Traditional owners take stand against NAIDOC celebrations
GIYA/GIA traditional owners have taken a stance against NAIDOC celebrations this week in the hope they will draw attention to injustices across the country.
NAIDOC Week is an initiative aimed at celebrating the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
However, Giya/Gia Kaiyu angel CEO Juanita Wanda Halden said they would not take part in the celebrations after a spate of sacred sites across the country were destroyed.
"We choose not to celebrate in an effort to highlight the ongoing challenges we face as First Nation's people over protecting our country, land, seas, waterways and cultural heritage sites," she said.
"The community can participate in other ways this week to acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, but under the banner of NAIDOC, we won't.
"It's a government banner and it's a government initiative, and it's the government and its subsidiaries that are linking to these actions that are destroying our culture and our cultural heritage sites.
"As a community, we can take a stance together to make a difference."
Ms Halden referred to the removal of the Djab Wurrung tree in Victoria, which was a place where traditionally women went to give birth.
The tree was removed by the Victorian Government to make way for a highway.
She also highlighted issues around the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura caves in Western Australia, which were destroyed by mining company Rio Tinto in October.
Giya/Gia woman Rita Brimble said the removal of Djab Wurrung tree had emphasised the broken bonds between the government and First Nation people.
"A lot of us are upset that the government are going over our heads and causing environmental and cultural damage," she said.
"We are not really happy about this, so it doesn't feel right to celebrate."
Instead, the Giya/Gia community will hold smoke ceremonies and blessings of the land to acknowledge those in mourning.
The smoke ceremonies will also aim to highlight the challenges the First Nation's people face over land ownership and rights.
Giya/Gia woman Vicky Brimble said they would help the community heal while blessing the land.
"It's the healing that needs to be done, blessing the ground and getting rid of the negative energy," she said.
"We are the voice of our ancestors who cannot speak any longer and we are here to support the community and here to help."