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Newslines Radio: It’s NAIDOC Week


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Nathan Ramsay

Auntie Deanne Law, NAIDOC Week organiser, Deception Bay, QLD
Ruby Saunders, NAIDOC Week organiser, Ceduna, SA
Samarra Schwarz, NAIDOC Week organiser, Alice Springs, NT

2 Jul 2012

PRESENTER: Hi, I’m Nathan Ramsay and you’re listening to Newslines Radio, a weekly program produced by the Australian Government on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues.

SAUNDERS: NAIDOC Week is the Aboriginal people getting together, this is a way of celebrating our Aboriginality. It’s a meeting place, like a healing, and everybody just enjoys NAIDOC Week. It’s very important because we have survived. That’s what really what NAIDOC is. We’re still here, we’ve survived.

PRESENTER: That was Ruby Saunders, NAIDOC Week organiser from Ceduna on the far west coast of South Australia, telling us what NAIDOC Week means to her local community.

This week is NAIDOC Week, a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and recognise their contributions to this country.

And while the National NAIDOC Awards Ceremony and Ball receives the most attention, it’s the local community NAIDOC Week events that have the biggest effect on Australians of every background.

In fact, local activities have been praised for helping ease racial tensions in some communities. Alice Springs NAIDOC Week organiser Samarra Schwarz recalls NAIDOC Week last year.

SCHWARZ: There was a lot of negativity at the time, with a lot of anti-social behaviour that was happening and a lot of negativity on Aboriginal people and we wanted to turn that negativity around and highlight some of the positive achievements that were actually happening in the community and what Aboriginal people were doing and making a real celebration of it.

And amongst the committee it was decided that we would hold the closing ceremony, or the festival day as we called it, which was the highlight of the week, on a vacant block across the road from the CAAMA building, which had been associated with a lot of the negativity at the time, a lot of anti-social behaviour was happening on that block. So we thought “let’s take a negative image and change it into a positive display for the community and making it a whole community event and not just a celebration for Aboriginal people but to get the whole community to come along and see the positive stuff that’s actually happening.

We didn’t think we’d actually get the block. If you look at the block now, it’s pretty ragged, it doesn’t look like anything could be held on it, it’s quite messy and there’s holes everywhere. But when we approached the owners to allow us to hold the festival day on the block they were really supportive of us and they gave it to us for the day for free and the community and the organisations that got behind supporting the event, it was great. The support that came through, you could see that the whole community wanted to obviously change and make a bit of a difference.

PRESENTER: Samarra, who works for CAAMA, the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association, explains the success of the 2011 NAIDOC Week celebrations.

SCHWARZ: Last year we had a really great committee. A lot of the time it has just been CAAMA running with it and organising it for the whole town but last year we made a really strong emphasis on getting other organisations, be it non-Indigenous as well, to sit on the committee and have a real diverse bunch of people come together to bring up some really good ideas. That was a real important thing that we aimed for last year and I think that’s one of the key reasons we had a pretty successful NAIDOC celebrations.

We had non-Indigenous and Indigenous speakers there on the day and to have them talk about the theme and how important it was for them and for the town was really good.

A highlight for me was seeing two young ladies from the Centralian Senior College get up and actually talk about last year’s theme and what it actually meant to them. And getting their perspective and hearing about how they feel and how they felt about stuff at the time it was happening, it really struck a chord. You could see that the whole community wanted to obviously make a change and a bit of a difference.

Leading from that we were also very lucky to get a lot of support from the Government funding body as well who allowed us to apply for additional funds, which we did and I think that also gave us a bit of flexibility in making it a larger celebration than what it’s been in the past.

PRESENTER: That was Samarra Schwarz, Alice Springs NAIDOC Week organiser.

Heading down south to Ceduna on the west coast of South Australia, Ruby Saunders is into her fifth year of organising local NAIDOC Week celebrations.

Ruby, a local Wirangu woman, believes Ceduna’s remoteness partly explains why NAIDOC Week is so popular with the local Aboriginal community.

