The annual NSW Creative Laureate and the NSW Emerging Creative Talent Awards were initiated by the NSW government to celebrate and reward the outstanding creative achievements of individuals and businesses that contribute to raising the global profile of the state's creative industries. 

UNSW Art & Design's Associate Dean International and Engagement, Associate Professor Vaughan Rees has been named among the award finalists in 2017 in the category of NSW Creative Laureate.  Associate Professor Rees is a highly experienced design educator and practicing artist. Over more than three decades Rees has built an active network across NSW, Australia, and globally, in which design industry mentors, interns, professionals and the academic institution create a shared experience of best practice and knowledge exchange.

Further NSW Creative Laureate finalists include:  Goalpost Pictures Australia, a Sydney-based production company, with significant credits including the internationally acclaimed six-part Indigenous television series, Cleverman, the box office hit, The Sapphires, and the powerful film, Holding The Man; and Plastic Wax, a specialist animation and visual effects company who can list The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Gears of War Ultimate Edition, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Tomb Raider, Civilization V: Brave New Worldand Fallout: New Vegas among their achievements.

NSW Emerging Creative Talent Award finalists include, Aileen Sage Architects with Michelle Tabet, the youngest and first all-female team to represent Australia at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale; DesignByThem, a company that exclusively develops and represents the work of Australian designers, and the creators of contemporary Australian fashion house, Romance Was Born, Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales.

The judging panel for both Awards includes, Director of Carriageworks and UNSW Art & Design graduate, Lisa Havilah; actor and producer, Claudia Karvan; chair at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Simon Mordant AM; Founders of Dinosaur Designs and UNSW Art & Design graduates, Louise Olsen and Stephen Ormandy; and manager of the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery, Stephen Payne.