More than 20 Aboriginal girls had the opportunity to dress like princesses for a night that was all about them on Monday at the Moree Aboriginal Mini Debutantes Ball session one.
A total of 22 girls, aged between four and six, made their debut at Moree’s Multi-Purpose Centre (MPC) on Monday evening, in front of a large crowd of family and friends.
Wearing beautiful white (some were daring in pink and purple) pouffy dresses, the girls were introduced to the crowd and sashed before being greeted by their partners to walk arm-in-arm down a red carpeted aisle, where they posed for photos and were made to feel like royalty.
Organised by the newly-formed Mehi Foundation, the Mini Deb Ball was the first of two to be held this NAIDOC Week.
The second, to be held on Tuesday, July 10, will see more than 40 Aboriginal girls aged between seven and 10 make their debut.
This is the first time the Mini Debs event has been held in Moree since about the 1990s, and the response from entrants was so popular, the Mehi Foundation had to split it into two nights.
With this year’s NAIDOC Week theme – ‘Because of her, I can’ – all about celebrating the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, the Mehi Foundation’s Jamalla Williams and Jordan McGrady thought it would be the ideal opportunity to bring back the Mini Deb Ball and celebrate the young Aboriginal girls in our community.
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“This year’s theme shines a light on women that paved the way for us to be what we are today,” Ms Williams said.
“This is the first NAIDOC Mini Debs – we thought we’d have a family event during NAIDOC Week for the community to get together.
“It’s something for the children; there’s nothing for the younger ones and they don’t really get an opportunity to dress up and that’s the age they want to be princesses.
“A deb ball caters well for the little kids to dress up.”
“It’s also introducing the girls to the community as themselves, not as their parents’ daughter,” Mr McGrady added.
“We want people to know the kids for them, not for who their parents are.”
Nearly every Aboriginal family in the community was represented among the debs and their partners, with some families even travelling back to Moree from as far as Sydney to be part of the event.
The girls and their partners participated in two rehearsals leading up to the night, which ended up being an outstanding success.
Ms Williams said the response they received from the community was “overwhelming”.
“Everyone was really pleased with it,” she said.
“It was a great turn-out; the community came together, everyone was smiling and happy.
“It was cuteness overload; they’re all little stars.”
At the beginning of the evening, hosts Glen Crump and Dawn Barlow introduced the special guests – Gwenda Stanley and Noeline Carr before Aunty Mary Swan did the Welcome to Country and Aunty Maureen Newman read a welcome prayer.
Paul Spearim and his dance group performed before the debs were introduced.
Due to the success of the Mini Debs event, the Mehi Foundation has plans to make it an annual event.
While this year it was only open to Aboriginal children, next year they plan on opening it up to the whole Moree community, to be held as part of Reconciliation Week, instead of NAIDOC Week.
The Mehi Foundation would like thank Moree Secondary College, Woolworths, Anglicare, Protecting Aboriginal Children Together (PACT), Balo Square Newsagency, La Maison Rose, Thiyama-Li Family Violence Service, Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Sister Speak, Cafe Gali, Miyay Birray, the Dhiiyaan Centre, Noeline Carr and Pat McGrady for making the sashes, and most importantly, the debs, their partners and their families.