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For Our Elders

NAIDOC Week 2023
Taken from Ondrej Machart, Unsplash
This article was originally published at Republished with permission as part of Teen Scene, Inc.’s international student voice partnership.

For 75 000 years, Australian Indigenous people have stood proudly upon this sunburnt country, thriving long before the empires of the Romans, the Persians and the Mongols. Now, long after those empires have been reduced to nothing but fragmented stories and dusty relics, upon our country the Aboriginal peoples still stand. Weathered by storms of invasion, colonisation, displacement, yet still, proud as ever before.

NAIDOC Week (National Aborigines’ and Islanders’ Day Observance Committee)is a chance that we get as a nation, to come together to celebrate and recognise the rich Indigenous culture and history of this country.  It is an opportunity for us all to deepen our knowledge and to take pride in the journey of the Aboriginal people and how their culture has helped shape our nation and country to be the place that it is today. The theme for NAIDOC Week 2023, is ‘For Our Elders’. But what does that mean?

Elders. Cultural knowledge holders. Teachers. Nurtures. Story tellers. Survivors.

Respect for ones Elders, is a quintessential feature of the Aboriginal culture, as the Elders guided generations upon generations, illuminating paths through the land and through the lives of individuals with their knowledge and wisdom, from the very beginning.

But how can we celebrate NAIDOC week and showcase our respect for the Indigenous Elders in a way that is respectful of their culture and heritage?  How can we celebrate ‘For Our Elders’ if we do not have a personal connection to any Aboriginal Elders in the first place? What does it even mean to celebrate ‘For Our Elders’?

‘For Our Elders’ focuses primarily on drawing our attention to ways that we are able to honour, celebrate and develop the cultural knowledge of both ourselves and others around us, in a way that reciprocates that of the Indigenous Elders. It means taking responsibility and doing as much as we can in order to help keep the Aboriginal Culture alive, regardless of our own personal heritage, and simply for the reason of ensuring that the culture of our country, of the Indigenous Australians, does not burn out on our watch.

‘For Our Elders’ focuses not on specific elders and ways that we can honour and respect them directly, but on the role that elders have played within the culture of our First Nation people on a whole, as teachers, nurturers, storyteller, advocates and hard workers, and how we can take inspiration from them, and apply that within our own lives.

This could be in the form of committing and taking time to learn more about the culture, pastimes or traditions of the Aboriginal peoples. Ensuring to acknowledge and care for the land on which you are standing. Researching, or simply appreciating Indigenous artists and artworks, and the expertise and symbolism behind a deceivingly simplistic artform.

Here at the College, there are various opportunities that we get to celebrate the Aboriginal Communities, regardless of whether or not it’s NAIDOC Week, namely the opportunity that Year 8 students get within Darug Week, a week, much like NAIDOC Week, where we are able to devote the whole time to learning more about Australia’s First Nations peoples. We are able to explore language, culture, history and various historical figures that pose as significant within the Indigenous communities in a simulating way that broadens our knowledge. Darug Week, gives students an excellent foundation of knowledge that could be applied when celebrating ‘For Our Elders’ and taking that knowledge beyond the classroom, into the rest of the college and other communities. Researching the College artwork is also an excellent opportunity to simply become aware of the challenging message represented within various aspects of Indigenous history, yet the unfailing hope within the art piece that still remains prevalent.

For 75  000 years, the Aboriginal Culture has survived.

Whilst we might not have a personal connection with the culture, this is still something that we as a nation, must celebrate. Must take pride in. Must take a step to ensuring that, even if it is only in the forefront of our minds for one week a year, we are able to help the Aboriginal Culture continue to flourish. As the Elders did. We must make this one week count.

How will you celebrate ‘For Our Elders’?

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