On Thursday 15th March 2012, The National Centre of Indigenous Excellence closed its doors to the public!

As, on this particularly warm dewy night, the basketball stadium in the EORA SARC was not a basketball stadium, but rather a dining hall of glamorous proportions.

Why? To host the A-List of the Indigenous Community, both local & national, along with 300 more supporters and contributors to the NCIE in what was a remarkable celebration of the Centre’s work in our first 2 years of operation and the prosperous future of this astonishing facility.

This was the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence’s Taste of Excellence Gala Dinner 2012.

Photo: NCIE team

The night’s festivities kicked off with canapes and mocktails in the courtyard at sunset.

As our prestigious guests mingled and had their glamour shots taken by NCIE advocate & Indigenous photographer Wayne Quilliam, we were treated to a performance by the Moogahlin Circus Crew in the Campus Dining Hall.

The sound of didgeridoos (courtesy of Clarence Slockee & Glen Doyle) and smoke billowing from the EORA SARC was the cue for guests to proceed into the dining hall where Donna Ingram delivered a beautiful Welcome to Country.

Highlights of the Centre’s work played during the night with the debut of the NCIE showreel and a photo slideshow of the excellence, integrity, inclusiveness and growth of the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence since we opened our doors back in January 2010.

With the cream of the crop in attendance such as Rhoda Roberts who charmed the crowd as our Master of Ceremonies (and I was lucky enough to sit next to her!), NCIE patron & tennis champion Evonne Goolagong-Cawley, supermodel & NCIE advocate Samantha Harris, as well as other distinguished Indigenous guests including Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue, Adjunct A/professor & Author Anita Heiss & Linda Burney MP, just to name a few, we rolled out the black carpet and requested that everyone dress in their deadliest frocks.

And boy did they deliver.

Board members & staff were blown away by the response to the dinner when this illustrious group of black fullas accepted the invitation. Even more blown away by the Governor, Her Excellency Marie Bashir, who graced us with her company, once again showing her long-standing support of NCIE’s past, present & future.

Photo: Lowitja O’Donoghue, Dawn Casey, Marie Bashir.

Deadly sista girls Emma & Casey Donovan both performed on the night, Emma staying true to her blend of Country, Gospel & Soul music to deliver two beautiful numbers with the inclusion of her traditional Gumbayngirr language.

Casey decided to pull out the Whitney tragic’s heartstrings, kicking off her set with ‘I Will Always Love You’.

I had to have a little giggle at the gasps in the room when the music started and we all realised what song it was.

But she pulled it off, and then bought the house down, belting out the Sam & Dave classic ‘Hold On, I’m Coming’ just before dessert.

We were also treated to an intimate performance by Lenny & Travis from the Bangarra Dance Company, with their piece ‘Possum”, and Indigenous pianist & graduate of the WA & Sydney Conservatoria Bradley Gilchrist.

The CEO of the NCIE Jason Glanville, spoke powerfully of the contribution of the NCIE over the past 2 years, telling guests of the 10,000 young Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people that have stepped over the threshold of our George St entrance, to participate in life-changing programs across our four development pathways of Arts& Culture, Learning & Innovation, Health & Wellness and Sport & Recreation.

He spoke of the local contribution, with the help of our pathway partners, and mentioned successes such as the Tribal Warrior Association & The Redfern Police coming together to create a boxing program for both youth and police officers to participate in together and work on bettering relationships.

This has seen the crime rate in Redfern decrease significantly.

It is these kinds of wins that keep us going, and the kinds of victories that we wanted to share with board members, and hundreds of other supporters of this amazing Centre.

Having worked at the NCIE since its opening I felt immensely proud and privileged to be a part of such an amazing, future changing organisation with passionate, hard working staff committed to the NCIE’s values of integrity, excellence, growth and inclusiveness.

A HUGE thank you to Sheena Duncan & Great Big Events for pulling off a remarkable evening, Laissez Faire for feeding us and everyone who turned up on the night and to those who turn up every day to make sure that NCIE’s gates stay open.

Bianca Roberts, NCIE Communication Coordinator 2012.