Urunga is set to come alive with indigenous culture for this year’s NAIDOC week celebrations. To quote Lachlan Skinner (Coffs Harbour Local Aboriginal Lands Council Community Relations and Engagement Officer)…….. “Urunga will be rocking”.
The Lands Council, with support from the Urunga Neighbourhood Centre and Bellingen Shire Council, are organising an immersive, cultural event on the 11th July at the Urunga foreshores.
“Our primary aim is to bring as much of our aboriginal culture to the day,” says Lachlan. “Gumbaynggirr people have a firm history as sharing people. We want to share the day- to bring indigenous and non indigenous people together. This will open the doors to working together for a shared future.”
This 24 year old, eloquent, “proud Gumbaynggirr man” has been working towards this goal for a long time already. “I’ve been a volunteer on the Coffs Harbour Aboriginal Social Events Committee (CHASE) since I was 16 years old. It’s a voluntary committee that works with both Aboriginal and non Aboriginal services to bring about NAIDOC Week,” says Lachlan.
NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The theme for this year’s NAIDOC celebrations is VOICE – TREATY – TRUTH, 7th- 14th July.
The Indigenous voice of this country is over 65,000 plus years old.It’s that Indigenous voice that include know-how, practices, skills and innovations – found in a wide variety of contexts, such as agricultural, scientific, technical, ecological and medicinal fields, as well as biodiversity-related knowledge. They are words connecting us to country, an understanding of country and of a people who are the oldest continuing culture on the planet.
Lachlan the 3 words ‘Voice, Treaty, Truth’ reflect the major elements of the reforms set out in the ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’. What do these powerful words mean to you personally?
I’m a proud Gumbaynggirr man. These words hit me at the heart. I am full of hope for a shared future. I can feel the tide is turning. Yes we need to acknowledge the truth of the past but also find constructive ways to work together for the future.
Are you hopeful then that there will be a First Nations Voice enshrined in the constitution?
Definitely- I am very hopeful. There are so many more conversations being had. We are all hopeful that the momentum will be carried through to Canberra.
What have you got planned for the NAIDOC celebrations in Urunga on the 11th July?
We are looking to bring as much of our aboriginal culture to the day as possible. This will be a day of celebration, rejoicing in our culture and successes as a community. There will be Gumbaynggirr language sessions with Uncle Micklo Jarrett and indigenous artists singing. There will also be an unveiling of some art works that were part of a project that was completed during National Youth Week by Dean Beale, a local Aboriginal artist and local youth. This project saw the creation of 3 large canvas panels which will be installed at Urunga Neighbourhood Centre specially for the festivities. There will be damper making, dancing and of course bacon and egg rolls cooked by Urunga Lions Club. Our goal is to bring everyone together to work as one for a shared future.
To coincide with the NAIDOC celebrations The Art Space Urunga is delighted to present the exhibition ‘Voice Treaty Truth’- a collection of Aboriginal Art by artists living on Gumbaynggiir Nation. This exhibition will include award winning and established artists, as well as youth & emerging artists. (Official opening Saturday July 6th 5 pm- 7 pm).
Does NAIDOC Week serve to shine a light on both the achievements and sorrows of our First Nations People?
I’ll be honest- NAIDOC Week is my favourite week of the year. It is a time that we as a community can come together but it is also a time for hope that non indigenous people ware open to becoming a part of our community. It is also a time to demonstrate how close our indigenous community actually is. We see so much negativity in the news- this is how our community is portrayed. But the truth is that our community works together and NAIDOC Week celebrations give us the opportunity to truly reflect that.
Has NAIDOC Week grown as an event of significance in this region in the time you’ve been involved?
It has grown enormously. This year our region has 15 NAIDOC events over 8 days. It’s huge and it’s really exciting to see. I definitely see that the aboriginal and non aboriginal communities are now working together and really share a vision for the future. And we are so excited that Anna Joy from Bellingen Shire Council reached out to us this year, allowing our celebrations to reach to the Bellingen Shire.
104.1 CHY FM in Coffs Harbour has also agreed to revitalise the program “Speaking Hour Lingo”, 4pm-4.30pm weekdays commencing July 1st for two weeks. This will give us the opportunity to promote the NAIDOC Week events. This program was an old radio program that gave young indigenous students the opportunity to learn radio and public speaking skills. I was one of the original students involved and loved it- in fact at the time I thought radio would be my life. I’m so excited to be able to host the program for the 2 weeks. And Coffs Harbour Council has now given their support for this program to continue after the NAIDOC Week celebrations are complete.