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Early this month was NAIDOC Week (Sunday, 4 July - Sunday 11 July) with this year's theme being 'Heal Country!' While this calendar event acknowledges over 65,000 years of First Nations' culture, we are reminded of the important need to have greater protections for the lands, waters, sacred sites and cultural heritage from exploitation, desecration, and destruction, and to gain a deeper understanding of what Country means to us all in Australia. This also reminds us how we still have a long way to go to create meaningful and lasting change.
NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Custodians of the land. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
Image Credit: The 2021 National NAIDOC Poster, ‘Care for Country’ was designed by Gubbi Gubbi artist Maggie-Jean Douglas. Visit the NAIDOC website for more information.
NAIDOC Week in 2021
Once again we found ourselves celebrating differently as many NAIDOC Week events were cancelled or postponed due to the impact and uncertainty of escalating COVID pandemic across various communities and cities in Australia. We have been able to engage and connect through a digital environment by following NAIDOC Week on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and using #NAIDOC2021, #NAIDOCWeek or #NAIDOC hashtags on social media channels.
The recent COVID restrictions in Brisbane City and Moreton Bay council areas did not prevent Anne Bell from our Envirolab Brisbane office to adhere to COVID-safe arrangements when she recently met with Kanat Wano, one of the organisers of the NAIDOC Healing Carnival. The event was due to take place on Sunday, 11 July at Waterhole Bora Rings and has now been rescheduled for September. We asked Anne to share her insights from the meeting; how this can help us improve our cultural and historical awareness, and what we can do to help contribute to lasting change and be a part of healing Country.
Reflection on NAIDOC Week
Anne explained, "I am a strong believer that history is important as that is one way of ensuring we will not repeat the mistakes of the past."
It was inspiring to meet Kanat Wano on Thursday, 8 July 2021 as such a notable and inspiring leader, who is one of the organisers of the NAIDOC Healing Festival. During the meeting, Kanat spoke about his story and how he nearly ended up being one of the Stolen Generations, the systematic removal of Indigenous children from about 1883 up to the 1970s from their natural parents under various guises. The underlying policy was to eliminate the Aboriginal race and force Aboriginal people to gradually assimilate into the mainstream Anglo/European society and culture.
According to the Bringing Them Home Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, approximately 10 to 33 per cent of the Indigenous children were removed from their families between 1910 and 1970. Apart from the legality of the removal of the children from their parents, their subsequent treatment as wards of the state, often in institutions run by the state, was cruel and demeaning. Their treatment was calculated to reinforce the policy of assimilation.
Fortunately, Kanat's Mother organised a hiding place for Kanat and his siblings, which led to how he became fearful at the time of non-Indigenous people. This fuelled his determination for recognition and equality in society so that Kanat is where he is today fighting for “The People of The Land”. Kanat has for the last 15 years been involved with Close The Gap, an Indigenous Health Campaign focused on closing the health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians within a generation.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), reports that life expectancy for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population born in 2015–2017, was estimated to be 8.6 years lower than that of the non-Indigenous population for males (71.6 years compared with 80.2) and 7.8 years for females (75.6 years compared with 83.4).
He also spoke of how he was inspired by the political activist, artist and educator, Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Kath Walker) and her words: “Let no-one say the past is dead, the past is all about us and within”.
Raised on Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island), off Moreton Bay, Queensland, Oodgeroo Noonuccal (1920 – 1993) was a political activist, artist, writer and educator, who campaigned for Aboriginal rights. Her first volume of poetry, ‘We Are Going' (1964), is the first book by an Aboriginal woman to be published.
Anne said it was an honour to speak to Kanat.
"Kanat shared his story from the heart and we can't thank him enough for taking the time to share his knowledge and experiences."
Contributing as an Organisation
In providing environmental contamination testing services, Envirolab is linked to Country, and we recognise that we have a duty in using and sustaining our resources, land, water and air. We also believe it is essential to support and enrich the Indigenous communities in which we operate. We are proud to recently have partnered with EDP Consultants in providing sample testing for a refurbishment of Tranby Indigenous Adult Education and Training Centre, located in Sydney's inner-city suburb of Glebe.
But how can the world's oldest continuing culture improve our understanding of the driest inhabited continent on Earth? How can we all increase and apply our understanding of traditional knowledge, enrich our quality of life and continue to sustain our world?
Raising awareness and education are ongoing processes and change takes time. By reflecting and acknowledging, we are all playing a positive and active role in reconciliation because mutual understanding brings change. At Envirolab, it is important for our team to continue to gain a deeper understanding of how we can drive our organisation’s contribution to reconciliation both internally and in the communities in which we operate. We hope that support of various projects can help be part of the way to a future where the many Australian Indigenous achievements are celebrated all-year-round.
More Information and Getting Involved
NAIDOC Week celebrations are held virtually and in-person across Australia to celebrate the histories, cultures and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Due to Public Health Orders from Government authorities, some NAIDOC Week activities have been postponed to later in 2021 to ensure our community remains safe. Anne and Kylie (pictured) from our Envirolab Services Brisbane office are hoping to attend in September where we will provide an update.
Visit the NAIDOC website to keep up to date with attending a COVID-safe NAIDOC week event. The websites and social media of local governments and local land councils are also good places to look for information on COVID-safe events. For the latest information and health advice on COVID, please refer to the Australian Government website.
Anne Bell: Brief Bio
Born and raised in South Africa, Anne lived in the UK and USA before settling in Brisbane, Australia with her partner Tony. With one of her sons also in Brisbane, her other two sons live in Hawaii and London. Her experiences as a world traveler have inspired and enriched her love of history and exploring different aspects of cultures.
Having joined Envirolab Services in 2018, Anne is currently a Sales Assistant at our Brisbane office. Outside work, Anne can usually be found on the golf course (weather permitting) and is an avid sports fan, particularly of rugby union, cricket, tennis and football. Bring on the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane!
Special Thanks and Credit
Envirolab would like to thank Kanat Wano and Anne Bell for helping put together this update.
#NAIDOC2021 #NAIDOCWeek #HealCountry