Join us in celebrating NAIDOC Week 2021 (daily events available to stream from 21 to 25 June) with the theme ‘Heal Country!’.

NAIDOC Week is a time to reflect and celebrate the history, culture and achievements of First Nation Peoples – recognising them as the Traditional Owners of the land.

This year NSW Public Schools will celebrate a week earlier to fit into the school term.

Join the virtual celebration via video streams hosted here by the Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships Directorate, every weekday from 21 to 25 June.

The official NAIDOC Week (4 to 11 July) is also being marked by events in the Department and in communities around Australia. The websites and social media of local governments and land councils are good places to find information on events and celebrations.

Check out other online events on the RAP Hub.

2020 NAIDOC Week opening

9am Monday, 9 November 2020

  • Acknowledgement of Country
  • Opening Address from Mark Scott
  • Q and A between Aboriginal students and Mark Scott, Martin Graham, Karen Jones, Cindy Berwick and Michelle Hall.
[Video duration: 16:29]
Secretary Mark Scott opens NAIDOC Week on Monday 9 November along with Karen Jones, Executive Director of Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships; Cindy Berwick, NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) President; Michele Hall, Executive Director, Connected Communities; and Martin Graham, Deputy Secretary, Education and Skills Reform.

On-screen text

Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships Education and Skills Reform Division

NAIDOC Week 2020

[music plays while students hand a talking stick to one another]

Darcy, Fort Street High School

I would like to acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of this land, and pay my respects to the Elders both past and present. 

Izzy, Soldiers’ Settlement Primary School

How deadly was that Acknowledgement to Country? 

Yaama. My name is Isaiah, I am a proud Barkandji and Bidjigal Man. I am in Year 6 at Matraville Soliders’ Settlement Public School on Bidjigal land. 

I am really excited to be participating in the launch of this special virtual NAIDOC Week celebration. I’m sure that everyone can agree that 2020 has been a huge year so far. 

NAIDOC Week is usually celebrated in the first week of July but due to the impacts of COVID-19, the national NAIDOC committee made the difficult decision to postpone NAIDOC Week 2020. 

It gives me a great pleasure to introduce Secretary of the NSW Department of Education, Mr Mark Scott. 

Mark Scott, the Secretary, NSW Department of Education

Warami, I’d like to extend to you all a very warm welcome to our 2020 NAIDOC celebrations. 

Our department offices stand on the lands of the Darug people in Parramatta

and for over 60,000 years that land has been occupied by the Burramattagal people, a clan of Darug who occupied the upper reaches to the Parramatta River. 

NAIDOC Week is a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements and is an opportunity to recognise the contributions that Aboriginal people make to our country and our society. 

This year’s NAIDOC theme is: ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’.

NAIDOC 2020 invites all Australians to embrace and acknowledge the true history of this country. A history which dates back thousands of generations. 

The very first footprints on this continent were those belonging to the First Nations people and who have maintained ongoing spiritual and cultural connections to the land and sea. 

All Australians should celebrate that we have the world’s oldest oral stories and that our first peoples engraved the world’s first maps, made the first and earliest paintings of ceremonies, invented unique technologies and built an engineered structures that pre-date well known ancient sites, such as the Pyramids and Stonehenge. 

I hope you all take advantage to enjoy and celebrate NAIDOC Week 2020. 


Thanks Mr Scott, and now for a bit of fun thanks to all the schools who have submitted questions for Mr Scott, Aunty Karen Jones – Executive Director of Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships, Aunty Cindy Berwick – NSW AECG President, Aunty Michele Hall – Executive Director, Connected Communities, and Mr Martin Graham – Deputy Secretary, Education and Skills Reform.

Zane, Glebe Public School

Hi, my name is Zane, and I go to Glebe Public School. My question is, what was your favourite subject at school and why?

