“I am a descendant of the Gurang Gurang and Taribilang Bunda people.
“When you are ready, and when you have the courage and are prepared to be bold, me and my people.. we are ready to talk with you about a Treaty.
That was the message to Australian politicians, including newly re-elected Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, from Indigenous education expert Professor Chris Sarra after being named the NAIDOC2016 Person of the Year on Friday.
Sarra’s speech is being widely shared and welcomed on social media, as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia enter more unchartered waters under a new Federal Government with little outlined by the Coalition on their Indigenous affairs policies over the next term. During the election Turnbull did endorse the word “invasion” to describe European settlement of Australia, but rejected Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s acknowledgement of the need for a treaty, saying such a debate could jeopardise efforts for consititional recognition.
Sarra dedicated the award to “our ghost children – those Aboriginal girls and boys, dead by their own hand, who no longer believed that the future could be better, or that they had a place in it”, to “Indigenous students rotting in classrooms no Minister or millionaire would send their child to’, and to Indigenous parents and communities, school and community leaders involved in education.
For tens of thousands of years, our sovereign nations shared borders, trade and travel. Our laws were strong. Our faith deep. And our songs enchanted. Culture enlightened our souls, and dreamings lit the way.
The past 200 years, by contrast, were everything the past 50,000 weren’t. In the blink of an historical eye we were banished to the edges of the very worlds we’d governed for eons. There was a disruption to our excellence. Our parents and theirs were stripped of all they loved… their kids, homes, land and culture. Our people weren’t called slaves, but laboured as such… Shackled, starved, never paid wages. Black diggers fought and died for a nation that denied them the vote.
The truth is this…… We are stronger than we believe and smarter than we know. For 50,000 history making years, our old people lived like kings in lands where camel die of thirst. They stood as ironbark. Upright, strong, tall standing and unbreakable. Their lessons, their songlines, their legacy and their dreamings. They are our true north. They are the truth not only of who we were, but who we can be again.
You can watch clips about all this year’s award winners at the NAIDOC website. They are:
- Person of the Year: Professor Chris Sarra (QLD)
- Lifetime Achievement Award winner: Stephen Page (QLD)
- Caring for Country Award: Manymak Energy Efficiency Project (NT)
- Youth of the Year: Elijah Douglas (QLD)
- Artist of the Year: Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu (NT)
- Scholar of the Year: Layneisha Sgro (WA)
- Apprentice of the Year: Montana Ah-Won (WA)
- Sportsperson of the Year: Jade North (NSW)
- Female Elder of the Year: Professor MaryAnn Bin-Sallik (NT)
- Male Elder of the Year: Dr Robert Francis Isaacs (WA)
Songlines of our nation
This year’s #NAIDOC2016 theme was: Songlines – The living narrative of our nation. See this guide from the ABC, that looked at songlines from different parts of Australia.
This post can only give a glimpse of the week’s activities.
If you’re on Twitter, check back on Croakey contributor and Yorta Yorta woman Summer May Finlay timeline as she covered #NAIDOC2016 for @wepublichealth: you can read her reflections on NAIDOC week here and see some of her tweets here.
See also these articles that reflect the diversity of views on NAIDOC in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community:
Why this year’s Naidoc week will be my last: Nakkiah Lui
NAIDOC Week is more than just a cultural showcase: Luke Pearson
Radio National’s Inside Sleeve featured many Indigenous musicians through the week, and don’t miss this Soundcloud recording of Emma Donovan and her band The Putbacks performing songs from Ruby Hunter’s debut album on ABC 774 in Melbourne.
And below are a just a selection of the tweets from #NAIDOC2016:
Some of the people celebrating….
Those working in health
Across the arts
And many more
Hailing Chris Sarra
And a reminder or two