Reflecting on NAIDOC Week 2022

close up of painting by Rhoda Tjitayi

I was thrilled this week to hang in my home an artwork from APY Art Centre Collective artist Rhoda Tjitayi, whose grandfather was from Nyapari and grandmother from Makiri, Tjala Ngura. Rhoda is a resident of the Pukatja community in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in South Australia. Her magnificent paintings depict her grandmother’s story, the ancestral creation story Piltati Tjukurpa. I was taught to paint when I was six years old, and my first degree in Fine Art, but this is the first painting I have purchased. It is an incredibly powerful piece, which now helps me to remember my own grandmother.

In Australia we are privileged to be home to one of the oldest continuous cultures on earth, with incredible connections to country, community and story. This week is NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee) Week in Australia, a week in which Australians celebrate the history, culture, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This year’s theme—‘Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!’—reverberates with the protest beginnings of NAIDOC Week, and calls to non-Indigenous Australians to engage with First Nations people and communities, and to move beyond acknowledgement, bystanding, and lip service, to action.

This NAIDOC Week I have been reflecting on the wonderful opportunities I have had to collaborate with and learn from inspiring First Nations educators. The following chapters in books I have edited continue to reverberate for me and influence my work and thinking.

episode artwork – The Edu Salon podcast

This year, I’ve also had the pleasure of speaking with Dr Marnee Shay on The Edu Salon podcast in this episode. During our conversation, Marnee reflected on this year’s theme for National Reconciliation week (‘Be Brave. Make Change’), saying,

“Our people haven’t had the luxury of being brave; our people have been surviving and navigating a whole range of things that are unjust, unfair, and through no fault of our own … We don’t need to be brave any more, we just need to do it.”

Marnee points out that organisations and individuals can choose to invest in and engage with Indigenous voices, research, books, people and communities. I can highly recommend the book Indigenous Education in Australia, edited by Marnee and Professor Rhonda Oliver, and its associated podcast.

While it is yet to be released, Tell Me Again, an in-press memoir by Dr Amy Thunig, looks like a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the lived experiences of Indigenous Australians. Amy’s PhD thesis Sovereign Women: Why Academia? also looks to be a crucial piece of research; this piece for IndigenousX provides a taster.

As this year’s NAIDOC theme attests, non-Indigenous Australians need to seek to understand, to learn, to address biases, to engage First Nations businesses, and to invest time in meaningful partnerships with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges and communities. Closing the Gap, Reconciliation, and ‘getting up, standing up, and showing up’, encompass complex and important work that needs to move beyond good intentions to prioritised, positive action by all Australians in our various families, workplaces, and communities.

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