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Women take centre stage for NAIDOC Week celebrations

The contribution of Aboriginal women to their communities, families and our nation will be the focus of this year's national NAIDOC Week celebrations.

Students at South Kempsey Public School celebrate NAIDOC Week

Kempsey South Public School youngsters celebrate NAIDOC Week and the role of inspirational Indigenous women

Aboriginal educators Fiona Kelly and Sheena Williams are living examples of this year’s NAIDOC theme, ‘Because of her, we can’.

Both teachers credit their career success in part to the inspiration they drew from the women in their families – mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers.

NAIDOC Week 2018, which will be held nationally from Sunday 8 July to Sunday 15 July, is turning the spotlight on the contributions Indigenous women have made to their communities, families and the nation.

Ms Kelly, executive principal at Menindee Central School, said it was fitting that NAIDOC Week would celebrate Indigenous women this year.

“Women have been a large part of the fight for Aboriginal rights for so long, but have remained in the background,” she said.

“I think it is amazing that we can honour these women who have been through so much.”

As one of 10 children, Ms Kelly said her mother, Marie Halls, was her greatest inspiration.

“My dad died when she was pregnant with her ninth child, but she was determined that our situation at the time wasn’t going to be our destiny,” Ms Kelly, a Barkindji/Ngiyampaa woman, said. “She never wavered in her belief in us.”

Ms Williams, a PDHPE teacher at Caringbah High School, has a similar story.

She said her great-grandmother, a Dharawal woman from La Perouse, and her Japanese grandmother were the two women who inspired her the most.

“My grandmother always told me I could do anything I wanted and my great-grandmother was a nurse, a midwife and a great advocate for Indigenous people,” she said.

With NAIDOC week falling during the school holidays many schools have already held celebrations and activities.

Caringbah High School, in Sydney’s south, has only five Aboriginal students but held a whole-school assembly today and a writing competition as part of its celebrations.

Event organiser Ms Williams said she believed it was important to have the entire school involved in the celebration to bring awareness to students about Indigenous issues and events.

To highlight the theme she asked students to write about the women – Indigenous or non-Indigenous  – who inspired them.

The assembly included Aboriginal dancers, speakers and Year 7 students singing the national anthem in language.

On the north coast of NSW, the Small Schools of the Macleay group hosted a NAIDOC festival involving eight schools and more than 20 community organisations.

Students from across the region were involved in a traditional Welcome ceremony before sharing in more than 30 activities, including drum beat, sand art, Indigenous games, cooking with native foods, cricket, dot painting, boomerang art, land art, fruit sculptures and face painting.

NAIDOC Week will be officially launched on Monday by NSW Aboriginal Affairs Minister Sarah Mitchell at the former Whalan High School site, which is earmarked to house the new Aboriginal Centre for Excellence.

As part of the Department of Education celebrations, employees will be asked to share stories, quotes, poems, names and photos of Indigenous women who have inspired them and a book club dedicated to reading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women writers and poets will be launched.

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