Mark Scott

Thanks for your question Zane, and I can tell you the subject that I enjoyed most when I was at school was English because I really loved reading. Reading and writing were some of my favourite things to do at school and even today, I really love reading and being surrounded by books and exploring other lives through books. 

That’s one of the things I’ve taken from reading. That sense that you only get to live one life yourself but through reading you can explore many worlds, 

many different people, many different times in history and just understand everyone that much better. 

So I’m a big reader, and I encourage you to become a big reader as well. 

Harley, Alexandria Park Community School 

Hi, my name is Harley, and I go to Alexandria Park Community School, and my question for you is, why is NAIDOC so important to you?  

Mark Scott

Thanks for your question Harley. NAIDOC week provides us all with a great opportunity to understand and celebrate the history, the culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

I know that NAIDOC week is an opportunity for celebrations in our schools all across NSW’s 2200 government schools. Every year I love just getting the pictures, and the videos, and the stories of different celebrations taking place at schools all around the state.

I know this year, 2020, this memorable year that we are all living through is going to provide us again with a great opportunity to celebrate and to learn from each other during NAIDOC Week. 

Casey, Briar Road Public School 

I’m Casey. What’s your favourite part of your job?

Karen Jones, Executive Director, Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships

Thanks for the great question Casey. 

As Executive Director of Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships, I get to provide advice and work with schools about how we best serve our schools and communities to make a difference in the lives of students with our staff and with our communities, and I previously was a teacher. 

So I have to say the best part of doing this job is still visiting schools ‘cause they’re great places to be, but I also love being part of a team and whether it’s a member of a team in a school or in an office, I love working with groups of other people. 

I also like being a member of our public education family ‘cause it means we’re part of the team that cares about people. Especially our students for we get to deliver the future each and every day through our work. 

We get to deliver this very important job by getting to know our students and valuing their dreams and aspirations. It is a profound privilege and huge responsibility but I love being in schools and being a teacher. 

I’m now in my 39th year of working in the Department of Education and I’m still incredibly proud of the work that we do together and the difference we make, not only in the lives of our students but also in the creation of a socially just Australian society. 

As I said earlier, Casey, my favourite part was and always will be visiting schools. Talking to great students like you, talking to staff, meeting communities and it always remains the best part of my job.

The second best part of my job, and it comes pretty close, are the great people I work with. Thanks again Casey for taking the time to send your question in and I hope I’ve answered your question. Have a great day. 

Jackson, Cooma North Public School 

My name’s Jackson, I go to Cooma North Public School, and I live on Ngarigo land. What do you do to celebrate NAIDOC?

Karen Jones

Thanks for the great question Jackson. NAIDOC is a terrific time of celebration where I live here on Darkinjung Country on the Central Coast of NSW. 

Across NAIDOC Week each and every year, there are many celebrations and we have a fabulous family day which my grandchildren love to attend. We have lots of fun and rides and we connect with many other Aboriginal families on the Central Coast.

Our local showground is a place where many of the adults with their families, come together where we catch up with others. There’s thousands of people there and we get to see lots of fabulous artwork prepared by our students in our public schools and many other groups across the Central Coast. 

I’m always interested in the NAIDOC poster each and every year because I love to see the eyes the talented people come up with and this year is a very exciting, colourful NAIDOC poster that was chosen as the winning entry. It’s called the shape of the land and shows the Rainbow Serpent coming out of the Dreamtime to create our country and it also shows how we continue to stay connected to it given there’s an Indigenous Australian in the middle of it and that reminds everyone that this land Always was and Always will be Aboriginal land. 

The other quiet moments through NAIDOC Week are the times where I reflect on those that have come before us, those that continue to inspire us to be proud of our past, value our past and be confident of our future. 

But mostly, I love coming together with people to celebrate that this land Always as and Always will be Aboriginal land. 

Thank you for your question Jackson and I hope you have had a great week celebrating NAIDOC this year in 2020 – a year that’s different in the way we’ve celebrated, a year we’ve still continued to take the time to celebrate proudly our past as Aboriginal Australians. 

