshirt and Didirri, as well as international acts like The Dandy Warhols and Curtis Harding.