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NAIDOC 2021, Heal Country!

09 JUL 2021

NAIDOC Week is an opportunity for all Australians to come together to celebrate the oldest continuing culture on the planet and its 50 000 plus years of survival. Katelan Stack, Miss NAIDOC 2020 and a proud Noongar woman, and Jolleen Hicks, the founder of Aboriginal Insights and a proud Ngarluma and Yindjibarndi woman, share their thoughts on what this year's theme and NAIDOC Week means to them.

What is NAIDOC Week?

NAIDOC stands for National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee. The NAIDOC movement started during the 1920s when aboriginal groups rallied together to increase awareness of the treatment of Indigenous Australians. Over the last century, this movement has rapidly grown. Today it is an opportunity for all Australians to come together and celebrate the achievements, history and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. You can learn more about the history of NAIDOC Week here.

Heal Country, heal our nation

Every year a new theme is selected by the NAIDOC Committee based on the key issues and events of the NAIDOC Week; the 2021 theme is Heal Country!

This week Katelan Stack shared her thoughts with Lifeline WA about her culture and NAIDOC Week; she explained that Heal Country is the connection to Country and culture passed down through generations. "I think of my Grandparents and what they have taught me, what they have sacrificed for me. I think of how they passed the connection to my parents, and they passed it to me. It means connection to my land, home, ancestors and people." She feels this connection in her heart and spirit. Katelan also highlights the importance of standing together as one and staying true to culture and roots to overcome anything.

For non-indigenous Australians, it may be difficult to grasp why the connection to Country is so important. She explains what it means to her and her mob. "As we walk on our Boodjar (Country), we are home, and we feel the instant connection throughout our everyday life. Protecting Country is like protecting family, and it is priceless. Our Country is our home and our Identity."

This year’s theme also outlines the need to continually seek better protection for lands, waters, sacred sites, and cultural heritage. It reiterates the importance of embracing First Nations knowledge and understanding of Country. 

Joellen Hicks, the founder of Aboriginal Insights, dedicates her time to sharing the lessons and learnings from Aboriginal People to Close the Gaps and achieve Reconciliation in Australia. This NAIDOC week she too has shared an important message with Lifeline WA. "Australians must recognise that the Australian Identity extends to Aboriginal cultures, land, people, and heritage. To express our Australian pride, we must respect, embrace, preserve, and protect our Aboriginal cultures, land, people, and heritage. To heal this Country is to recognise its importance to all of us. To heal this Country requires respect for this ancient Country."

You can access more information and broaden your understanding of the NAIDOC Week theme Heal Country here.

Let's Celebrate!

You can do many things to celebrate NAIDOC Week this year, from discussing the theme with someone in your community to virtually attending an event or supporting an Indigenous business through the Supply Nation Indigenous Business Direct.

To explore more ways to celebrate, the NAIDOC committee has published their Top 20 tips to get involved this NAIDOC Week.

Katelan says celebrating Aboriginal culture does not have to be reserved for a few days per year and should be acknowledged every day; all you must do is listen. "Not many people know the deep connection within our culture until they hear it from an Indigenous person themselves. Be open to hearing our stories and education on our history. It is a beautiful feeling to share about our culture and opens a lot of people's eyes." 

After NAIDOC Week

We all must look after Australia, and in the spirit of sharing learnings, Jolleen offered her thoughts on how to do this moving forward.

"All Australians- Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people have a responsibility to preserve and protect our cultures, land, people, and heritage. We can't change the past, but we can learn from it to understand what healing really means and find the right way to heal this Country - the cultures, land, people, and heritage. Healing Country also requires Australians to recognise and respect the special role of Aboriginal Peoples in preserving and protecting our Country."

First Nations people connection to Country is inherent. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people may feel as though they are disconnected from their mob, culture, and Country at times. Katelan shares an important message if you are feeling this way.

"Know your connection is never lost. It's always within you. It's who you are no matter what; remember and instil that in your heart."

If you feel disconnected or are in crisis, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14; we care about you and your mob.

Written by Brooke Haseldine