NAIDOC Week opener reflects powerful theme

Yidaki (didgeridoo) and clapping sticks welcomed the crowd arriving at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Newcastle West for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle’s Sunday Service that kicked off NAIDOC week.

Dedicated to commemorating our rich indigenous heritage and culture, NAIDOC Week runs from 7-14 July. More importantly, it celebrates the invaluable contributions Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have made — and continue to make — within our communities.

The service reflected on this year’s powerful theme “Voice. Treaty. Truth – Let us work together for a shared future”. The theme brings to the forefront Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s long desire to hold an enhanced role in decision-making in Australia’s democracy.

Further, the theme lends itself to raising national awareness of the three key elements to the reforms set out in the 2017 Uluru statement: Voice. Treaty. Truth. These reforms embody the unified position of First Nation Australians.

Following the Cathedral Bell sounding at 1.55pm those gathered followed the sounds to the smoking ceremony at the foot of the Cathedral stairs.

Dianne Langham recognised not only the Awabakal people in the Acknowledgement of Country, but also other tribal groups from the area including Biripi, Darkinjung, Gweagal, Kamilaroi, Wonnarua and Worimi.

After walking through the smoke, those gathered made their way into the Cathedral, where the Aboriginal Cross and Richard Campbell’s painting Our Lady of Perpetual Help took pride of place.

The Cross, painted by Mini Heath from the Worimi people for Fr Tony Stace and the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, depicts the Milky Way at the base with the centre point representing the creator’s (God’s) love.

The arms of the cross were draped in NAIDOC Bandages, bearing the words, Voice Treaty Truth, which members were invited to take with them as a symbolic reminder of our call to participate in unbinding each other through listening, accompaniment, justice, mercy, love and compassion for “Voice. Treaty. Truth.”

The Cathedral was filled with warmth as those from different faith traditions gathered with love and respect.

Bishop Bill Wright, Bishop Sonia Roulston, Louise Campbell and Fr Greg Colby expressed welcome, blessings, hymns and prayers supporting the NAIDOC theme. Special guest speaker Bonnie Roberts moved the congregation, when for the first time she shared her personal and motivating story of conquering her battles with alcohol and drugs. She spoke strongly of her relationship with God being key to that healing and recovery.

The Sunday service was well-attended by members from all walks of life who came together to mark the special occasion that was the start of the week-long NAIDOC celebration.

Afterwards, members gathered together to enjoy soup, damper and conversation.

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Brittany Gonzalez Image
Brittany Gonzalez

Brittany Gonzalez is a Marketing and Communications Co-ordinator for Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.