Discussions, Marches & Events ‘For Our Elders’

NAIDOC Week is celebrated from the first to second Sunday in July every year. The week is observed nationally as an opportunity for all Australians to recognise the history, culture, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Each year, the theme changes. In 2023, the focus was ‘For Our Elders’—the knowledge holders, trailblazers, nurtures, advocates, teachers, survivors, leaders, hard workers and loved ones across every generation.

At Miwatj Health, NAIDOC events were held and attended across all locations. Staff and community members honoured Elders in a range of ways—from online discussions, to community events, BBQs, camping trips, and marches through Miwatj communities and Darwin City. NAIDOC Week 2023 gave everyone at Miwatj Health a chance to pause and reflect on the important role the Elders play across our region, and thank them for their advocacy, activism, and for paving the paths we all walk together today.

Online Safe Space: NAIDOC Week Edition

Celebrating events together as an organisation can be difficult at Miwatj Health, due to how our workforce is separated geographically. With health clinics and offices in Nhulunbuy, Yirrkala, Gunyaŋara, Milingimbi, Ramingining, Gapuwiyak, Galiwin’ku, and Darwin, the only place our staff can meet, centrally, is online. Acknowledging this, Miwatj Health held its first online event for staff in June 2023 for Reconciliation Week. The event was a success—it sparked some interesting discussions, in an open and accepting environment, and was unanimously decided as an effective way to unite staff going forward.  

To mark NAIDOC Week together, staff met online on Tuesday 4 July for the Miwatj NAIDOC Safe Space. The Teams forum was hosted by CEO, Steve Rossingh, and commenced with an overview of NAIDOC Week history. Staff were then invited to participate in an open discussion, with the opportunity to reflect on what NAIDOC Week means to them and how celebrating it can help Miwatj grow as an organisation.

To get the ball rolling, Steve spoke about the opportunities NAIDOC Week offers to ACCHOs in particular—not only is the week a great chance to reflect and celebrate the history and culture of the communities we live in, but also to remember why we do the work we do and why it’s important that we do it right.

“Where community control is done properly, the outcomes make a huge difference,” Steve said, before challenging staff to look beyond NAIDOC Week and embrace community control all year round.

Other staff members reflected on the theme of the week more closely. To them, NAIDOC Week offered a great opportunity to think back through family lines and remember all the lessons left for the rest of us to follow.

“While this might be difficult, [we can be reminded] of the resilient and brave people who stood up when others didn’t, who fought for justice and equity, who put out a hand when they needed to, and walked away when they needed to too. Of those who promoted learning and education.”

The role of Elders, as Miwatj Health staff identified, is lifechanging—they’ve had a huge impact on Miwatj and other organisations, with so many learnings because of them. Despite being survivors of hardship and struggling for recognition, they have made our region a more inclusive environment and we should stop, think, celebrate, and learn from that.

To finish the Miwatj NAIDOC Safe Space, the group was encouraged to fight, as an organisation, to make inroads into extending the lifespan of our Elders—the ultimate way to show our appreciation and respect.

Gunyaŋara Elders BBQ

Following the Miwatj NAIDOC Safe Space event on Tuesday 4 July, staff in Gunyaŋara celebrated NAIDOC Week with a community BBQ honouring Elders.

Hosted by East Arnhem Regional Council, the BBQ brought together a range of local organisations, including Night Patrol, Sports & Recreation, Aged Care, NT Care, and Anglicare NT.

Miwatj was officially represented by Gunyaŋara Clinic Manager, Sharon, and Nutrition Team Lead/Public Health Nutritionist, Bek, who supplied a range of nutrition resources which were greatly appreciated!

Yirrkala Free Community Event

In Yirrkala, NAIDOC Week was celebrated on Thursday 6 July, with a free community event on the oval. Activities included a BBQ, cooking demonstrations, live music, footy, Buŋgul, a baby competition and more.

Miwatj proudly supported the event, alongside Rirratijingu Aboriginal Corporation, Anglicare NT, Nhulunbuy Corporation, Rio Tinto, ARRCS, NEAL, EARC, Developing East Arnhem, and the Northern Territory Government. A huge thank you to our Nutrition team who, again, provided a range of great resources to display at the event, and to our Raypirri Rom team, who ran a stall.

Galiwin’ku, Gapuwiyak, Milingimbi & Ramingining

Elders BBQs, Youth/Elder Bush Camps, AFL events and community marches took place in Galiwin’ku, Gapuwiyak, Milingimbi and Ramingining from Tuesday 4 July to Thursday 6 July. Because these events fell during the school holidays, young people had the chance to pay their respects to their Elders by attending. All events were promoted to Miwatj Elders, with various teams and departments providing resources and support.

Darwin City March

The Darwin City NAIDOC March took place on Friday 7 July. It was great to see the majority of the Miwatj Corporate Office in attendance, joining more than 8000 people to walk the city streets. After the march, staff stayed on to celebrate culture with Larrakia Nation. They heard speeches commenced by ALPA Director, Lilly Roy, and her niece, Marcey Garrawurra, from Ramingining and, later, watched Galiwin’ku legends, the Saltwater Band perform.  

A huge thank you to all Miwatj Health staff for getting involved in so many NAIDOC Week events this year, and for your thoughts and reflections during the Miwatj NAIDOC Safe Space.