Tuesday, July 5, 2011

NAIDOC – a celebration of all we are by Leesa Watego

As a writer, I’m always inspired by and a tad jealous of someone else when they’ve written something I wish I had penned. That is the case with today’s guest blog on NAIDOC by Murri writer and mum, Leesa Watego. I’m truly grateful for Leesa’s words below because they capture much of what I feel about NAIDOC, and I appreciate the time she took to devote to this blog, given that Leesa is not only Vice-President at South East Queensland Indigenous Chamber of Commerce, a writer at The Critical Classroom, owner of Blacklines Publications, a blogger and a tweeter, she’s also an advocate for an Australian Black History Month. That's one busy Murri!

Welcome and thanks Leesa!

NAIDOC – a celebration of all we are

A quick Google images search of NAIDOC throws up nearly 30 thousand images. Bursting to the seams with bold splashes of red, black and yellow (and occasionally green, blue and white), there are images of the official NAIDOC logo scattered amongst photos of school kids painted up and posing, official photos of dignitaries holding the flags, the odd polly trying to look comfortable amongst expressions of Aboriginal sovereignty, the occasional drag queen declaring her Black pride, random ‘Aboriginal style’ animal paintings, styled-up sistas and brothas at a ball in some capital city, and grainy newspaper shots of a pre-teen Miss NAIDOC from a small regional town.

This hodge-podge collection of images - the tacky and the sophisticated, the solid and the gammin, the traditional and the contemporary, the shop bought and the homemade, the official and the pirated, all remind me that NAIDOC in real life (away from ‘the Google’) is all these things and everything in between.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ‘Australia’ has always been diverse, has always been multi-cultural. With over 350 different languages spoken on this continent for tens of thousands of years, people here have always known how to respect and value others. It’s a far cry from Australia in 2011.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people own very little of Australian popular culture. There are occasional flashes of inclusion. I remember packed nightclub dance floors when Yothu Yindi’s Treaty was regularly played in the late 1980s. But apart from the odd design on a jumbo jet, which as a corporate exercise probably doesn’t count anyway, where else are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and cultures so overtly and prominently expressed and celebrated?

For one week in July, in increasing numbers of communities all over the continent, red, black, yellow, blue, green and white, get to take prominence. There is a small sense of ownership and entitlement, however brief and fleeting. There are NAIDOC film nights, guest speakers and community events. For one week in July, Elders, dance troupes and performance groups, all over the country are booked out, as they race from one event to another, while some of us, just simply get to experience a sense of pride amongst the deadliness.

NAIDOC Week is not, will not be and does not pretend to be the answer to this country’s un-resolved relationship with her first peoples. There are big fights that need to be fought, and big challenges to be overcome. The overdue rent bill is high and getting higher. Just because more non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are recognising First Peoples and NAIDOC, doesn’t mean we’ve come enough of a long way.

But celebrating NAIDOC and being excited about the events our communities create, is one opportunity for us to affirm identity and place. It’s a slight reprieve, a time to come together, to meet old friends and make new ones. It’s a place to catch our breath as we continue to celebrate all we are and who we are, the extremes and all the in-between.

Caption for image above: Screen shot of a Google image search of ‘NAIDOC’

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