NAIDOC Week celebrations that are held across Australia in the first week of July each year, to celebrate and recognise the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC Week is an opportunity for all Australians to learn about First Nations cultures and histories and participate in celebrations of the oldest, continuous living cultures on earth.
Due to the week falling during the school holidays, Kurnai College holds it's official NAIDOC Week Events during week 2 of term 3. BBQ lunches and cultural activities will be held for students across all the campuses, with the main event scheduled at the Morwell Campus for Thursday 21st of July.
As seen on Page 10 in the Latrobe Valley Express: https://issuu.com/lvexpress.com/docs/expresswednesday3august2022
Kurnai College celebrated NAIDOC week on Thursday, 21st July to recognise the history, culture, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
Students, local politicians, members of the Indigenous community and Aboriginal Elders gathered at the Morwell campus to attend the event showcasing this year’s theme “Get Up! Show Up! Stand Up!”.
Koorie Education Support Officer, GunaiKurnai and Monaro Ngarigo woman Hollie Johnson was the emcee alongside her fellow colleague, GunaiKurnai man Tre Moffatt, who conducted a smoking ceremony to welcome the guests as they arrived.
“The smoking ceremony welcomes visitors to our land, it’s not only important to welcome visitors to our lands but to cleanse them of any bad spirits and energies that they may be carrying,” Tre said.
“Smoking ceremonies are used for many things such as, Healings, childbirth, coming of age, initiation ceremonies, speaking to our ancestors and for sorry business (funerals) it is important to cover yourself from head to toe”.
“Our Ancestors are still here amongst the lands. When you walk through country our Ancestors can smell you, smell the smoke and know that you been through their ancient Ceremony”.
“The leaves that I used belong to the land that we are standing on, the trees that our Ancestors spirit birds belong to,” Tre said.
Aunty Dot (Doris Patten) commenced the official proceedings performing a Welcome to Country on behalf of the Brayakaulung clan of the GunaiKurnai Nation, and Year 10 Kurnai College student Jade Hiskins performed an Acknowledgement to Country.
College Principal Anthony Rodaughan addressed the room, and officially unveiled Kurnai College’s new logo. The new logo incorporates Indigenous elements, honouring Djeetgun and Yeerung, the totem wrens representing the men and women of GunaiKurnai, in conjunction with the GunaiKurnai Brayakaulung shield - the land on which we reside.
The logo was designed by Dixon Patten (Bitja), a proud Gunnai, Yorta Yorta, Gunditjmara, Dhudhuroa man from Bayila Creative.
Labour MP Harriet Shing also addressed the audience speaking of the meaning of NAIDOC and this year’s theme.
“Victoria is the first place in Australia to move towards treaty and towards truth and justice. This is so important because as non-Indigenous people, (I am speaking as a non-Indigenous person), I’ve got so much to learn; I’ve got a lot of listening to do but I’ve also got a lot of talking to do to make sure that Indigenous people are not required to do all the talking without help, love and care and support and people walking along with you” said Harriet Shing.
“This is about making sure governments do the right thing, about making sure we build on work that is happening and schools just like Kurnai College with the Community Campfire, with the garden, with the recognition celebrations that you have, with the school logo that you have and the symbolism that it involves,” said Harriet Shing.
The Dedlee Kultya dancers took stage and performed Naanaa Nukindhere! Nagisa Haddock, introduced the dance explaining “this song reminds us to stay on the dreaming track, and not to veer off in the wrong direction to trouble or crime.” The students had been practicing very hard in the lead up to the NAIDOC event. The dance group enables the students to connect with their heritage and culture.
Kiowa Scott-Hurley, 2015 student graduate, retraced her steps from her time at Kurnai College and more recently Monash University. She shared her story as an Indigenous person navigating her way through schooling and entering the workforce and the process of being able to share her culture with non-Indigenous people.
The college was proud to unveil a commissioned artwork from award-winning artist Ronald Edwards Pepper (who was unfortunately unable to attend).
Ronald is well known locally and across the state for his story telling artwork. In his absence, Hollie spoke about his art journey and creative practice along with his experimenting with non-traditional mediums such as neon and glow in the dark paint.
Special guest and Black Satin band member, Uncle Nicky Moffatt took to the stage to share an acoustic piece. He shared stories about his upbringing and the influence music has had during his life. Nicky Moffatt and his band Black Satin performed several original songs after the formal proceedings when everyone sat down for lunch.
“Black Satin was originally formed in 1976 by cousins Nicky, Ricky Harrison, Wayne Thorpe, and Tony Hood. They have performed over the years with many well-known acts and have been added to the National Indigenous Music “Hall of Fame.” They were the first Aboriginal band to travel interstate as well as overseas” said Tre as he introduced the band.
At the conclusion of the formal proceedings, the guests were invited to tour the Indigenous Garden, as part of its official opening. The garden includes a variety of local native plants that are signposted to educate students about their use and significance for medicinal purposes and nourishment.
The Indigenous Garden was overseen by Hands on Learning (HOL) Coordinator, Michael Stubbe who consulted with the Indigenous students within the program about the components that they wished to include in the garden.
“Our main aim was to have an Indigenous Garden within the school where we could teach Indigenous culture” Mr Stubbe said.
“The garden will not only be used for now, but in later years it will continue to be utilised as a learning centre for new generations of students that come into our school.”
Hollie Johnson was enlisted to assist in the designing and painting of the mural that spreads across the back wall, where the water feature runs alongside it.
“The mural tells the story of Borun the Pelican and Tuk the Musk Duck, they are the mother and father of all GunaiKurnai People,” said Hollie.
“The waterways that were created represent the river in part of the Creation Story”.
A metal sculpture of Borun the Pelican and Tuk the Musk Duck created by Technology teacher Dave Frendo accompany the mural.
The garden also features totem poles that were painted by Aunty Christine Johnson and the Indigenous students. A fire pit also sits within that garden, that has already been utilised for a number of Community Campfires. These sessions involve having the local Indigenous community come into the school, have their voice heard and continue to advise the school in local Indigenous and cultural matters.
Kurnai College is currently working on their Reconciliation Action Plan. It will continue to promote and facilitate reconciliation by its continuous approach to building relationships, respect and trust between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Written by Caitlin Johnson
Photography by Autumn Lace Photography