There is a palpable transformation yet to be experienced in this country as this year’s theme, Heal Country! presents an opportunity for Australians of all demographics to celebrate and self-reflect upon the meaning of NAIDOC Week; held on 4-11 July 2021. 

The NAIDOC Week occurs every July and aims to create a moment of stillness to honour the history, culture and accomplishments of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

The origin of National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) began in the 1920s as a day of mourning observed in Christian churches. On this day Indigenous leaders raised awareness of the plight and status of Indigenous people. Today, it is now viewed as a week of celebration of our First Nation people and their oldest continuous cultures on earth.

Accompanying this incredible week is a newly released children’s storybook called ‘Story Doctors’ written by Australian Children’s Laureate, Boori Monty Pryor. The tale has a rhythmic power that takes us on a poetic and elegantly illustrated journey of Australia’s true history and calls every one of us, particularly young people to heal our country.

Pryor is a First Nations’ storyteller, co-writer and subject of the Emmy nominated series The Wrong Kind of Black, currently screening on Netflix, who has shared his words and wisdom with over a million school children in Australia and overseas.

Healing for Boori comes from acknowledging the wrongful claim that this land was once regarded as “Terra nullius” a Latin expression that means “nobody’s land”, prior to European settlement. These words effectively denied Indigenous people’s sovereignty and connection to the land.

Acknowledging this inaccuracy, Boori carefully teaches children the importance of discerning pain and how we can heal. As there is damage caused when sacred Indigenous sites are destroyed; damage that also extends far beyond one’s sense of identity.

“Sometimes people cannot see that you are hurt, and sometimes you need a band-aid for the inside,” illuminated Mr Pryor.

Illustration: A new children’s storybook called ‘Story Doctors’ written by Australian Children’s Laureate, Boori Monty Pryor. Source: SBS.

Welding words together while under lockdown, the writer explains how he was able to come to terms with his own need to heal and the difficulty he encountered while doing so. Nevertheless, there is a necessity for this country to be unafraid to speak of the darkness of our history.

Truth-telling, is part of Indigenous culture and is an opportunity share their culture, heritage and history with the broader community. In doing so, healing can become a sombre harmonic experience. An opportunity to enhance our understanding and develop greater compassion.

“Reconciliation meaning to… (fix) something… (because) in any relationship both parties have to be sitting on the table. Our leaders have to get in…(and have a seat at the table).”

This land is inherent to Indigenous identity. It is more than a place. Acknowledging country is not just to recognise that Australia’s First Nations People are the oldest continuing culture, dating back over 65,000 years; country means family, kin, law, lore, ceremony, traditions and language.

Illustration: First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria co-chair Aunty Geraldine Atkinson. Source: ABC.

Bringing truth-telling and Indigenous voices to decision-making, Victoria is set to become the first state in Australia to forge discussions on a groundbreaking state-based treaty with its Aboriginal communities.

The Co-chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria the elected voice for Aboriginal people and communities in future Treaty discussions, Aunty Geraldine Atkinson, explains to the importance of recognising the impacts of the past on future generations.

“Truths need to be told…that our ancestors had to endure genocide…and I think, by that truth being told…it will only draw us closer to the wider community. You will then understand the impacts of past injustices…(and) intergenerational trauma.”

NAIDOC Week is a chance to cherish and protect our First Nation cultural, heritage and develop a greater understanding of their knowledge of our country.

For more information about NAIDOC Week visit: https://www.naidoc.org.au