2020 has been a difficult year for most, and the necessary COVID-19 restrictions which limited our ability to gather meant a celebration normally held in July each year is only now taking place.
In this week beginning the 8th of November, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities will celebrate the essence of who we are, and proudly proclaim and assert our place in the future of this nation.
As a young Aboriginal man growing up, I needed to find my place in the communities in which I lived. I understood my responsibility to my community and that in order for me to prosper I had to help others prosper too. It was a sense of continuity and linkage.
The theme for NAIDOC 2020; Always Was, Always Will Be reinforces and confirms my connection to community and my connection to country. This country that has provided for us as we have provided for it.
Our cultural responsibility, the way we as Aboriginal people and communities support each other is similar to the non-indigenous concept of volunteering, but for us cultural responsibility is the essence of life, the substance of our existence, and an acknowledgement of our commitment to each other. It’s a profound ‘value statement’, it’s about who we are!
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are to be celebrated, so visit the NAIDOC website for local events. Enjoy the week with us, celebrate with us, be one with us and immerse yourself in the cultural fabric of the oldest continuing culture in the world by acknowledging, Always Was, Always Will Be!
Gary Oliver is a Kuku Yalangi Traditional Owner and social commentator.
Celebrating NAIDOC Week and the ‘interconnectedness of community’
As our nation celebrates NAIDOC Week 2020 and reflects upon the history and extraordinary achievements of the oldest surviving cultures on our planet, I’m particularly drawn to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander expression of fundamental interconnectedness through enduring commitments to country and community.
This year’s NAIDOC theme, Always Was, Always Will Be recognises that First Nations people have built and sustained communities and occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years.
For millennia and to this very day Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples offer their time and effort to develop innovative solutions to community problems. I believe there isn’t a word for volunteering in any of the surviving language groups and this is significant, because from what I’ve learned, for the First Nations people of this land, participating in community isn’t something separate from daily life but an intrinsic and inextricable part of it. To survive and thrive is to be a part of community rather than apart from community.
This year of profound social disruption and change has highlighted the ongoing importance of the contribution of millions of volunteers who share the spirit of our nation’s traditional custodians and offer their time willingly for the common good and without financial gain.
I am privileged to have worked with some of this continent’s most respected First Nations leaders, and in them, I witness kindness and compassion, resourcefulness, innovation and an indomitable optimism for a better and more equal future despite the challenges. The act of volunteering aspires to many of the same qualities.
NAIDOC Week encourages us all to connect with and better understand the richness of over 65,000 years of continuous culture and understand that strong and resilient communities are built on a bedrock of enthusiastic participation and shared responsibility.
Chief Executive Officer, Volunteering Australia