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NAIDOC 2016: celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture

The sights, sounds and tastes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture came to life at The George Institute’s NAIDOC celebration in its Sydney offices. 

The celebrations were held in recognition of Australia’s unique heritage and involved a series of cultural displays including a traditional corroboree by Koomurri Dancers, a bush tucker luncheon and an art exhibition by Aboriginal artist, Chris Moore.

Graeme Mundine, the former Executive Officer of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry in the Sydney Archdiocese and a Bundjalung man, opened the day by speaking about the significance of land to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the theme of NAIDOC 2016, ‘Songlines’, a concept central to creation stories.

“Across the country there are lots of creation stories about spiritual beings who travelled the land,” said Mr Mundine. “Not only are they stories, they are also songs. The importance of Songlines is to remember who we are and where we come from and our connection to everything that’s around us. We are only one small part of the universe.  We have relationships to each other and to our families, but we also to the trees, birds and animals. You are tied to something in the universe that reminds you that you are only one small part of it. Not the be all and end all.”

Lachlan Wright, Project Manager in The George Institute’s Health Services Research Division and a Dunghutti man, spoke of the history of NAIDOC and its personal meaning to him. 

“NAIDOC celebrates the history, culture and achievement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The good thing is that it’s not only celebrated by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but by more and more people across Australia,” said Mr Wright.

“As a kid, I didn’t really know what it meant. My earliest memory of NAIDOC was winning sporting awards when I was 12. But when I look back on it now as an adult, the number one thing it means to me is family. Not only me spending time with my family, but today it’s also about non-Aboriginal people being involved and taking part in the culture. If that keeps growing as it has been, NAIDOC Week will not only be something that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will be proud of, but all Australians can be proud of too.”

The event was organised by The George Institute’s NAIDOC Celebration Committee, chaired by Julieann Coombes and Caroline Lukaszyk. Ms Coombes called the event a wonderful display of Aboriginal culture and recognition.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is a major focus area for The George Institute, so it is really encouraging to see how interested people are in our culture.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture is what makes Australia different to the rest of the world, so I always jump at the chance to share it with the rest of the community.

The event closed with a raffle draw that raised over $700, with the money raised being donated to the Jarjum College in Redfern.