His career took off with the band Goanna, and the 1982 song Solid Rock, and he was a founding member of the Black Arm Band in 2006.
For our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, it's still tough.
He has described it as "ironic" to receive an award from a country he has spent a career featuring in protest songs.
"It's a two-edged sword," he said.
"I know how difficult that reality is, for our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, it's still tough," he said.
He said that difficulty, as well as the friendships he had forged, motivated him to keep working with Indigenous artists.
"I suppose in my heart of hearts I would love to think this award was coming from an Australian head of state, and in a country that was reconciled with its first nation's people, with a treaty," he said.
"We're not there yet, but I can see those things down the road, but not too far down the road.
"They're the things that I suppose with the early days with Goanna I wanted to be some kind of a bridge, and add my bit of light to the sum of light, and I hope we get there before I'm gone anyway."
Photo - ABC News: Margaret Paul