NAIDOC week officially kicked off on Sunday with Warra Warra Legal Service putting on a free cinema screening of Sweet As with popcorn, drinks, and a chance to win a prize, while Monday morning saw in this culturally significant week with a more formal event held at Maari Ma Health with a Welcome ceremony, speeches, and a flag raising ceremony between the two adjacent buildings on Argent St.
Speaker, Sandra Clark OAM, thanked city councillors Darriea Turley and Marion Browne for being in attendance – the only councillors who turned up for the event – and shared her disappointment about the current division between Broken Hill City Council and the Wilyakali people around the payment of Welcome to Country ceremonies debacle.
“I’d like to thank our councillors, Darriea and Marion for coming down to support us today. It’s been a hot topic in our community over a couple of months and it’s very disrespectful how they’ve [Broken Hill City Council] not consulted with traditional owners [about payment for Welcome ceremonies], which are the Wilyakali people,” said Ms Clark.
“I thank Maari Ma who’ve allowed us to come down to do the Welcome and flag raising here for this important event today – NAIDOC week – where we all, as Aboriginals, unite together in celebration.
“We all know how important it is for Welcome to Country to be conducted in respect to the traditional owners of this country. Our theme is very important – For Our Elders – they fought for us, for the rights for Aboriginal people,” she said.
“They’ve been our trailblazers, our nurturers, our mentors – they’ve been our backbones,” Ms Clark continued with tears flowing. “We’ve lost so many of our elders who are an important part of today, but we’ve got to stand strong, and we’ve got to fight like they taught us to fight for our rights.”
Ms Clark thanked the crowd for their attendance before handing over to Dulcie O’Donnell who conducted the official Welcome to Country including a minute’s silence.
“On behalf of the elders past and present, I’d like to welcome you all to country today, and we’ll hopefully have a good NAIDOC week,” said Ms O’Donnell before the gathering was asked to join them for a minute silence to reflect on elders passed and present.
Maari Ma CEO, Richard Weston, also shared his thoughts about NAIDOC week.
“Our elders have gone through things we can’t imagine – stolen generations, living on missions, limited employment and education, being subject to permit systems to be able to travel and other struggles,” he told the gathering.
“They’ve come through all of that. Their struggle for rights and justice has provided opportunities for us today so it’s really important to keep elders in mind this week, acknowledge them for their effort and commitment to our futures,” he said.
Cllr Darriea Turley told the Barrier Truth, “Marion and I were there to pay our respects to the Wilyakali traditional owners and the whole Broken Hill Aboriginal community and acknowledge the importance of NAIDOC week for all Australians.”