Yatunka, Briar Road Public School

I’m Yatunka, I’m from Briar Road. Who is your favourite Koori? 

Cindy Berwick, NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) President

Thank you Yatunka for that question, who is your favourite Koori? 

There’s a number of people that actually come to mind, particularly in my because I follow the South Sydney Rabbitohs, there’s lot’s of favourite Koori’s in the South Sydney Rabbitoh team like Cody Walker, Latrell Mitchell, Alex Johnston and the list goes on. Of course Greg Inglis who used to play for them. 

Of course I’m still a little upset that they didn’t make the Grand Final but there’s always next year.

But even though they’re some of my favourite Kooris but probably the most favourite Koori that I have is a person called William Ferguson. William Ferguson was a real activist and a fighter for social justice for Aboriginal people across NSW. He was instrumental in getting the Aboriginal peoples’ right to be counted in the census in the 1967 Referendum. 

Because my job is a lot about advocacy and standing up for the rights of Aboriginal people, I would say that he’s probably one of my most favourite Kooris and the most influential Koori. 

Amandine, Glebe Public School

My name is Amandine and I go to Glebe Public School. My question is, what does the NAIDOC 2020 theme, ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’, mean to you?

Cindy Berwick

Hi Amadine, thanks for your question about the NAIDOC theme ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’ and what it actually means to me. 

I guess the NAIDOC theme makes me feel really proud to be Aboriginal and really proud to be part of the oldest living culture of humanity. 

Always was, Always will be Aboriginal land but that’s not all ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’ means to me. 

It also means to me that we were the first people in a lot of areas like we Always was, Always will be the first astronomers, we Always was, Always will be the first archaeologists, we Always was, Always will be the first inventors. 

So we Always was, Always will be First Nations people and for that I’m really proud of our ancestors and it makes me proud to be Aboriginal. 

Thomas, Cooma North Public School

Hi, my name is Thomas. I go to Cooma North Public School. I live on Ngarigo land. I want to ask a question, what’s your favourite thing about your job?

Michele Hall, Executive Director, Connected Communities

Yaama Thomas and thank you for your question of what is your most favourite thing about your job. 

Thomas, that was a really tricky question and a difficult one because there’s so many great things about my job that I felt, how can I pick out one of the most obvious to me? 

So thank you for making me think and making me realise the scope and intensity of this job that I have. 

What I like about my job the most is I get to work in an area that I can support Aboriginal people. That more importantly as an Aboriginal woman, 

I can work with Aboriginal students, I can work with their families and their community. I can learn from them and together we can share great hope for the future and great prosperity for our people. 

So the greatest thing about my job are little gundus like you, the children, and also what we can do together to make it a better day for Aboriginal students in NSW public schools. 

Preston, Alexandria Park Community School

Hi, my name is Preston and I go to Alexandria Park Community School. My question is, what’s your advice for someone who likes to play basketball and has four years left at school?

Martin Graham, Deputy Secretary, Education and Skills Reform

Thanks Preston, it’s great to have something in life that you are passionate about like basketball, but sport isn’t just something you can do in school. It’s also a growing industry and there are many careers that you might want to consider after you leave school. 

There’s sports psychology, management, coaching, or even related industries like running a gym. Over the next four years, you might want to think about 

what kind of courses you need to do after school and how you need to be prepared.

Speak to your teachers, your careers advisors and people in the basketball scene about what kind of jobs there are and what kind of courses you might need to do afterwards. And if you do manage to make it as a pro basketballer, just remember the teachers that looked after you on the way up. 

Ruby, Adamstown Public School

Yaama. My name is Ruby Graham

Audrey, Adamstown Public School

and my name is Audrey Graham


and we’re Gamilaraay girls


from Adamstown Public School.


Our question is, when you were at school did you get in trouble? What for?


