More than one hundred people braved the cold and rain on Monday to take part in the annual NAIDOC Week march and official opening, kicking off two weeks of festivities in Moree.
The streets of Moree were filled with red, yellow and black as people of all ages and backgrounds came together to march from the Dhiiyaan Aboriginal Centre to Town Hall for the official opening of NAIDOC Week.
Moree Secondary College’s Aboriginal Dance Group entertained the crowd before Jessica Duncan performed the Welcome to Country in the Gamilaroi language, in fitting with the 2017 NAIDOC theme, ‘Our Languages Matter’.
Ms Duncan said she has been lucky to have been taught the Gomeroi language throughout her life.
“My generation and the generation that will come after me, we’ve been really blessed that we’ve grown up in a society where Gomeroi language has been encouraged, it’s been fostered to grow,” she said.
“We’ve been lucky enough to grow up where it has been spoken, where we have been taught, where we haven’t had government policies of the day preventing us from learning, so I think we should really acknowledge that.
“I have been incredibly lucky and blessed to grow up with the opportunity to learn the lingo, to know the knowledge that I have because a lot of our ancestors and our parents, grandparents did not have the opportunity but now is a time for a resurgence, now is the time to change that. It’s never too late to learn the lingo.
“Our language makes us who we are, it gives us our identity, it makes us Gomeroi, it makes us Aboriginal.
“I think that’s really important that Aboriginal people who have that knowledge share it, share the language to see it grow, to see it passed on to the next generation, to see that our language grows, that it gets stronger, to see that us as a people get stronger and that we can overcome the government policies of the past that tried to beat us down, that tried to see our people brought down, our language eradicated. But we’re still here, we still have our language and we can still speak it.”
Moree Aboriginal Interagency chair Glen Crump said there were some 250 distinct indigenous languages during European settlement, but sadly only 120 are spoken today.
“Today we recognise all people who are keeping our language alive, through stories, teachings, songs and dance,” he said.
“NAIDOC Week is an opportunity for us all to get together and celebrate our achievements, resilience, past and future.”
The Aboriginal flag was raised by Moree’s 2017 Elders of the Year Barry Sampson and Barbara Cutmore.
Moree Plains Shire Council general manager Lester Rodgers also spoke at the opening and encouraged everyone in the community to attend the events scheduled throughout the next two weeks.
The community then gathered at Kirkby Park for a barbecue at lunch time.