Not even the rain could put a dampener on celebrating and acknowledging our First Nations People.
On Tuesday 4 July on the grounds of Holy Family Parish, Mt Druitt, hundreds of members of the Mount Druitt community joined with Aboriginal Catholic Care in celebrating NAIDOC Week.
The official theme for the week, ‘For our elders’, highlights those who have, across generations, played and continue to play an important role and hold a prominent place in communities and families.
With a variety of entertainment, rides, information stalls and lots of food, the NAIDOC Week event is a chance to get the local community together to celebrate our diversity, Catholic Care HIPPY Coordinator Linda McDonald told Catholic Outlook.
“I love being able to give back to the community,” she explained. “We’re all Australian and we’re able to all be here together, hand in hand.”
Aunty Rhonda, who volunteers for Catholic Care agreed. “It’s a gathering of our community. It’s an acknowledgement of our people, but also non-Indigenous people and welcoming them in.”
NAIDOC Week a chance to embrace culture
Richard from The Shed, a group that meets on the Holy Family Parish site, was proud to be able to celebrate culture with his sons and cousins as they performed an Aboriginal traditional dance during the event.
“Doing something like this [celebration], especially in the community where they’re all from, I believe, is needed,” he said.
“It’s important that we teach not just kids but men as well about culture so they have some understanding of who they are. It helps with their identity and their mental health.
“This NAIDOC Week theme is ‘for our elders’. I feel that performing represents my ancestry and shows my kids who they are, what our culture is about and there’s no shame in who you are.”
NAIDOC Week a ‘significant time’ for Blacktown area
Speaking on behalf of Blacktown City Council Mayor Tony Bleasdale OAM, Councillor Bob Fitzgerald OAM said that NAIDOC Week is a significant time for the Council and the local community, as it celebrates and acknowledges the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“We are working towards a united city and values the contribution to the community and its culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” he explained.
“We are a home to a thriving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population of more than 12,000 people, which includes an incredible group of elders and knowledge holders.
“We are incredibly thankful for the contributions of First Nations elders and pay homage to them for their leadership, knowledge and advocacy in getting information out to community but also to people in the community who have no knowledge of what it is to be an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.”
The Voice drawing from strength of elders
This year, NAIDOC Week celebrations follow the mid-June passing of Australian Government’s Bill to enable a referendum on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
In referencing the NAIDOC Week theme, the National NAIDOC Committee explains that our First Nations People draw strength from the knowledge and experience of their elders.
Addressing attendees, Councillor Bob Fitzgerald said that Blacktown City Council supports a First Nations Voice to Parliament. “Getting First Nations People a say is a simple change that will deliver genuine practical results,” he said.
Aunty Rhonda stressed the importance of listening to those in community when it comes to The Voice. “The Voice is about us, in the community, all communities, wherever they are, and how it’s going to bring our people and non-Aboriginal people together to build this community of Australia.
“We hope they make the right decisions and give them that voice to bring back to us in community and then they listen to us about what is needed in our communities,” she said.
Linda added, “I feel The Voice is a connection, a coming together as one, not as an ‘us’ and ‘them’ and having everybody here today supporting us is part of that recognition and connection too.
“All of our community is going to be affected and I want them to be heard. Our elders have fought to have something like this done and they were knocked down. But with The Voice, they won’t be knocked down because we will have a say, we will have a voice.
“As an Aboriginal person, if they are coming from the heart, you can’t go wrong when you’re using love and compassion to bring about peace and harmony in communities.”
Aboriginal Catholic Care is a service of Catholic Care Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains.
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) and Caritas Australia have launched www.indigenousvoice.church – a website full of resources including statements from the Australian bishops – that empowers Catholics to make an informed decision at the 2023 Indigenous Voice to Parliament Referendum.