By Grant J Everett
Photos provided or taken by Jim Booth, Warren Heggarty, Cathee Andrew, Nicole White. Banner from NAIDOC
Every July, NAIDOC Week events are held across Australia to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The core focus of NAIDOC Week for 2018 was on the invaluable contributions that so, so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have made (and continue to make) to our nation, summed up as a declaration: “Because Of Her, We Can!” NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’ but the acronym has since become the name of the week itself! Here is a roundup of some of the many celebrations…
NAIDOC in the Park was hosted in Jacaranda Square on the corner of Australia Avenue and Dawn Fraser Avenue, directly opposite Sydney Olympic Park station, and was a great opportunity to learn about the people of the Eora Nation who traditionally live on this land. Running from 11am to 3pm, this event packed a lot of Indigenous culture, music, food and fun into its four-hour runtime, and everything on offer was free.
The theme “Because of Her, We Can!”, celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who have played, and continue to play, active and significant roles at the community, local, state and national levels.
Some of the highlights included…
• An information tent filled with tools and artefacts constructed the traditional way, such as clapping sticks, didgeridoos, smoking ceremony equipment and painted objects.
• Research detailing how Aboriginal people may been one of the oldest farming civilisations. Indigenous historian Bruce Pascoe has revealed that Indigenous Australians were baking a good 15,000 years before the Egyptians. There’s a link at the end of this article to an interesting talk Pascoe gave on the subject. His 2014 book ‘Dark Emu’ argues for a reconsideration of the ‘hunter-gatherer’ tag for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians. Bruce Pascoe provides evidence from the diaries of early explorers that suggests that systems of food production and land management have been understated in modern retellings of early Aboriginal history.
• Guided Mangrove Walks showed how the people of the Eora nation survived in the mangrove wetland environment.
• There was even stuff for the kids to do, such as weaving, art and storytelling.
When the Bushfeeds BBQ lunch was served, the crowd suddenly swelled as though most of Olympic Park had appeared out of thin air. The meal choices included kangaroo skewers, emu sausages, crocodile sausages, and chicken skewers (for the less adventurous). I had the crocodile sausages, which had been spiced up with chilli and other aromatics. Dessert was scones with thickened cream and jam made from Australian native ingredients. NRMA generously funded the BBQ.
While we enjoyed this delight for the tastebuds, we were also treated to a feast for the eardrums: Leah Flanagan, a singer who identifies as Indigenous, was good enough to provide the crowds with live music.
Shannon performed the Welcome to Country on behalf of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, and paid respects to Elders past and present. Shannon performed a smoking ceremony with a torch made out of tea tree bark, explaining that it is meant to cleanse bad energy and welcome good energy, and makes anyone who “washes” themselves in the smoke (scooping it up along their body) closer to the land.
There was a large chill-out area with bean bags, large mats, chairs. People were welcome to relax, listen to the live music and enjoy the atmosphere.
And because it is Olympic Park, they also honoured all of the Indigenous athletes on the Honour Roll:
Evonne Goolagong Cawley MBE AO (Tennis)
Nicole Cusack (EDITOR:My Mum and Dad followed her games every week!)
Arthur Beetson OAM (Rugby League)
Laurie Daley AM (Rugby League)
Joseph Donovan (Boxing)
Mark Ella AM (Rugby Union)
Michael O’Loughlin (Australian Football)
Dave Sands (Boxing)
Above: Messages from the NAIDOC celebrations in Jamison Park, Penrith. Because of her, we can…
There is a major NAIDOC Week celebration held at Jamison Park in Penrith. Dozens of local services who take care of the greater Penrith area – from Centrelink to Medicare to Flourish Australia and beyond – ran information booths. The one key factor that these organisations had in common was that they provided services specifically tailored towards the Indigenous community. This isn’t the first time Flourish Australia has taken part in the NAIDOC celebrations held at Jamison Park, and staff members from services at Penrith and Seven Hills ram our stall in shifts between 9:30am and 3pm.
All the stalls were handing out goodies like hats, lollies, beanies, balloons, stress men, magnets, pens, drink bottles, and information resources. But without a doubt, the most popular items were the fidget spinners. The kids just can’t get enough of them!
Cathee Andrew of Flourish Australia, Penrith joked that our stall would be ten times more popular if we simply hung out a sign that said FREE FIDGET SPINERS.
There were also lots of fun things for children of all ages to do and see, like a jumping castle, a helicopter, a fire truck manned by the fire brigade, a culture tent, mixed netball games, a rock-climbing wall, and some entertaining performances by Indigenous dancers and didgeridoo players. They even had a chance to fire off a full-strength fire hose! Like all NAIDOC celebrations, there was also a free BBQ lunch to be enjoyed. Quite a few of the people who access our services at Westclub Penrith turned up, and had an awesome day.
Our representatives always have the same goals for these NAIDOC events: for visitors to learn about and embrace Indigenous culture, to enjoy themselves and to access information about the services that Flourish Australia offers in their area.
There was a lot of foot-traffic going through the park, and over the span of the day at least 1000 people came over to have a look at what was happening. Hopefully next year will be even bigger and better with more of everything!
The traditional custodians of the Nepean area around Penrith are the Dharug people. Many local residents identify as Indigenous. There are a number of indigenous people in the area already accessing Flourish Australia’s services, and so we would like to spread the message of welcome to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who might benefit from our respite and social and emotional well being programs.
Some of the people who worked really hard towards making our presence felt in NAIDOC include Catherine Andrew and Ruby Golding from Penrith, and Nicole White, Michael Towns, Amy Calver, and Elaine Zander from Seven Hills. People worked really hard and really went above and beyond. Cathee Andrew, did a lot of prep before the event to get everything ready, and Nicole White prepared a major art piece which is illustrated below. After preparing the background and dot patterns, messages about the theme of the day were gradually added to the board one by one to make a great mural about what it is we can… because of her!
Thanks to Ruby Golding, Team Leader Partners in Recovery at Derby Street, Penrith, for filling us in on how the day went.
“Indigenous historian Bruce Pascoe says we’ve got our story all wrong”, Ben Graham, news.com.au, July 11th 2018