Duncan Smith has been awarded a medal in the general division (OAM) for services to Indigenous youth and to the community. Photo: Jamila Toderas
Aboriginal musician, dancer and artist Duncan Smith is well-known for his role performing at official ceremonies around Canberra, welcoming everyone from visiting dignitaries to new citizens to Australia.
But he gets the greatest kick visiting preschools and daycare centres with his Canberra-based dance group, The Wiradjuri Echoes, teaching children about Aboriginal culture.
"Just to see kids smile. They're like big sponges, they just soak it up. That makes me happy," he said.
Mr Smith, 47, of Ngunnawal, was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the Queen's Birthday Honours for his service to Indigenous youth and to the community.
"I think it's a great honour and a privilege to be receiving such high recognition for the stuff I do in the community," he said.
A heart attack last year forced him to temporarily halt his Indigenous youth program but he plans to reinstate it early next year, pending medical clearance.
The program was focused on imbuing Aboriginal youth with their culture. "It was about being Aboriginal and being proud of who you are," he said.
He also helped Barnardos with the Indigenous children in its care, assisting foster parents to understand the Aboriginal culture.
"Just trying to give the carers an understanding 'This is who this kid is' and keeping them connected to their community," he said.
A Wiradjuri man born in Wellington, NSW, Mr Smith moved to Canberra about 28 years ago with his mother.
"I just absolutely fell in love with the place. I thought it was the best place ever," he said.
He has never met the Queen but did meet Danish Crown Princess Mary and Crown Prince Frederik when the couple visited Canberra in 2011.
"They just said they loved the sound of the didgeridoo," he said.
But Mr Smith is all about celebrating the everyday person.
"One of my proudest things is to do is citizenship ceremonies because it's nice to be able to welcome people to Australia and be at the beginning of them feeling proud to be Australian," he said.
(This article was first published in The Canberra Times and was written by Megan Doherty.)