RAY COLLINS: NAIDOC Week

Last week I wrote about President Barack Obama’s moving eulogy for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, the minister of the Church in Charleston, South Carolina, who died along with eight parishioners when shot by a young white man.

As I listened to the President’s words about the long battle fought by the African American people of the United States to achieve justice in the “Land of the Free” I reflected on the fact that peoples in many other countries share a similar story, in particular the indigenous people of Australia.

For the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders of Australia the battle for recognition, for civil rights and for freedom from “segregation” has been a very long one and one that has not yet been fully achieved.

This last week marked the celebration of NAIDOC week when the indigenous people of Australia gather to celebrate the contribution they have made to Australia and their strong spiritual and cultural connection to land and sea.

On Friday as I was travelling to a meeting in Sydney, I was listening to ABC Sydney radio where the morning show was being broadcast from NAIDOC celebrations in Redfern. For a considerable part of the program the hosts encouraged people to ring in with stories of their favourite indigenous sports stars and the list was very long ranging from Yvonne Goolagong-Crawley through to modern day stars such as Jonathon Thurston. The list of outstanding sporting identities mentioned is much too long to report upon here but it prompted me to look beyond sport and to reflect on those who have contributed to Australian society over the years.

These would include those who selflessly served our county in times of war, at times when their own civil rights were denied them. The list of Aboriginal artists and musicians, politicians, civil rights advocates, statesmen and women, those who serve in the caring professions and those who work for the betterment of indigenous peoples across Australia would be equally as long as those involved in sport.

Australia has seen its own version of a Barack Obama quality eulogy when the indigenous leader Noel Pearson delivered an incredibly moving eulogy at the memorial service for former Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam.

As a Catholic school community we extend to our indigenous families, students and staff our sincere thanks for all you do as part of our education family and trust that you have enjoyed the NAIDOC celebrations of the last week. You have much to celebrate and Australia has reason to be thankful to the indigenous people who have helped create the community we enjoy today.

Ray Collins Image
Ray Collins

Ray Collins is the Director of Schools within the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. He is an authority on education issues.

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