NAIDOC Week Celebrations in the Bellingen Shire

Aunty Jess and Uncle Raymond (Porky) Kelly cutting the NAIDOC Week Cake
Aunty Jess and Uncle Raymond (Porky) Kelly cutting the NAIDOC Week Cake

To acknowledge and celebrate NAIDOC Week in the Bellingen Shire, Aboriginal Elders, local Aboriginal Land Council representatives, Bellingen Shire Council, Bellingen Neighbourhood Centre and Ngurrala Aboriginal Corporation hosted a ceremony which included a traditional Welcome to Country in Gumbaynggirr language by Dylan Kelly, music by Janugiina, a word used in the eagle and fire dreaming story and is a request for energy/power and dancing followed by a Bush Tucker morning tea.

This event took place on Thursday 6 July from 10.30am in Maam Gaduying Park outside the Bellingen Shire Council Chambers.  Bellingen Library screened ‘My Story Matters’, a series of documentary stories about Australian First Nations role models made by First Nations high school students and Show Me The Way including Clayton Donovan (Chef), Stephanie Gollan (Artist) and Patrick Johnson (Athlete).

The Library hosted an Aboriginal story time on Wednesday 12 July when the books ‘How the Birds got their Colours’ and ‘How the Kangaroos got their Tails’ were read.

The origins of NAIDOC can be traced to the emergence of Aboriginal groups in the 1920′s which sought to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians. It is a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements and is an opportunity to recognise the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our country and our society. 

The 2017 theme for this year’s NAIDOC Week is ‘Our Languages Matter’ or Garla-ngarraangiya ngiyambandiya ngawaawa which aims to emphasise and celebrate the unique and essential role that Indigenous languages play in cultural identity, linking people to their land and water and in the transmission of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites, through story and song.

Some 250 distinct Indigenous language groups covered the continent at first (significant) European contact in the late eighteenth century. Most of these languages would have had several dialects, so that the total number of named varieties would have run to many hundreds.

Today only around 120 of those languages are still spoken and many are at risk of being lost as Elders pass on. Our community is committed to passing on the Gumbaynggirr language which is taught in local schools.

Bellingen Shire Mayor, Cr Dominic King raised the Aboriginal flag with Aunty Jessie Williams who has performed this part of the ceremony for the last 3 years.   “It is essential that we recognise and celebrate the oldest, continuing living culture on the planet, not just during NAIDOC Week but at all times”, said Mayor King.  “Council is committed to supporting NAIDOC events at local schools and in the general community and other initiatives and activities that celebrate Aboriginal culture and heritage”, added the Mayor.

For further information please contact Council’s Community Wellbeing Planning Officer Anna Joy on 66557300.