SAUNDERS: It means a lot to this community because Ceduna is an eight hour drive away from Adelaide. It’s the start of the Nullarbor plain and everybody looks forward to NAIDOC Week because we have events on every day, starting from Sunday right through to our NAIDOC Ball on a Saturday night so everybody really looks forward to it, the elder people are always going out buying gowns because it’s ‘ball gown only’ to our ball. And everybody looks forward to it.

PRESENTER: And Ruby recognises the significance of this year’s NAIDOC Week theme, “Spirit of the Tent Embassy: 40 years on”.

SAUNDERS: This year, we stepped back and went with the NAIDOC theme with the tent embassy, 40 years on. We had an organisation here that was a mother body for the whole Aboriginal community and it used to be the Far West Aboriginal Progress Association, FWAPA, and they used to be the health, the NAIDOC Committee, the housing, all the organisations we have now, the Far West Aboriginal Progress Association held all them organisations under one and we called it the mother.

We’ve gone back to FWAPA. We’re going to have displays of photos put up to show that FWAPA was like the tent embassy of Ceduna.

We’re having all tents around our local oval because a lot of the younger generation would not know about the tent embassy so we’ve kind of put it in mind of, because they all know the FWAPA days. So we kind of put in that concept.

PRESENTER: Your listening to Newslines Radio and I’m Nathan Ramsay.

Over in Deception Bay, north of Brisbane, Auntie Deanne Law heads her local NAIDOC Week organising committee.

Auntie Deanne, a Wakka Wakka woman from Bernard in central Queensland, works with the local Murriajabree Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Association and also sees this year’s NAIDOC Week theme as particularly important.

DEANNE: I’ve always been interested in NAIDOC right from very long time. This is the first time I’m taking a team leading job organising our NAIDOC here and it’s given me a privilege because this year it’s all around the spirit of the Tent Embassy, 40 years on.

We look forward for when NAIDOC Week comes about, we’re just full on for that three months of just organising and making sure that everything’s organised properly and make it a really good day.

PRESENTER: And Auntie Deanne gives us a sneak preview of what to expect at this year’s NAIDOC Week in Deception Bay.

DEANNE: What we have here is different stalls. We get in touch with different service providers and if they want to hold stalls here we cater food to the community. There will be amusement rides for the children, maybe games if they are interested in it. We’re looking to hold a “Murri Got Talent” this year, Murriajabree has an arts and crafts project, which there’s a group of women particularly just doing beads, all different types of bead making, making Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander bags, which will be on display.

PRESENTER: Like Samarra and Ruby, Auntie Deanne believes NAIDOC Week is a great opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to educate non-Indigenous people about their lives and cultures.

DEANNE: Our people are pretty full on with NAIDOC and promoting it out there to non-Indigenous people and trying to stop that tension and Closing that Gap.

What we’d like to see non-Indigenous take away is how proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are about their culture, how they identify with it and how it makes them feel proud. That’s why we promote it on that week, NAIDOC Week.

Just go along to any NAIDOC celebration, it will make yourself proud how we can organise and put on a good NAIDOC Day.

PRESENTER: That was Auntie Deanne Law from the Deception Bay NAIDOC Week organising committee.

Here at Newslines we‘d like to take the opportunity to thank all NAIDOC Week organisers around the country for donating their time so the rest of us can enjoy the events with family and friends.

I hope you can get along to some of your local NAIDOC events, wherever you are in Australia, and remember that the National NAIDOC Awards Ceremony and Ball is on Friday night in Hobart.

The week after the Ball, visit the NAIDOC website to see the photos and read about all the inspiring award winners.

And visit our website to find out more on what we talked about today and to read our Indigenous Newslines magazine. You can also follow Closing the Gap on Twitter, and friend Indigenous Newslines on Facebook.

I’m Nathan Ramsay thanks for listening to Newslines Radio. Stay deadly.

Find out more

The origins of NAIDOC (The National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) can be traced back to the emergence of Indigenous groups in the 1920s which sought to increase awareness of the status and treatment of Indigenous groups throughout the country.

The Australian Government funds local NAIDOC Week activities through its Public Awareness Program. For further information about NAIDOC Week funding, contact your local Indigenous Coordination Centre.

The Australian Government also supports national NAIDOC celebrations, including the National NAIDOC Awards Ceremony and Ball.

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