The 1997 Medal and Awards presentation ceremony was held on 10 December 1997 at a luncheon held at the Sheraton on the Park hotel in Sydney. Special guest was the Governor-General, Sir William Deane The ceremony also acknowledged the work of the past President of the Commission, Sir Ronald Wilson, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Dodson, and the Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Hastings.

The judges were: Mark Bagshaw, Tim Bowden, Angela Catterns, Heather Chapman, Senator Helen Coonan, Bryce Courtenay, Sandy Edwards, Sharon Finnane, Avril Henry, Jose Ramos Horta, Ray Hughes, Damien Keogh, Curtis Levy, Michael Lynch, Robert Manne, Bernadette McMenamin, Bani McSpedden, Joseph O'Reilly, Bruce Petty, Violet Roumeliotis, Ulrike Schuermann, Tony Squires, Virginia Trioli, Maureen Wheeler and Sue Williams.

human rights medal

Winner: Dr Faith Bandler AM

Dr Faith Bandler dedicated her life to promoting the rights of Indigenous Australians. Dr Bandler was at the forefront of a decade-long 'Referendum Campaign' which culminated in the historic 1967 Referendum which saw over 90 percent of Australians vote for constitutional changes to ensure full participation and equal treatment for Indigenous Australians. In 1956 Dr Bandler co-founded the Aboriginal-Australian Fellowship. She later became a key figure in the founding of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders which, in addition to constitutional reform, campaigned for land rights, equal wages, housing and legislative change.

"Full rights for Indigenous Australians can only come through changes to legislation, not through charity. I gave ten years of my life to work to change a discriminatory federal constitution. Those changes turned the tide for Indigenous Australians. Finally there was access to schools that were not segregated, opportunities for higher education, and the establishment of councils to oversee Indigenous health, housing and arts. The 1967 Referendum opened a new world for Indigenous Australians. It returned dignity to us as a people and, for me, this is the core of respect for human rights" she said.

community award

Joint winners: Link Up (NSW) and the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group

The Community Award was shared jointly by Link Up (NSW) and the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group. Link Up was recognised for their role in reuniting members of the Stolen Generations with their families and communities. The Gay and Lesbian Rights Group received the Award for its successful nine year campaign to repeal Tasmania's anti-gay laws.

corporate award

Winner: Coles Myer Limited

Coles Myer received the Corporate Award for the development and implementation of a program to eliminate harassment in the workplace. As the largest employer in Australia with over 150,000 employees, the program has been endorsed by senior management with the goal of protecting employees from discrimination and sexual harassment.

arts award

Winner: Up the Road, John Harding

Up the Road, a play written by John Harding, addresses the contemporary issues facing Indigenous Australians. The play was praised by the judging panel as a "powerful, personal call for understanding and reconciliation". Presented by the Playbox Theatre and Company B, the play encouraged other Indigenous writers and actors to enter the Australian theatre to share their stories.

television award

Winner: Epitaph, Frontline - Working Dog Pty Ltd, Apunipima Cape York Health Council and Kowrowa Aboriginal Community Association

Mike Moore's visit to a remote Aboriginal community in Cape York in the Frontline episode Epitaph received the Television Award. The judging panel praised the program's deft use of satire to highlight the media's often simplistic approach to reporting complex Indigenous issues such as health, housing and education. The Award was presented to Working Dog Pty Ltd, the Apunipima Cape York Health Council and the Kowrowa Aboriginal Community Association for their collaborative work.

radio award

Winner: The Churches and the Stolen Generations, Encounter, ABC Radio National - David Busch

The Churches and the Stolen Generations is an hour-long moving documentary which focused on the personal stories of Indigenous children separated from their families and the role of the church staff in caring for and educating those children.

print media award

Winner: The Politics of the Prize, Wilson da Silva

The Politics of the Prize appeared in the Financial Review Magazine and examined the cool reception given to Jose Ramos Horta, an Australian resident, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his involvement in East Timor politics.

Winner: Suffer the Children - Gary Hughes and Gerard Ryle, The Age

Suffer the Children is an investigative piece which uncovered evidence that state wards were used as subjects for post-war medical research.

youth award

Winner: Tammy Williams

Tammy Williams, a 19 year-old from the Aboriginal community of Cherbourg, has addressed national and international forums, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, on issues affecting Australian young people. In 1996 she was identified as a future leader and selected as one of 35 young people from around the world to attend the State of the World forum in San Francisco.

photography award

Winner: No more than what you see, Ricky Maynard

No more than what you see is a graphic photographic series of Indigenous people in Australian gaols. The photographs were exhibited at the Stills Gallery in Sydney.