NAIDOC Week rich with colour, ceremony

Gerib Sik performs at the 2017 NAIDOC Awards in Cairns. Pic by Pat Brunet Event Photos. Supplied by Batchelor Institute.

International basketball star Patrick Mills, who has reportedly signed a new $65 million contract with the San Antonio Spurs, was named Person of the Year at this year’s national NAIDOC Awards.

Mr Mills was just one of the many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander achievers recognised during NAIDOC Week, which ended on Sunday amid celebrations and awards ceremonies held across Australia.

Mr Mills’ father Benny collected his son’s award on the night.

With a heritage of Muralag from the Torres Strait and Ynunga from South Australia, Mr Mills has used his international profile to promote and raise awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.

Others to be recognised on the night included Noongar woman Dianne Ryder, from Western Australia, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award for her 21-year career in the army and her role as President of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans Association in WA.

Gurugulu and Indinji Gimuy woman Elverina Johnson, from Yarrabah in north Queensland, was named Artist of the Year. Ms Johnson has been involved in the arts industry for more than 30 years as a singer, songwriter, playwright, actor, photographer and artist.

The Caring for Country Award went to the Minjerribah Moorgumpin Elders-in-Council Aboriginal Corporation in Queensland, while Youth of the Year went to Queensland’s Latia Schefe.

Dr James Charles, from South Australia, was Scholar of the Year; Sharee Yamashita, of Queensland, was Apprentice of the Year; Paralympian Amanda Reid was Sportsperson of the Year; Faye Carr, of Queensland, Female Elder of the Year; and WA’s Ollie George Male Elder of the Year.

The awards, at the Cairns Convention Centre, were attended by about 100 guests. Entertainment included the AustraNeisia and Gondwana Indigenous children’s choirs, Torres Strait Islander dance groups Gerib Sik and Naygayiw Gigi, local band The Nightshift and teen superstar Isaiah Firebrace.

Sydney was announced as the national NAIDOC host city for next year.

Meanwhile, the theme of this year’s NAIDOC Week — ‘Our Languages Matter’ — carried through celebrations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture around Australia.

In the Northern Territory, the community of Binjari, as part of a Roper Gulf Regional Council Community Development Program, is publishing a series of books in Kriol.

The nine books will be distributed through the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

In WA’s north, the Mowanjum Community also released a new book, Jirigi Jinda Ardangarri, Burnarri Anja, Diigu Aagala — Birds, cataloguing 195 birds in three Indigenous languages: Ungarinyin/Ngarinyin, Worrorra and Wunambal Gaambera.

Project manager Maree Klesh, of the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, said it was the first book to include all of three languages of the Mowanjum community.

In Darwin, NAIDOC Week celebrations ended with several hundred people walking to celebrate Indigenous culture.

Other events were many and varied.

In Campbelltown in Sydney, a NAIDOC Week Touch Football competition saw an all-star team of Indigenous players from Fire & Rescue NSW go head-to-head with teams from across the local area, including the NSW Police Campbelltown Local Area Command.

Big companies held special NAIDOC Week events, such as Crown Resorts, which hosted an elders’ breakfast in Melbourne to foster relationships between community leaders and its young employees.

In Perth, students from universities around the world experienced a traditional smoking ceremony and welcome to country at the University of WA.

Wendy Caccetta

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