The annual NAIDOC Perth Ball saw Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from Perth and surrounds come together to celebrate a successful NAIDOC Week, despite falling in November due to COVID-19.

Taking over the Crown’s Grand Ballroom on Saturday night, MCs Karla Hart and Olman Walley kicked off the night with plenty of energy, setting the tone for the remainder of the night.

Walley took the opportunity to acknowledge his father’s recent win at the WA Australian of the Year Awards, which saw Dr Richard Walley take out WA Senior Australian of the Year.

After a humbling Welcome to Country from Whadjuk Noongar Elder Aunty Marie Taylor, Noongatjie One and Koolangkas Kreate delivered a traditional dance performance—with one little dancer in particular stealing the hearts of the audience.

Dancer of the hour at the NAIDOC Perth Ball 2020. Photo by Hannah Cross.

NAIDOC Perth Committee Chair Glenda Kickett made her presentation, giving the usual thanks to the committee, sponsors and all who committed to making the night possible in the face of a global pandemic.

Kickett reluctantly turned the spotlight on herself, announcing she had just been inducted to the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW)—making her the first Indigenous social worker to ever be inducted.

A social worker for 25 years, Kickett spoke of her passion for the profession and said she felt “so proud” to be honoured in this way.

Taking advantage of his home state’s reduced restrictions, Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt celebrated NAIDOC Week with Perth and addressed the ballroom on the night.

Minister Wyatt spoke of the impact of NAIDOC Week and the importance of change.

“Things will only change when we as a community change them,” he said to the packed ballroom.

An interesting sentiment given the Minister’s refusal to endorse the Uluru Statement from the Heart and slow progress on a legislated Indigenous Voice.

Minister Ken Wyatt addressing the NAIDOC Perth Ball 2020. Photo by Hannah Cross.

WA Treasurer and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Ben Wyatt also addressed the NAIDOC Perth Ball, with more of a state focus on the strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in fighting off COVID-19.

The Treasurer said he had been particularly impressed by the response from Aboriginal Medical Services across the State in keeping the virus out of remote communities and protecting Indigenous people from the detriments of COVID-19.

Representatives of the Ball’s sponsors also spoke on the night, including Chevron Australia Managing Director Al Williams and Cleanaway WA & NT General Manager Brad Gornall.

After the formalities of speeches wrapped up, the usual festivities commenced—including crowd favourite Belle, Beau, Lady and Gentleman of the Ball.

Those brave enough to make their way to the dancefloor strutted their stuff to a judging panel which included NAIDOC Perth Committee members and both Minister Ken Wyatt and Minister Ben Wyatt.

While some choice dance moves from competitors of all ages were thrown down, four winners prevailed—with bold colours being the clear winning factor.

Minister Ben Wyatt presenting the Lady of the Ball with her sash. Photo by Hannah Cross.
Beau, Belle, Lady and Gentleman of the Ball. Photo by Hannah Cross.

Miss NAIDOC Perth for 2020, Katelan Stack, then spoke about the Miss NAIDOC Perth competition.

Much more than the traditional pageant, Miss NAIDOC Perth sees young Indigenous women participate in a number of workshops designed to increase their confidence and strengthen their connection to culture, among other outcomes.

As with any NAIDOC Ball, there were plenty of deadly musicians revving up punters for a night of dancing and celebrations.

Ballardong woman, Natasha Eldridge nailed a set with her band putting everyone on their feet.

Local Noongar MC Flewnt encapsulated the room with a politically charged set, including a new track titled Always Was featuring young Indigenous man Dylan Voller.

Voller became the face of the 2016 Royal Commission into Youth Detention after footage emerged of him being mistreated, restrained and wearing a spit hood at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.

One of the final performances before DJ Chris Ryder wrapped up the night for attendees, the Family Shoveller Band had everyone up and dancing to wrap up NAIDOC Week in style.

While many believe NAIDOC Week is a time to recognise the past, it’s also a time to celebrate the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia and look ahead and into the future.

By Hannah Cross