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Posted on 12/07/2019 by Westernport Water, Bass Coast Shire Council and Phillip Island Nature Parks

Community Embraces NAIDOC Week Celebrations

Over 100 people attended the NAIDOC Week Celebration at the Cowes Cultural Centre based around this year’s theme of Voice. Treaty. Truth. Let’s work together for a shared future.

“Happy NAIDOC” rang around the Cowes Cultural Centre as the Community celebrated the rich and diverse culture, history and stories of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community. 

A flag raising ceremony saw Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community representatives gather and proudly stand together with Aunty Dyan Summers, Chair of the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation (BLCAC) who provided a Welcome to Country and Patrice Mahoney and Safina Stewart offering their Acknowledgements.

“Our people want to write our history, want a voice, want to be able to speak for ourselves and talk to people,” said Aunty Dyan.  She also reflected on significant milestones achieved at a local level, including the signing of a MOU with Phillip Island Nature Parks, saying she was proud to be a Bunurong person and: “proud to be working with such amazing people”.

The community celebration also provided the opportunity to launch the first Bass Coast NAIDOC Awards commencing in 2020. Event MC Patrice Mahoney remembered the life and work of Ruby Gates, paying a moving tribute to a woman who she described as a powerful presence in the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community and the first Aboriginal person to raise the Aboriginal flag on Phillip Island.  

In recognition of Ruby’s influence, passion and impact in her journey for recognition and awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, a Lifetime Achievement Award will be made in her honour as part of the NAIDOC Awards – “as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community, we need you to recognise and nominate for this award,” said Patrice.

The celebration was attended by a large number of children who enjoyed a range of fun activities including painting gum leaves, rocks and pebbles, creating totems and traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander throwing games.  There was also a songline of the muttonbird titled “Moonbird” performed by Uncle Ronnie Summers.  

Events were jointly organised and presented by Bass Coast Reconciliation Network comprised of: Bass Coast Shire Council, Westernport Water, Phillip Island Nature Parks, Bass Coast Health, Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation, Bass Coast South Gippsland Reconciliation Group and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community members.

Network Chair, Geoff Russell, reflected on what was a very successful NAIDOC Week celebration.  “Combined with a range of events across NAIDOC Week from the Intercultural Arts Program at the Phillip Island Whale Festival, to the Isaiah Firebrace Concert in Wonthaggi, the NAIDOC Art Exhibition in Inverloch, and the First People’s Film Festival on the 12-13 July, community awareness and support continues to grow year on year – it’s very exciting.” 

Geoff went on to praise the efforts of the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community in coming together to deliver these events.  “We are fortunate to have so many amazingly talented Aboriginal and Torres Strait Community members in the local area.  They have proudly come together to deliver a fantastic NAIDOC Week for our community.”

Nominations for the 2020 Bass Coast NAIDOC Awards Program will be opening soon.

For more information: 

Media Enquiries:

Geoff Russell 0413 009 636