Each year NAIDOC Week is acknowledged throughout the first week of July. This year’s theme ‘For Our Elders’, reflected on the guidance and pathways that past generations have paved, to maintain all aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage.
It was wonderful to see the MSS teams across the country participate in NAIDOC Week this year.
The ACT office had the pleasure of having Aunty Mary Atkinson (nee Charles) join them. Aunty Mary is a proud Ngunnawal/Wiradjuri woman. Born in Yass, NSW she lived Wagga Wagga for over 20 years where she has raised 4 children. She currently resides in Canberra and has 14 grandchildren and great grandchildren. Aunty Mary spoke of her modest upbringing, the battles and struggles she endured as a child and her desire to make things better for future generations, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. At the commencement of the event Aunty Mary delivered a heartfelt Welcome to Country, welcoming both Indigenous and non-Indigenous to Ngunnawal Country.
Whilst at the event, Aunty Mary taught the team about the importance of yarning circles in Aboriginal culture. A yarning circle is a harmonious, creative and collaborative way of communicating, sharing and engaging in responsible, respectful and honest interactions.
ACT ended the event by ‘yarning out’ of our yarning circle. Each person reflected on the events of the morning, the shared stories and experiences and expressed in one word how they were feeling. Some of the words used included optimistic, hopeful, respected, enlightened, inspired and motivated.
The team also had the honour of having Adrian Cheatham, David Cheatham, Executive General Manager ACT and Habitat Security’s eldest son, Senior Program Manager, Strategy, and Innovation with Reconciliation Australia (RA) also attend the Event. Adrian spoke about the history of RA, the assistance RA has provided to and continues to provide to their RAP partners, the four different RAP’s and the support RA provides to Indigenous communities to ensure the support they are provided with is meaningful and long lasting. He shared where we have made progress with regards to closing the gap and provided some eye-opening statistics which highlighted that we still have a long way to go before we have a reconciled Australia.
We once again extend our thanks to both Aunty Mary and Adrian for sharing their stories and experiences with us.
Our NSW team hosted a lunch at our Silverwater office, promoting discussions surrounding NAIDOC and the theme for this year. The event was led by State Operations Manager – Operation Performance Daniel Goodwin who expanded our knowledge, understanding and connection with one of the oldest and continuous living cultures on earth.
The event featured reflection on the origins of NAIDOC Week and this year’s theme, acknowledging Elder’s whose influence has ensured future decision making and guidance for the future generations.
Our team in SA came together at the First Nation’s people march from Victoria Square to SA Government House to celebrate the history, culture, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
This event is one of the largest in the SA NAIDOC Calendar, educating generations about the true Australian history. The team meandered their way through approximately 50 stall holders, made up of government and non-government organisations (including food entertainment), finally coming together to discuss what NAIDOC means to them, during a lunch gathering.
The WA Team celebrated NAIDOC Week this year with a Pizza Lunch and presentation, including a Quiz on the history of NAIDOC including the Western Australia Indigenous history to current time. The team were extremely competitive and knowledgeable, with the winner of the Quiz being Steve Hilson, State Operations Manager – Regional.
After the presentation the team generously shared their personal experiences – Steve Hilson “… the biggest take away I’ve encountered with spending time with Indigenous people is the unrivaled sense of family and connection to the environment. In its purest form it is beautiful.”
Similarly, our team in Queensland held a morning tea, honouring the momentous week. Operations Manager, Lisa Blackburn and Training Specialist, Liliana Georgakis presented to the group, discussing and exchanging views and experiences of personal Indigenous stories.
Catering was provided by a local Indigenous company Fig Jam & Co. Fig Jam and Co source local ingredients from seasonal bush tucker crops that are cultivated by First Nations owned and operated properties and social enterprises in Southeast Queensland.
Last year the team in VIC were graced with Uncle Ringo presenting a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony for the office. Uncle Ringo was from the Wurundjeri people. This year the team were encouraged and inspired to attend the Wurundjeri people exhibition at Federation square.
An array of portraits of Wurundjeri Elders were displayed throughout, sharing the Indigenous values and practices, whilst showcasing resilience Elders faced with barriers to protect their culture.
The exhibition also included a smoking ceremony where the team were able to connect with the community in a different aspect.