4 July, 2021
NAIDOC for culture, land
THIS Sunday will be the first day of NAIDOC Week, a time for national celebrations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. By Peter McCallum
NAIDOC has its roots in a protest march through Sydney’s streets by Aboriginal people on 26 January 1938.
Since then, January 26 has been a contentious
day in Australia.
Each year more and more Austra- lians recognise that it is inappropriate to celebrate the birth of the modern nation on a day that marks the beginning of the decimation of the culture of the first peoples of this land.
NAIDOC week is not contentious at all. It is a time when we can all celebrate the world’s oldest liv- ing cultures, those of the many peoples who lived on this continent since time immemorial.\
Each year NAIDOC adopts a theme. This year it is Heal Country. There is much to heal in this coun- try.
The land that we live on has suffered badly since
the coming of the first European colonisers in 1788.
Within a few years of their arrival, the stream from which the colonisers drew water, the famous Tank Stream, was so polluted it could no longer be con- sumed.
Today the Tank Stream is an underground stormwater pipe, no longer part of a functioning ecosystem.
There is a big difference between people belong- ing to country and country belonging to people.
In the British system, the country initially belongs to the government.
They may allow you to buy or lease part of the land to do with it as you choose, within the rules they establish.
Those rules can change as the government chooses.
In the cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Australians, people belong to and are part
of the land.
The land embodies the stories of The Dreaming, the tales of ancestral human-animal be- ings who formed the landscape and continue to live in it.
Those beings are reborn in living form with each human birth.
When country is a fundamental part of your exis- tence, you can’t do things that damage country with- out damaging yourself.
You must care for and respect country.
That is the
unchanging law.Like the Tank Stream, European
Australians have disrespected country right across
this continent but it is not too late for us to take on
board the NAIDOC theme and begin the process of
healing and celebrating country.
If we don’t, we will continue to harm ourselves.