What NAIDOC Week Means to Me

Words by Payten, NSW

NAIDOC week is widely celebrated during July of each year by all Indigenous and non-Indigenous people of Australia, to acknowledge and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, culture, history and achievements. NAIDOC Week can have different meanings for each Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. For me, NAIDOC week is a way to show all non-Indigenous people what being Aboriginal means to us. It is a very special meaning and it is something I know I want to share with others.

Each year there is a different theme that is the focus of the celebrations. This year the theme is ‘Because of Her We Can’.

The theme ‘Because of Her We Can’ is a celebration of the Aboriginal women and ancestors of our communities. These women have played and continue to play important roles in our communities.

They are leaders, trailblazers, activists and social change advocates. They have fought for rights to our country, justice, access to simple things like education, employment and adequate medical services. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women fought and continue to fight for the continuation of our identity, culture, languages, music, art and our land.

Unfortunately, the role of women in our cultural, social and political survival has repeatedly been invisible and diminished. Which I find quite upsetting. The women have carried our dreaming stories, songlines, languages and knowledge that has been passed through from generations to generations. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women such as: Barangaroo, Thancoupie, Pearl Gibbs, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Nova Peris, Cathy Freeman, Pat O’Shane, Linda Burney and Lowitja O’Donoghue – and some many others, have through their achievements, their voices, passions have given us strength by empowering past generations and paving the way for generations to come.

For me, this year’s theme ‘Because of Her We Can’ has made me reflect on the influential women who have played roles in my life and journey – Coco, Mum, Nan, Jo and Sister Kerry.

It starts off with my great-great aunt Coco.

Unfortunately, being Aboriginal was kept a secret within the older generations of my family. Just before my Great-Great Aunt Coco passed away she opened up about this secret. After her passing, my Mum and Nan supported me in understanding my identity and looking into our family history. Jo was my Aboriginal studies teacher in high school and she helped me get involved in cultural activities at school and help me understand my culture. She is one of the strongest Aboriginal women I know. She advocates for the Aboriginal girls at my school and she would do anything for them and to help others understand our culture. Sister Kerry is an advocate for the Aboriginal girls at my school and she stood by Jo and us girls to get Aboriginal studies to run as a subject for my year 11 & 12 class as it wasn’t going to run.

If it wasn’t for these women, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

It is because of them, I can.

It is because of her, WE CAN!

For myself, NAIDOC Week was full of celebrations. I attended the NAIDOC assembly at my younger brother’s school and the NAIDOC assembly at my old high school. Being able to see the young Koori kids celebrate their culture through dance, song and sharing knowledge was such an amazing experience. It is humbling to see that the younger generations can connect with their culture and express their culture in such a way. It shows that our culture is going to continue on throughout the generations to come. I also, along with my fellow RAP Ambassador Hamani, was asked to join and say the Acknowledgement of Country at the YMCA office in Parramatta. Here I witnessed a number of staff members engage in group activities about NAIDOC Week. I was astonished to see how they all took part in learning more about NAIDOC and Aboriginal culture as most of them knew little to nothing about it. It was an honour to be given the opportunity to answers questions and talk about my own story with the staff at the Y. I want to share as much as I can about Aboriginal culture with as many people as I can because it is very important for all to know and understand. It is my goal to make an impact and contribute to closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Hamani and I are creating a NAIDOC Ceremony to be held at the YMCA NSW Youth Parliament, to share our knowledge, culture and speak about the theme with all the participants. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend other NAIDOC events due to other commitments however, I feel that I celebrated this NAIDOC week and shared all that I know about my culture to the best of my ability.

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