And what did your parents say?

Martin Graham

Yaama Ruby and Audrey and what great names you have because I’m a Graham too. Since we’re all Grahams, I’m gonna tell you about a time that I haven’t told anyone else about.

When I went to school, if you were late to school, you used to have to get a late note otherwise you would get in trouble and well sometimes, I was late to school. Mainly because I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. This used to drive my mum mad because she’d have to take me to school in a big rush.

This one time, I thought I was really smart so I got her to write me a note and this was before emails so it was a proper note in an envelope and everything. So she drove me to school, I took it in, handed it in at the principal's office and I was walking off to class and thought I have totally got away with this when the call comes out over the PA system: “Would Martin Graham please report to the principal's office!”

So I went back to the principal's office and there the principal had the note that my mum had written. It said Sir, Martin is late to school because he was too lazy to get out of bed, please put him on detention. So I got in trouble at home and I got into trouble at school. 

But I tell you what, I was never late again. 

Embedding cultural practice in schools

9am Tuesday, 10 November 2020

  • Acknowledgment of Country
  • Windale Public School Preschool
  • Terrigal Public School
  • Wilcannia Central School
  • Murrumbidgee Regional High School.
[Video duration: 20:43]
How Windale Public School Preschool, Terrigal Public School, Wilcannia Central School and Murrumbidgee Regional High School are embedding Aboriginal history and culture.

On-screen text

Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships Education and Skills Reform Division

NAIDOC Week 2020

[music plays while students hand a talking stick to one another]

Izzy, Soldiers’ Settlement Primary School

Yaama. Welcome back you mob to our 2020 virtual NAIDOC celebrations. I am proud to be acknowledging the Aboriginal people as the traditional and ongoing custodians of the lands and waters. Today we get to see three of our deadly public schools embedding Aboriginal histories and culture.

Windale Public School Preschool

We put our hands on the ground to acknowledge the Awabakal land.

We put our hands to the sky that covers the Awabakal land.

We put our hands to our heart to care for the Awabakal land.

Learning Pathways, Terrigal Public School

We are all visitors to this time, this place.
We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe.
To learn, to grow, to love. And then we return home.

The more you know, the less you need.

Traveller, there are no paths. Paths are made by walking.

[music plays]

Hey sister girls and brother boys, come listen to my lingo.
Here at school we playin’ it cool with learning we’ll be heroes.

At Terrigal we a deadly mob, we got the sea, the sky, the beaches.
We connected to our Country and we’re learning from our teachers.

Who we cause our school is deadly we taught to be free thinkers.
Our learning pathways can be followed when we just take off our blinkers.

We know the good within ourselves and the good we see in others.
We’re working as a mob to get the best for our sisters and brothers.

School’s a place where we belong,
It’s a place for you and me.
It builds us up and makes us strong.
Our future we can see.

We’re the kids from here, that’s going somewhere,
We know we’re on our way.
Our learning paths will take us there,
Spirits guide us every day.

We all have special super powers that make us all unique
We’ve been learning from the elders and now it’s our time to speak.

With the superpower of the storyteller, we’ve been teaching all our fellas.
We like to share our dream and spread them out, red, black and yellow.

Now shake a leg! Now shake a leg! Now shake a leg!

School’s a place where we belong,
It’s a place for you and me (you and me).
It builds us up and makes us strong.
Our future we can see (can see).

We’re the kids from here, that’s going somewhere,
We know we’re on our way (on our way).
Our learning paths will take us there,
Spirits guide us every day (every day).

Our classrooms here don’t have four walls, the earth is our provider.
We take our learning from the class and use it as a survivor.

We come to school to rise and think and so, real life situations
We know we can be whoever we want. There are no limitations.

We got our history in our blood and we know where we are from.
We don’t need to tell you cause our minds will make us strong.

We’re all original, unconditional learning in a world that’s gone all digital.
Individual, not invisible and this is critical – we’re proud Aboriginals.

