By Riley Hooper.
The last time Sydney played host to the national NAIDOC Week activities, was in 2011 under the theme Change: The Next Step Is Ours. Looking back at that theme, although change is bound to happen and is essential for growth and advancement, it is important to remember and carry on traditional skills, knowledge, history and culture by sharing with the community and younger generations. This year, NAIDOC Week will celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women under the theme, Because of Her, We Can! Keeping the oldest continuing culture on the planet strong and enriched, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have been a pillar for carrying on the songs, dreaming stories, languages, knowledge, skills and crafts for over 65,000 years.
Originally, NAIDOC stood for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. Up until 1991 the committee was known as NADOC, but with a growing awareness of the distinct cultural histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, NADOC expanded to recognise Torres Strait Islander people and culture by changing to NAIDOC, with the acronym becoming the name for the week itself. A key week of celebration across Australia showcasing the culture, history and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, NAIDOC changes host city each year and features a different theme to represent the celebrations.
Executive Director of Activation and Precinct Management, Sandra Bender looks after a dynamic team who operate the public domain at Barangaroo, taking care of everything from events, commissioning of public art, cultural tours and “basically anything that makes a visitor happy and comfortable on site, we take care of it.” On the importance of NAIDOC week, Sandra said “I think the week is important for everyone in Australia given that it is such a significant week to celebrate the history, culture and the living culture of one of the first nations in Australia. For Barangaroo it’s even more important given that we are named after the extraordinary woman, Barangaroo herself. The heritage and the future of the Barangaroo precinct is quite significant when NAIDOC week is celebrated.” With the focus on women with this year’s theme, Sandra explained that Barangaroo “went very much into the idea of the sharing of culture and the sharing of knowledge. Everything that we have done this year is based on that idea with the ladies showcasing everything from cooking, craft, knowledge and more.”
Also, answering a few questions on NAIDOC week is Jody Orcher, a Ularai Barkandji women from Brewarrina who has been involved in a wide range of areas including Aboriginal studies, the Office of Environmental and Heritage and is the author of the Bush Tukka Guide. “From my perspective, it’s a shame that it’s one week. For Australia to embrace NAIDOC week for a week is fantastic but we haven’t always done. I guess we don’t always acknowledge the beauty of Aboriginal culture, not politically based, but beautiful customs and traditions that have been passed down. NAIDOC week is important in helping us acknowledge our traditional land owners and have Aboriginal people be able to celebrate their culture and showcase it to everybody,” Jody continued, “For us to be embraced the way we are now as Aboriginal people is a big step and a positive step for Australia. We still have a lot of work to do.” Being an advocate for bush food Jody added that she would like to also “raise more awareness about bush food, how people use and engage with it, as well as how harvesting and farming it supports economic development for Aboriginal communities.”
Kicking off on the Sunday July 8, will be the one-day showcase event at Barangaroo Reserve, Women of Craft. The day will feature Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditional skills in cooking, basket weaving, shadow puppetry and more. The day will start with a special Welcome To Country ceremony featuring water, fire and the smoking of gum leaves. “This makes sure the site is cleansed and is ready for the success of the event,” Sandra informed. Including a dedicated space for kids 12 and under, the event will also feature a Bargo Dingo Sanctuary which will provide kids with the perfect chance to meet the fascinating wild animals. Completing the village atmosphere of the day will be a communal fire, a welcoming place for all to finish off the day’s festivities.
Another amazing event taking place during NAIDOC week is the Art Fair being held at the Overseas Passenger Terminal in The Rocks. Over the two days, artists and visitors will work together to create an art installation within the cruise liner terminal. There will be a range of things to do and see including loads of traditional art, painting workshops, food stalls and more. On the menu with Jody Orcher will be, “a nice warm hearty winter menu with some kangaroo, red wine and mushroom pies, seafood mornay pies with some lemon myrtle spices inside, kangaroo goulash with damper, chicken and more. So, I’m sure everybody can embrace the coldness.”
These events are an important part of raising funds for participating communities as well as carrying on a rich history that needs recognition and to be understood by future generations. Get involved this NAIDOC week and join in on a wonderful act of reconciliation.
NAIDOC WEEK – Because Of Her, We Can!
Jul 8-15. Info: www.naidoc.org.au
Women Of Craft: NAIDOC At Barangaroo
Jul 8. Barangaroo Reserve, Hickson Rd, Barangaroo. Info: www.barangaroo.com
National Indigenous NAIDOC Art Fair
Jun 30-Jul 1. Overseas Passenger Terminal, 130 Argyle St, The Rocks. Info: www.blakmarkets.com