GADIGAL LAND: A festive air infused the NAIDOC celebrations at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) Community Day on July 3, with performances by Tribal Warrior Dancers, Green Hand Band and Fringe Dwellers and offerings from food trucks, a barbecue, an Elders’ Lunch, stalls and other attractions.
Wiradjuri woman and Elder of the Redfern Aboriginal Community, Aunty Donna Ingram, gave the Welcome to Country and Councillor Imelda Davis, representing the Lord Mayor of Sydney, officially opened the event.
Councillor Davis said she was pleased that the 2023 theme for NAIDOC week was “For our Elders” and that the NCIE Community Day placed Elders at the heart of its program.
“‘For our Elders’ acknowledges trailblazers, nurturers, advocates, teachers, survivors and leaders for the knowledge and wisdom they carry and generosity passed on, which is invaluable.
“We look to our elders not only for inspiration but for guidance for the issues that we face today.”
Indigenous Elder and educator, Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo, who is a Gamilaroi woman from Walgett in NSW, has lived in Redfern since she was 16.
She said it had been a long journey for Aboriginal people in her age group for whom Redfern had become home when they were young people.
“I am now 80, so I’ve seen it all. I’ve lived through it all. All the Elders that are here today, who are my friends and family, we’ve done it all – and now it’s up to the young people to take on that journey.”
When she came to Sydney, she said, Elders on The Block had looked after her “from day one”, and kept her safe.
“So, it’s been a big journey for me. We had no rights whatsoever. We’ve lived through it. And we’re still surviving. Because Aboriginal people are survivors and we always take care of what we need and that’s the land, the waterways and everything but now everybody else is destroying that.”
Aunty Beryl said that, while she hated all the high rise buildings that had sprung around Redfern, Aboriginal people were used to living with change and moving forward.
“So long as everybody is healthy and looks after one another we will all get together and make it a happy Australia one day, where we are all respecting one another.”
She was one of the lucky ones, she added, still doing what she loves; bringing education back to the community.
“I can see a lot of our young people now – they have choices and a better quality of life.
“I’ve always brought the education back to the community and, to me, my Elders said, ‘Education is the key’, because once you have an education you have a voice, you have a choice.
“In saying that, I hope everybody is going to vote YES [in the upcoming Voice referendum] because we do need to have our choice.
“Like I said, people my age, the Elders that are around now – and there’s not many of us left in Redfern – we never had a choice. So, it’s time for all of us to have a choice and have a voice.”