There’s no denying technological and digital innovations have transformed the global economy and the way people live their lives in communities across Australia.

But what happens when digital technology is embraced by the world’s oldest living culture?

On Friday night over 300 people gathered on Gadigal land at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence in Sydney for the inaugural National Indigenous Digital Excellence (IDX) Awards.

The first of their kind in Australia, the awards shine a light on the intersection of digital technology and the world’s oldest living culture, and showcase the digital excellence and innovation that is happening right now, across our nation.

From robotics, 3D printing, using drones to capture imagery of country, to coding and developing apps to preserve language and culture for future generations, IDX is happening everywhere. It’s just a matter of looking for it.

The centerpiece of the IDX Initiative, the partnership between the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) and Telstra Foundation, the awards celebrate some of our brightest minds and forward-thinking entrepreneurs. The Telstra Foundation hosted several tables at the event and we were joined by luminaries from Indigenous culture, the media and the arts as we celebrated Indigenous innovation and ingenuity.

Under big lights and on the black carpet, 14 finalists from across Australia were recognised for their work in the innovation space, and Indigenous app developers, digital designers, entrepreneurs, online educators and virtual reality artists were selected as winners across seven award categories.

Let me introduce you to the 2017 National IDX Award winners.

Learnings and Education Award recipient Wayne Denning is a Birra Gubba man from Blackwater, Central Queensland and the owner and managing director of Carbon Media. Wayne conceived the STEM.I.AM program, designed to promote the study of STEM with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth around Australia.

Culture and Country Award recipient Victor Steffenson is based in North Queensland and the creator of the Living Knowledge Place, a community driven education site. Developed in collaboration with Elders from across Australia, the site addresses the need to make traditional and cultural knowledge practices accessible to the next generation by using modern technology.

Head to the centre of Australia where NT, SA and WA intersect and you will meet the women that form the NPY Women’s Council, and recipients of the Wellbeing Award. The women have developed a customisable language dictionary app that enables communication by providing words in Pitjatjantjara and Ngaanyatjarra and English translations to create a shared understanding of the language used to talk about feelings to improve the mental health and wellbeing of their people.

In Darwin, Young Innovator of the Year Brooke Ottley works as a digital designer. A Gunggari, Wuthathi and Torres Strait Islander woman, Brooke is a talented graphic designer who after almost 10 years’ in her field and a study tour in New York, has become Darwin’s most popular Airbnb host, hosting over 380 travellers in her own home.

Keep heading North, off the coast of Arnhem Land, NT and you will reach Galiwinku, Elcho Island and the home of Digital Elder of the Year Ernest Gondarra. Ernest learnt how to use a computer for the first time only in the last few years through the Arnhem Land Progress Association’s (ALPA) Plastic Fantastic program. Plastic Fantastic is an innovative recycling program that allows Elders and young people to learn skills in technology, while sharing the importance of caring for country. Ernest has used his new found skills in design and 3D printing, to create culturally significant objects for the Gatjirrk Cultural Festival.

In Sydney, Luke Briscoe, a proud Kuku-Yalanji man from Far North Queensland is the recipient of the Pathways and Employment Award. Luke founded the Indigenous owned and operated business INDIGI LAB to create innovative projects for social and environmental change through digital culture. Luke’s goal is to establish national Indigenous ethical guidelines in science and digital technology to support a better understanding, value and respect for Indigenous knowledge in these fields.

Finally head to Queensland’s capital and meet Dean Foley, this year’s recipient of the Entrepreneurship Award. A young Kamilaroi man from Brisbane, Dean is the founder of Australia’s first Indigenous Start-up Weekend and Bayaramal, Australia’s first Indigenous run accelerator for Indigenous businesses. The start-up event and incubator offer a platform for Indigenous entrepreneurs to showcase their ideas and skills, to learn and develop businesses that benefit them and their community.

The Telstra Foundation has committed $5 million over five years to the national IDX initiative, a partnership with the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence. This initiative supports Indigenous participation in the digital landscape and assists young Indigenous people to build careers in STEM – science, technology, engineering, maths – and arts.