YESTERDAY’S official opening ceremony for NAIDOC Week was significant because it was the first one ever held to mark our local event.
The theme for Tamworth’s NAIDOC Week this year is “Serving Country: Centenary and Beyond” – and it was very much in evidence as two members of the 12th/16th Hunter River Lancers were present at the opening ceremony.
One of the men, Private Albert McKee, addressed the 150-strong crowd, saying what a privilege it was to be a member of the Australian Defence Force as a reservist.
Private McKee, an indigenous man, was also proud of his father Thomas Albert McKee’s service in the Royal Australian Air Force during WWII.
The 12th/16th Hunter River Lancers would also have a big role to play in tomorrow’s NAIDOC Week service in Inverell, with a catafalque party attending, said Jae Robinson, warrant officer class one and the regimental sergeant major.
NAIDOC Week chairman Marc Sutherland did the welcome to country at the opening ceremony and sang and used clapsticks as dancers did some traditional dances.
The Sapphires and The Gems also braved the bitingly cold wind to sing and dance at the ceremony, held at the Coledale Community Centre.
Mr Sutherland was very pleased with how the opening ceremony went.
“It’s a new experience,” he said.
“This is just really awesome having a community event celebrating Aboriginal culture around Australia.”
He said they were working closely with the Tamworth RSL Sub-branch on the week’s events, which include a WWII ceremony in Bicentennial Park at 10am on Saturday, followed by a family fun day (all welcome to march from one park to another) at Viaduct Park from noon.
“There’s been a huge number (of Aboriginal servicemen) from WWI all the way through to today and this week we want to pay respect and recognise their service,” Mr Sutherland said.
He thanked the NAIDOC committee and Tamworth community for helping with the week’s events.
Today’s activities include a flag-raising ceremony at Tamworth hospital, and a Gomeroi Gaayngaal Exhibition at the Tamworth Educational Centre (University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health).
Some of the week’s highlights include a free workshop for boys by the Gomeroi Dance Company from 3pm to 5pm at The Youthie on Wednesday, and free barefoot bowls and barbecue from 11am to 3pm at the West Tamworth Bowling Club.