This week I attended two different NAIDOC day events in the Nowra and Wreck Bay communities.
So you might be thinking What is NAIDOC Week?
Well it's a week long celebration held to recognise the culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia. Many people (even those collectively held under the generalised term 'Australians') know little to nothing about the histories of the indigenous people of Australia.
It is a complex and delicate history and I've yet to find a textbook or school system that extensively and objectively explains and or recounts it. It's history has some similarities to other countries. Someone sets out with a purpose to find new and perhaps uninhabited land. They explore, then claim the land and set upon changing the land and it's people to suit their needs. Indigenous Australians were misplaced, introduced to foreign diets and diseases. Some were taken from their families and put into homes, others were forbidden to speak in their language and or carry out traditional practices.
In 1965 a bus of Sydney University students travelled through NSW to expose the discrimination and living conditions of Aboriginal people. After this the"Assimilation policy is changed to that of Integration – Aboriginal people entering Australian society on their own terms and preserving as much of their culture as they choose".
It wasn't until 1967 that "91% of Australian voters vote YES in a Referendum to count Aboriginal
people in the census and give the Commonwealth the power to make laws for Aboriginal people". This history and the fight for rights for Aboriginal people is still very fresh. To see a brief timeline of Indigenous rights and history click HERE.
It is a broad political issue in Australia and one that many choose to forget. The 'gap' between non-indigenous and indigenous Australians in education and health standards is a national shame. Yes, the government is trying to CLOSE THE GAP and while we are often bombarded with negative statistics, attitudes, comments and images about Aboriginal people, it's NAIDOC WEEK that reminds me how strong and vibrant they really are. They are an intricately unique, beautiful, honest and humble people. They are vast and varied. They deal with dual societies and cultures and generally live for moments rather than merchandise. They captivate me and I understand and identify with them because they became my culture when I was raised away from my own. They are not perfect nor without fault, because none of us are.
I wandered around both celebrations soaking up the beauty. I greeted all the Aunties and Uncles and people that I haven't seen in a while. I hugged my friends and were astounded by their growing tribe of beautiful babies. This place is alive and buzzing with life. Young people getting up and fearlessly telling stories through lyrics and music. Organisations reaching out and connecting. This is a proud and growing community of mine.