This year’s NAIDOC theme is always was, always will be. As each of these Elders point out, this statement finishes as always was, always will be Aboriginal land.
“When Captain Cook took possession of the whole of Torres Strait and Australia on behalf of the queen, there were already people living here,” Leo says. “People who governed themselves, who had cultural practices, who had communities. It’s not as if this country was laying barren and vacant.”
Grace says this theme is timely. “With all of the demonstrations happening, with people believing that first nations people shouldn’t have a right to some type of compensation, with mining companies mining on sacred sites and lands, with COVID and the economic downfall, it’s a wonderful time to have a theme for first nations peoples who have always taken care of the country,” she says.
“It’s very important that when people think about the theme always was, always will be, they instil in their minds and in their hearts that it really always was first nations peoples’ country,” Leo says. “And it’s important to continue to speak our languages, sing our songs, and perform our dances to demonstrate that this land always will be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land.”
NAIDOC helps to ensure that future generations of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians can work together to carry on the legacy, heritage and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
“We celebrate NAIDOC and undertake our cultural activities so that when the Elders pass on, there’s a continuance of observing our cultural protocols and traditions,” Leo says.
“We like to share our culture in NAIDOC, but we’d also like to share every day of the year,” Dorothy says. “And we’re finding more and more people are joining in.”
“I look forward to Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians coming together as one,” Grace says. “I’m optimistic that my grandchildren and other grandchildren will join forces because they’ll be much more educated about our true history because it will be mandatory. They’ll promote NAIDOC, and they’ll promote our history and our culture.”
Want to know more about Indigenous history and culture? Visit JCU Indigenous Education and Research Centre.