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When Yothu Yindi Manager Alan James Won Manager Of The Year

Two decades later, Yothu Yindi manager Alan James’s award for 1993 Northern Territory Manager of the Year is still proudly on show in his office.



Alan James was surprised – and delighted – when he won an Institute of Managers and Leaders Excellence Award in 1993.

He was named Northern Territory Manager of the Year.

The trophy has pride of place in his office at Darwin Entertainment Centre alongside his “golden pyramid” acknowledging that he is in the ARIA Hall of Fame.

“Being named Manager of the Year was a great honour, but it got me more recognition outside of the NT than inside.”

The award was in honour of the skills he demonstrated in managing Yothu Yindi, Australia’s most successful Indigenous band.

“Midnight Oil was made up of boys from north Sydney, so managing them didn’t have the same challenges – they could look after themselves, they could apply for their own passports. I was managing Indigenous people from a remote community in the far north of Australia.”

Alan still called Darwin home when he won the IML award but he was relentlessly touring with Yothu Yindi, which meant Sydneysiders saw more of him than Territorians.



He believes some people are born good managers but others, such as himself, have to learn the skills.

Alan often had to learn his skills the hard way – through failure.

His first company, NT Exports, closed after six years and his mango farm didn’t make a profit.

But he managed Yothu Yindi for a couple of decades with consummate skill. People in the industry used to say: “He’s got the hardest job in the music business.”

“Being named Manager of the Year was a great honour.”


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