Who’s your mob and where were you raised?
My mob are the Wemba Wemba people from the Swan Hill area along the Murray River in Victoria. Our family name is Stewart. I was raised in Victoria.
What is your role within the committee?
Bundaberg and District NAIDOC Coordinator
What made you want to get involved in NAIDOC events?
Because of my journey of cultural identity, which has two aspects. The first was to do something that helps my people. The second is that because I was not brought up in my culture, I wanted to be more involved in culture, but at first didn’t know how to do that. My mum had to pretend to be Greek so that she wouldn’t be taken so she and her siblings essentially had to denounce who they were. Because they lived in fear they rejected their culture. In her time to speak her language or be involved in any cultural practices or celebrations resulted in punishment. Therefore I grew up not knowing anything about my culture. And because I had been lost from my culture for most of my life, being involved in this wonderful celebrative week gives me a sense of purpose, and belonging.
How long have you been a member of the NAIDOC Committee?
This is my third year on the committee and my second year as NAIDOC Coordinator.
What does NAIDOC mean to you?
It’s about spreading the word of what NAIDOC means. And through the celebrations it is a time for all Australians and visitors to our land to embrace our ancient living culture. It is a chance for others, whom like I was – wanting to get involved and learn more about their culture – but not knowing how to do that. NAIDOC is exactly the place to immerse in culture and celebrate our people.
Which events are you most looking forward to?
Everything…I particularly want to go to the Knockout Knowledge, and the Cultural Performance, but for me the Gala Ball has a special appeal because it is where we get so see the awards being presented to deserving people, and hearing the alumni share their inspiring stories. Plus it’s the end of the week. It is the finale. It is a time to reflect on the week of events, the joy and pleasure brought to the whole community by celebrating our culture.
Anything else you would like to share?
This is the third year I’ve been involved in NAIDOC in Bundaberg. It is a dynamic movement growing each year. It moves me when people say that they didn’t know we had these awesome cultural events going on. When people thank me for the chance to be involved or ask questions because so many people have the same story as I do – that they weren’t brought up in the culture and links have been broken. This celebration of culture is a chance to mend those links. Being the NAIDOC Coordinator is one of the most important things I have done in life. Before I was involved with NAIDOC I didn’t understand that NAIDOC is time of celebration for everybody to enjoy and be a part of, so I encourage all Australians to join in and share in our inheritance of the oldest living culture in the world.