Ballarat NAIDOC Week 2018: Reflecting on the important role of Aboriginal women

Lead the charge: Rhyder, 10, Joel, 11, Samara, 6, Wadawurrung elder Aunty Violet McPherson and Mercy, 6, at the 2018 NAIDOC Week flag raising. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric
Lead the charge: Rhyder, 10, Joel, 11, Samara, 6, Wadawurrung elder Aunty Violet McPherson and Mercy, 6, at the 2018 NAIDOC Week flag raising. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

A week to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is squarely focused on the impact of women.

Ballarat’s National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week celebrations in Queen Victoria Square on Monday included a flag-raising, Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony. 

2018 NAIDOC Week runs from 8-15 July, with the theme ‘Because of Her, We Can’ recognising the impact and contribution of women in Aboriginal communities. 

Wadawurrung Aboriginal Corporation project officer Tammy Gilson said the week’s events empowered her to stand in the spotlight as a “really strong, proud Aboriginal Women”. 

“It’s about recognising the roles women have in community, our leaders, and all women in general,” she said. 

“We’re the bearers of our children, we’re the ones that pass the knowledge down and keep the culture going … the NAIDOC Week theme this year is really sensitive to me, because I have a daughter.

Wadawurrung Aboriginal Corporation project officer Tammy Gilson

“[Culture] is a part of our identity, it’s who we are as Aboriginal people, so it’s really important for me to pass that down to my children. It’s about knowing where you come from, but also being inclusive to all Aboriginal people.”

Wadawurrung’s oldest elder is 91-year-old Aunty Violet McPherson, and said NAIDOC Week was an opportunity for her to share her Aboriginal culture with the broader community. 

“It’s a week where we can all get together and celebrate, and that’s what I love about it. Meeting all my people,” she said.

“It’s means such a lot to me, to be able to come out and put the flag up, which I do each year.”

Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh said NAIDOC Week was Ballarat’s chance to “work with our Aboriginal community, listen to the stories they have to share, and make sure those stories are available to be passed on.”

The Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative will hold a community open day on July 11 at 10am to 2pm, with free barbecue lunch, arts and crafts on sale, and free amusement rides and a petting zoo for children. 

The Cooee! exhibition will also launch on Thursday at 6pm, with FedUni’s Post Office Gallery displaying the unique collaboration between the college’s VET Visual Arts program, Hopkins Correctional Centre and Langi Kal Kal Ararat.