NAIDOC Week a chance to help heal Country

This NAIDOC Week, Aunty Liz Thorpe is encouraging everybody to reflect on what can be done to heal. Photo: Sarah Luke

THIS week is NAIDOC Week — an opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to come together, connect to culture and Country, and share with non-Indigenous Australians to help them to grow their cultural awareness, knowledge and skills respectfully.
Until Sunday, NAIDOC celebrations will be held around the country, with this year’s theme — ‘Heal Country!’ — providing the basis for NAIDOC discussion.
Aunty Liz Thorpe gave a Welcome to Country at a NAIDOC ceremony at the Port of Sale on Monday morning, which was followed by the raising of the Australian, Aboriginal, and Torres Strait Islander flags on Foster St, and a smoking ceremony.
To her, NAIDOC Week opens a conversation between all people surrounding what needs to be healed, and what people can do on an individual level.
“There’s lots of hurt going on at the moment, so we need lots of healing between all groups, all Indigenous groups and all non-Indigenous groups, and pay respect to one another — it’s the only way we’re going to heal,” she said.
“Our Country is actually hurting at the moment.
“It’s taken quite a few hundred years, but we seem to be on the path to some sort of healing process, and by having NAIDOC Week, artwork and inviting people along — it’s a fantastic opportunity to share some of those things.”
‘Heal Country!’ calls for everyone to continue to seek greater protections for land, water, sacred sites and cultural heritage from exploitation, desecration and destruction.
The theme invites people from all walks of life to embrace First Nations’ cultural knowledge and understanding of Country as part of Australia’s national heritage, and recognises calls from Indigenous people to strengthen measures to recognise, protect, and maintain all aspects of their culture and heritage.
The theme also seeks substantive institutional, structural, and collaborative reform, and to resolve injustices which affect Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders.
Aunty Liz said there were ways for everyone to get involved with NAIDOC Week, even for those who hadn’t been involved before.
“If they haven’t celebrated NAIDOC Week, it’s a great idea to see if they can get to a flag raising, and find out from the local community what activities are going on,” she said.
Aunty Liz encouraged people to phone the Port of Sale visitor information centre to see what activities were taking place locally if they were unsure.
Wellington Shire Council has encouraged people to continue viewing the Indigenous exhibition at Gippsland Art Gallery throughout the week, or explore the environs of the Port of Sale — the traditional lands of the Gunaikurnai people, including the Borun and Tuk walk, which tells visitors the Gunaikurnai creation story.
The Bataluk Cultural Trail, which spans from Cape Conran to Won Wron, follows traditional routes weaving through sites of Aboriginal significance, and is another way people can reflect on the significance of healing Country this NAIDOC Week.
Its local sites include red gums in Sale Common Wetlands (or Wayput) which carry the scars where bark was removed to make canoes, the Knob Reserve in Stratford (an important Aboriginal meeting place), Ramahyuck Cemetary in Perry Bridge and White Woman’s Waterhole, in Won Wron State Forest, which acknowledges the tragedies of massacres following rumours a white woman was held captive by Gurnaikurnai people in the mid 1800s.
For more information about the trail, visit www.visitgippsland.com.au.
Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation will host its annual NAIDOC family fun day for local Indigenous families tomorrow at 117 Foster St, from 11.30am until 2.30pm.
NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’, which was once responsible for organising national activities during NAIDOC Week, but its acronym has since become the name of the week itself.
More on NAIDOC Week will appear in Friday’s Gippsland Times issue.