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Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games a chance to show the world sovereignty was never ceded

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Aboriginal delegates to Birmingham hope the 'Naarm 2026' Commonwealth Games will be a chance to show the world who the true custodians of country are on a stage once used to champion British colonialism.

Wadawarrung Elder Aunty Joy Oldaker was one of four Traditional Owners to represent the state's host regions at the handover for Birmingham's closing ceremony on Tuesday.

Aunty Oldaker turned up on stage with a traditional message stick used in Aboriginal to reinforce verbal announcements.

The delegates gave mention to Naarm 2026, where the opening ceremony will be hosted before the competition itself heads to Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong and Gippsland.

"This has been such an amazing experience and one I will definitely never forget," Aunty Oldaker said.

"This is the very first time that a host nation is handing over the (Games) flag to First Nations' people in preparation for the next Commonwealth Games.

"This says so much in terms of recognising and acknowledging First Nations' people â€" our culture, our heritage, and our stories.

"These may be small changes, but changes nonetheless and hopefully in time it will only become greater and more prevalent."

The move marks a shift for the Games which, at its inception 92 years ago, were seen as a celebration of the British Empire's colonial triumphs which led to long-term suffering of Indigenous people around the world.

For Aunty Oldaker, who only found out the truth of her family's ancestry later in life due to her grandfather's Aboriginality being covered up in fear of assimilation policies, this was personal.

"My only hope now is that we do Wadawurrung and all First Nations' people proud," she said.

The moment was not lost on Ballarat School Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander liaison officer Macaylah Johnson either.

The fellow Birmingham delegate said hosting the Games on Wadawurring country was a chance to start a conversation over sovereignty never having ceded.

"It was a huge step towards acknowledging First Nations' peoples as the traditional custodians," she said.

"We will use this platform to share our cultures, encourage people to broaden their knowledge, and acknowledge our nation's past and its repercussions.

"We hope it motivates systematic change to aid the journey of reconciliation and to bridge the inequity gaps."

Ms Johnson played a role in the dance ceremony which showcased Wadawurring culture has existed for 25,000 years.

"This month had been crazy with non-stop rehearsals, travelling, meeting amazing people and making lots of memories here in the UK," Ms Johnson said.

"I am beyond grateful for this opportunity, representing Wadawurring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation."

The handover in Birmingham included 18 Indigenous dancers and Yolngu rapper Baker Boy.

The Victorian Government said the contribution from Aboriginal communities to the Games would progress reconciliation.

Story by Andrew Mathieson


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