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2016 NAIDOC Week: celebrating the living narrative of our nation

8 July 2016 Wesley Mission news

Each July, Australians take part in NAIDOC Week activities across the country to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This year, the celebrations invited all Australians to learn about Songlines—the Dreaming tracks that crisscross Australia and trace the journeys of our ancestral spirits who 'sung' the land into life.

Skye Pettit, Aboriginal caseworker for the Wesley Brighter Futures program, says the week’s events are a real highlight in her calendar.

“I’ve grown up with NAIDOC and it was something we always looked forward to—like a birthday! It meant dancing and rides, food and music and seeing everyone I knew from the community.

“As an adult, it means even more and it is an opportunity to catch up with friends and family for a positive reason, rather than for a funeral or something sad”.

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Skye and colleague, Brendon Lewis, have attended almost every NAIDOC event this week.

“We’ve been sharing information, networking with other organisations and agencies and just mixing with the community,” Skye said.

She and Brendon are Aboriginal Caseworkers for the Wesley Brighter Futures program, which provides targeted support to vulnerable families with children aged 0-8 years to prevent them from entering or escalating into the child protection system.

“We’ve seen a lot of clients during the week—both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. The kids all recognise us and run up to say hello,” Skye said.

Skye describes NAIDOC week as “a big gathering, like a corroboree, where it’s about connecting with friends and family in a good environment”.

The week is celebrated not just in Indigenous communities but also in government and non-government agencies, schools, universities, local councils, shopping centres, national broadcasters, tourism outlets, by defence forces and emergency services, national airlines and within community organisations.

Events throughout the week are varied and include award ceremonies, art exhibits, music performances and community events. Skye is particularly looking forward to the NAIDOC ball to be held in Blacktown next weekend, where she will be aiming for a repeat of last year when she won the award for best dressed – “I ’ve been looking crazy for my outfit this year, I have to out-do last year”, she said.

Skye would love to see even more Australians—from all backgrounds—taking part in NAIDOC.

“A lot of people think NAIDOC week is just for Aboriginal people, but everyone can come. It’s a day for breaking down barriers and getting a taste of our culture through our stories, food, music and dancing.

“We look forward to it every year and we want everyone to come and learn about our culture.”