It gives me great pleasure to welcome you here today for this flag raising ceremony, which also doubles as the official opening of our Shire’s NAIDOC Week celebrations.
Before I start I wish to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we have gathered today and pay my respects to all Elders past and present.
May I begin by again welcoming everyone here today and I particularly acknowledge our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander guests.
Today, we all come together – Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities – to continue to build on our relationships, combining to make the path towards reconciliation a more achievable one.
NAIDIOC Week stands for the National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee Week and is a chance for all of us to celebrate the rich history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and promote reconciliation within the wider community.
This year’s celebrations are especially important as we honour current and past Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have fought for this country.
If I may indulge I have some startling statistics at hand.
Over 400 Indigenous soldiers fought in almost every Australian campaign of the First World War. Keep in mind they did this even though back home they couldn’t vote and weren’t even counted in the Census (they were still considered under the Flora and Fauna Act!).
In 1944 during the Second World War, almost every able-bodied Torres Strait Islander male had enlisted for the war effort even though they never received the same rates of pay or conditions as White soldiers. In proportion to population, no community in Australia contributed more to the war effort in World War II than the Islanders of the Torres Strait.
Indeed the story of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander War Service has been a long time in emerging.
Remember too that Aboriginal Service men and women came back from war to a country that denied them basic human rights and continued to deny them Citizenship until 1967.
It is therefore fitting, that this year’s NAIDOC Week theme is entitled Serving Country – Centenary and Beyond and after this morning’s ceremony you are all invited into the foyer to view what is a truly inspirational exhibition.
Captured in the Gallery are stories of men and women whose descendants are living here in our Shire today and who kindly offered to share their stories.
Honouring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Service is yet another important step towards true reconciliation.
But of course being NAIDOC Week we have a full week of events planned.
Our Contemporary Aboriginal Art Exhibition at the Old Bowral Town Hall Gallery – which opened last week – remains open until Sunday the 20 July and features works from numerous talented local artists.
And of course this Sunday the 13 July the Wingecarribee Aboriginal Community Cultural Centre will host its annual Family Fun Day from 10am to 2pm at their Rainbow Road centre.
Activities will include Aboriginal weaving classes with Steven Russel from the JARALANGAH Aboriginal Weavers, art classes, storytelling and bush tucker tasting.
Another of the day’s highlights will be the creation of a community Possum Cloak which is being led by school student Mitch Mahoney.
The cloak will be made by Aboriginal families from 35 possum pelts – imported from New Zealand where they are considered a feral pest – using traditional Aboriginal construction methods.
Everyone is welcome to attend and get involved in this important Cultural Renewal Project.
Before I finish can I also congratulate two new local Aboriginal businesses which are both growing strongly.
Wendy Lotter’s Platypus Dreamin’ and Marie Barbaric’s Koori Kulcha are both providing vital, culturally appropriate employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander locals.
Moyengully also continues to provide mentoring at TAFE for Aboriginal students wishing to gain a Certificate III in Indigenous Land Management and have recently completed a large scale project with the Moss Vale Primary School in establishing a Bush Tucker Garden and a Talking Circle.
Can I also congratulate Aunty Val who was recently honoured on the Queen’s Birthday List with an Order Of Australia Medal for her work in our local Aboriginal Community.
In closing I’d like to say how important it is for Council to continue to work at building a close association with our Aboriginal and Islander communities and we certainly take great pride in flying both the Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islander flags every day.
I’m very proud to say that at Wingecarribee Shire Council, these flags are proudly hoisted aloft every morning.
It may only be a small gesture, but I believe this daily routine is an important part of Council’s broader commitment to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
A commitment to protect, preserve and promote their history and right.
A commitment at Council we believe should extend past NAIDOC Week into every day of the year.
Thank you all again and I’ll now hand over to Rhonda Vanzella who will talk about next year’s Kangaroo March re-enactment.
Councillor Larry Whipper
Deputy Mayor of Wingecarribee Shire Council