The pic above is of a student from Sandon Public School Armidale, who I had great pleasure in giving a copy of Yirra and her deadly dog, Demon.
NAIDOC Week for me means community engagement, acknowledging individual and communal achievement, celebrating culture and pride in identity. NAIDOC Week is a time for focusing on all that is good about Indigenous Australia and what we contribute to society every day of the week, 24/7, 52 weeks of the year.
There is much work to be done to ensure that we have equality with other Australians and that is not forgotten during NAIDOC Week, but it is also important to remind ourselves of where have come from and what we have managed even in the face of often unfathomable adversity.
NAIDOC Week this year provided me with stark reminders of all that should be showcased and shared in the Indigenous community, and below are just a few of the highlights I am grateful for:
1. SANDON PUBLIC SCHOOL ARMIDALE: I am grateful for the opportunity to return to Armidale to kick off NAIDOC Week at Sandon Public School. Watching the Indigenous leaders of the primary school conduct a flag raising ceremony with the youngest Koori students was heart warming. Sitting in the audience with parents and family members as the school’s Indigenous student body (pic above) performed the story of Warnayarra- the rainbow snake brought tears to my eyes. Working with the students in the library who wrote raps, short stories and poetry on Aboriginal Australia, inspired me as a writer and a reader. (pic below with workshop students) And that my friends is what NAIDOC Week is about for me.
2. EVENINGS ON 702 ABC: I am grateful for the opportunity to step in for Robbie Buck on the Evenings program on 702 ABC local, acting as a wannabe presenter from 7-10pm Monday – Thursday nights. It was as much of a challenge as it was a wonderful chance to have an injection of Indigenous commentary and content on the program. I am grateful to all those listeners who called in and participated in Norman-the-Quiz and occasionally let us know whose Aboriginal country they were in. I’m also grateful to those who agreed to be my guest during the week including Her Excellency, the Governor Marie Bashir, Suzy Wilson from the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, Brad Cooke (Barefoot Rugby League Show), muso Charlie Trindall, Jennifer Townsend (Chair of the Nyerna Deniliquin Reconciliation Group, Sam Jeffries (outgoing Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples), Olympian Patrick Johnson and Charles Prouse (National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy) among many others. You are all too deadly. Big thanks to my producers Martin Corben and Susan Atkinson for your patience with she-who-is-used-to-working-solo!
3. ABC INDIGENOUS STAFF: The Indigenous staff at the ABC nationally are some of the most talented media professionals in the country, and I am grateful that many of them are my friends including Paul Brant, Lorena Allam, Rhianna Patrick, Warren Brown and Daniel Browning. Thank you to those who came along and supported me in my NAIDOC address at the Ultimo site and for backing me as I made my debut on radio this week. I thank you and acknowledge the voice you give to Indigenous Australia every day.
3. DREAM BOX: At the launch of NAIDOC Week at the ABC on July 4, I was introduced to Solua Middleton and her creation the DreamBox which is a place for you to share your dreams and see what other Indigenous Australians are dreaming about. Inspirational, emotionally moving and a gentle reminder of some of things we take for granted every day, I am grateful for such an innovative project and my chance to be part of it. I went into the dream box (see pic above) and you too can send in your dream via ABC Open and see what dreams others have here.
4. INDIGENOUS BUSINESS AUSTRALIA: A highlight of my week was MCing the Indigenous Business Australia NAIDOC Breakfast at the Yaama Dhiyaan Hospitality and Training Centre in Redfern. With guest speakers including AFL hero and co-founder of the Goodes-O’Loughlin Foundation, Michael O’Loughlin, it was hard not to be inspired as we enjoyed the food and service of the local Koori hospitality students, and shared the morning with Indigenous business operators, local and national government and corporate representatives. As Uncle Alan Madden said during his welcome to country, who could think of a better bunch of people to wake up and have breakfast with. Too true. I am grateful to be offered such a job... if you can call it that! Pic above is from the IBA breakfast, from left to right: Fred Channey, Chris Fry (CEO, IBA), Victor Dominello (Minister for Citizenship and Communities, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Member for Ryde), Ian Trust (Deputy Chair, IBA) and Michael O’Loughlin – all round nice guy!
5. NAIDOC BALL: Well, Cinderella here is always ready to get frocked up, and this year was no different, except that one of my oldest and dearest friends Terri Janke was named NAIDOC Person of the Year. So, I was even more excited about the night and what it promised in terms of reunions, entertainment, positive energy and community celebration. The event at the Sydney Convention Centre did not disappoint, and the party included performances by the fabulous Gondwana National Indigenous Children’s Choir Jessica Mauboy and Blake Ralph. I’m grateful for a night that provides us all with an opportunity to come together and recognise those who work tirelessly – and often under the radar – to make real change in our communities. Next year the ball is in Hobart, and I’ll be grateful for some decent weather when we head there in our gowns and silver shoes! For more details on NAIDOC check out the site here. Above is a pic of yours truly with Terri and our dear friend Robynne Quiggin, another deadly woman – Wiradjuri of course!