A reflection on NAIDOC Week 2021 and this year's theme, 'Heal Country!' – by Karan Taylor, CEDoW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education
This year’s NAIDOC theme 'Heal Country, Heal Our Nation' is significant for me as a Catholic Aboriginal woman, my spiritual connection to country is inherent to my identity.
It is more than a place it connects me to my faith and culture calling for all of us to continue to seek greater protections for our lands, our waters, our sacred sites and our cultural heritage from exploitation, desecration, and destruction. God’s gift of creation for all.
As Aboriginal peoples, we call 'Country' our 'Mother' and we respectfully care for our mother as she continues to sustain our lives in every aspect – spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially, and culturally.
When we talk about Country it is spoken of like a person. Country is family, kin, law, lore, ceremony, traditions, and language. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples it has been this way since the dawn of time (The Dreaming).
Through our diverse languages and songs, we speak to Country; through our ceremonies and traditions we sing to – and celebrate Country – and Country speaks to us.
Increasingly, we worry about Country. The right to protect Country and culture is fundamental.
Destruction and desecration of our sacred lands or ancient sites – some of the oldest human occupation sites on the planet – is an enormous loss for both our nation and the world.
But to truly heal Country we have more to do.
Our lands will continue to burn from bushfires, droughts will continue to destroy our livelihoods, without using traditional practices that have protected this country for centuries.
Healing Country means finally resolving many of the outstanding injustices which impact on the lives of our people. It must be a fair and equitable resolution.
To Heal Country, we must properly work towards redressing historical injustice.
Healing Country is more than changing a word in our national anthem – it is about the historical, political, and administrative landscapes adapting to successfully empower and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, nations, and heritage.
We are all looking for significant and lasting change. After 250 years, our children and our future generations deserve better.
While we can’t change history, through telling the truth about our nation’s past we certainly can change the way history is viewed.
NAIDOC 2021 invites the nation to embrace First Nations’ cultural knowledge and understanding of Country as part of Australia's national heritage and equally respect the culture and values of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders as they do the cultures and values of all Australians.
It's an opportunity for all Australians to come together to celebrate the rich history, diverse cultures, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the oldest continuing cultures on the planet.