It has been a big year for Newcastle singer and songwriter Jacob Ridgeway.
The proud Worimi and Gamilaroi man graduated from the University of Newcastle this year with a distinction in the Bachelor of Music and will return in 2020 to study a Masters of Creative Industries - the first Indigenous person to do so.
Ridgeway also performed extensively throughout the year but the greatest moment came when he release his first single, Bullyman, into the world.
The blood, sweat and time that went into creating and releasing Bullyman in the middle of the year was rewarded this month when Ridgeway's song about Australia's Stolen Generation became the Grand Prize Winner of the 2019 National Indigenous Story Awards.
"Initially I was surprised," Ridgeway said on winning the national award. "There is a lot of professional academics, writers, even ordinary people passionate about telling stories that put works in. To have so many works put in and for mine to come out on top, I was shocked. I've been shocked at the response the song has since its release."
Bullyman was inspired by the story of a Hunter auntie who was taken from her family as a small child during the Stolen Generation. It explores the "false sense of security" Indigenous families were given by government officials, or "bullymen" as they were referred to, when children were separated from their homes.
Ridgeway released the song, co-written by Kevin Bennett, during NAIDOC Week in July. He said the song "blew up online" when it was released.
The song peaked at number 69 in the iTunes all genre chart and number eight on the alternative chart. It also went to number eight on the Triple J Unearthed page.
Ridgeway has long been aware of Bullyman's impact, having performed the song across Australia as an R U OK ambassador and even in Canada.
"Having people all around the world be touched by the story is special," he said. "As much as the Stolen Generation is a story of this country it has happened in many other nations. To have the response come from all over the world is amazing."
The National Indigenous Story Awards supports the "generation, regeneration and dissemination of Indigenous cultural knowledges through the arts". The annual awards are supported by the Copyright Agency and La Trobe University in Melbourne. Award winners were announced in Melbourne on December 5.
"To win is a blessing and something I'll treasure forever," Ridgeway said.
The musician is now working on his second single, which is due to be released in the first half of 2020.