A special NAIDOC week celebration was held on Friday 10 July at the Fremantle Campus to highlight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s spiritual and cultural connection to this country.
NAIDOC 2020 invited all Australians to embrace the true history of this country – a history which dates back thousands of generations – and took on the theme of ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’.
In a late-morning, socially distanced ceremony, Nyungar Elder Marie Taylor performed a Welcome to Country, followed by a University Prayer from Tom Gourlay Chaplaincy, after which Professor Cheryl Kickett-Tucker delivered the Keynote address.
Professor Kickett-Tucker said “Culture and identity always was and always will be vital to the wellbeing of Aboriginal people, because Culture is the heart of our security, to health, healing and happiness and Identity is the foundation of culture.
“It identifies that I am part of the Aboriginal community and that my children have that connection with other kids. They feel that they belong and have a group of people that they connect with.
Our ancestors are always with us. They’re always watching over us. I believe that everything we do, they are there helping us, if we call them in, it’s just living black, living like an Aboriginal person.
In response to Professor Kickett-Tucker’s Keynote, Head of Fremantle Campus Professor Selma Alliex invited everyone to reflect on the theme of this year’s NAIDOC celebrations and asked for the collected audience to “try and understand the importance of the statement as a way of maintaining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural identity, understandings and acceptance of their history and place in this great country of ours.”
“Sharing Cheryl’s story and journey allows us as non-Aboriginal people to understand why it’s important to embrace Always Was, Always Will Be for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Professor Alliex said, “As most of us know, what we do every day on country and on the many rivers and waterways that surrounds Fremantle and this great city of ours, we hear and have heard of the many stories told by Elders and others who speak about their culture, their language, their identity and their place across Australia and the Torres Straits.
We must listen, we must think, and we must acknowledge that as a society we have the privilege of living and working in a culturally safe place, especially here on Nyungar country. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people provide a sense of place, a sense of belonging, a strong connection to country and a strong sense of identity.
National Director of Indigenous Education Associate Professor Clive Walley commented that “this year’s theme fully highlighted the importance of culture, place and identity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country but it also includes our non-Indigenous friends and colleagues and other Australians coming together to understand what ‘Always was, Always will be’ means for them too”.
The speeches ended with the raising of the flag and an opportunity for all attendees to enjoy Artist Neta Knapp’s exhibition, light refreshments, and a book signing in the Drill Hall.
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