People braved the cold weather to attend the opening of NAIDOC week at the Broken Hill Civic Centre on Monday morning.
Carol Kickett welcomed those attending the opening ceremony to Wilyakali Country.
Cory Paulson gave the main address. He is a Member of the Broken Hill NAIDOC Committee supported by his employer, the Royal Flying Doctor’s Service.
“NAIDOC has been one of the biggest drivers we have as a space for First Nations People to tell their stories and be included in the broader conversation and governance within Australia,” Mr Paulson said.
NAIDOC week is a significant and special time of year for Australia because it is a time that we all celebrate together the First Nations cultures, history, land, waters, animals, and the peoples of the oldest continual culture on Earth, explained Mr Paulson.
The fight for recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, people and culture has been a long plight, and although there is a long way to go, NAIDOC week is a celebration of how far we have come, said Mr Paulson.
In his address, Mr Paulson acknowledged the Wilyakali people, their elders, past and present leaders and youth emerging into leadership. He explained that First Nations people have been collecting knowledge for over 200 generations, with current leaders continuing to advance the First Nations issues in Australia.
“The first nation people hold knowledge about how to live in balance with Country and live in harmony with over 320 different nations and languages,” Mr Paulson said.
“This year’s theme is a call to action right across the nation, action to get up, stand up and show up to ensure First Nations’ people grow allies and supportive partners in addressing these issues in a safe space and one that is not about blame but is about healing,” Mr Paulson said in his address.
“When you look at NAIDOC historically, the themes have been beneficial for the whole of Australia to understand what First Nations’ people have to offer to broader society,” Mr Paulson said.
Mr Paulson explained that 200 generations of First Nations ancestry were marred by the generations since colonisation that negatively impacted First Nations culture and created historical issues that continue in today’s society.
“Truth-telling is necessary for First Nations people to heal,” he said.
Truth-telling about historical events such as the stolen generation, frontier wars, and massacres that impacted First Nations people need to be acknowledged locally, at all levels of government and internationally for First Nations people to have a safe space to have a voice.
First Nations people need to continue having conversations about racism, health disparity, high incarceration rates, equality, freedom from discrimination, self-determination and self-governance and nationality, explained Mr Paulson.
“Two-way learning and deep listening are required for people to be empowered, and there has been growth in this area since NAIDOC started,” Mr Paulson said.
Australians’ role is to be brave and listen without judgement and blame. This will be uncomfortable for people because they will be experiencing discomfort along with the First Nations’ people, but this is where change and growth happen, explained Mr Paulson.
“The role of First Nations’ people is being brave and standing up to tell your story and ask for change,” he said.
NAIDOC week encourages all of us, regardless of background, to champion change and celebrate those who have already driven and led change in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities over generations.
A new chapter is beginning, the journey started with one step over 60,000 years ago, and 200 generations of footsteps have brought us here to Wilyakali country for NAIDOC week’s flag raising in 2022, said Mr Paulson.
This is a new chapter for First Nations people and Australians to come together as one to listen and allow the First Nation Voices to be heard with empathy and compassion and to create a better and brighter future for the next generation, explained Mr Paulson.
Raymond O’Donnell raised the Aboriginal Flag and organised the smoking ceremony at the NAIDOC week opening.
Mr O’Donnell explained that the opening’s smoking ceremony is a traditional custom to ward off evil and uses smouldering native gum leaves.
NAIDOC week is an opportunity for people to have conversations with family, friends, workmates and the wider community. This year’s theme is also a call to action from the leaders of this country.