School’s a place where we belong,
It’s a place for you and me (you and me).
It builds us up and makes us strong.
Our future we can see (can see).

We’re the kids from here, that’s going somewhere,
We know we’re on our way (on our way).
Our learning paths will take us there,
Spirits guide us every day (every day).

School’s a place where we belong,
It’s a place for you and me.
It builds us up and makes us strong.
Our future we can see.

We’re the kids from here, that’s going somewhere,
We know we’re on our way (on our way).
Our learning paths will take us there,
Spirits guide us every day.

Now shake a leg.

On-screen text

Lyrics by Helen MacDonald

Produced by P.A. Productions and Just Add Music

Wilcannia Central School

From little things, big things grow.

BB Adams, Wilcannia River Radio

You’re here with the deadliest station Wilcannia River Radio. And BB Adams is right here with you and don’t we have something deadly.

Our very own Wilcannia Central School has a song especially for you out there. Miss Sarah and all the staff wants all of us to remember this one thing: just cause we’re stuck at home, doesn’t mean we can’t stay connected.

So if you want to be a part of this journey people, record yourself on your phone. Sing along to the chorus and then of course sending it to our deadly Miss Sarah.

Just for you in Wilcannia, from little things, big things grow. Here on your station 103.1 FM, Keeping it alive.

On-screen text

From Little Things Big Things Grow

Sarah Donnelly, Deputy Principal, Wilcannia Central School, Students from Wilcannia Central School

Wilcannia Central School

Gather round people, I’ll tell you a story
Of teachers and students with passion and pride.

We come from Wilcannia, and we’d like you to listen.
These times might be scary, but together we’ll stand.

[Video shows drivers bringing caution tape around the Wilcannia community.]

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow

At home by myself, I can see all your faces.
We miss all your laughter, even though it’s not far away.

Daily, the pressures grow tighter and tighter,
But I hope with your family, you’re safe and away.

[Video shows community gradually being joined together with the caution tape, keeping safe distances between them.]

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow

I wrote you a letter and I hope that you’ve read it.
Oh, these times are a-changing and we haven’t caught up yet.

But we’ve all been busy, we’ll get there I promise
Because you little murrpas deserve the very best.

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow

If there’s one thing I know, it’s that you’ve got the courage,
And you know we’re with you even if not side by side.

Our river’s still flowing, you can feel our heart beating.
We love you stay safe because we’re all one big family.

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow

There’s one final thing we want you to remember,
It won’t be forever, so please stay at home.

Oh, you little things won’t you stay at home.
Please, little things stay at home.

[Video shows both ends of the caution tape coming together at the gates of the school.]

All 'cause from you little things, big things will grow.

BB Adams

Oh yeah, there you have it. That is how Miss Sarah does from where little things big things grow. I just can’t wait to see all our deadly little ones singing along. At home, so watch out people Wilcannia’s coming at you.

Wilcannia Central School

We love you stay safe, cause we’re all one big family.
So, from little things big things grow
From little things big things grow

[More students join the main singer via Zoom.]

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow

[Video shows the singer walking into Wilcannia Central School.]

On-screen text

Please stay at home little murrpas…

From little things big things grow (in Wilcannia)

Ms Sarah (Deputy Principal – Primary) would like to thank…

Wilcannia Central School
Annette Cam (Principal)
Rachel Holmes (Teacher)
Tarren Walsh (Teacher)
Kim Yo (Teacher)
Regina Hunter (Senior Leader – Community Engagement)
Temicka Lawson (SLSO)
Uncle Sunno (SEO)
Felicity Johnson (SLSO)
Phillip Hunter (SLSO)
Greg Barrowclough (GA)

NSW Department of Education
Luke Ballard (Director, Educational Leadership, Connected Communities)
Margaret Mulcahy (Director, Educational Leadership, Connected Communities)

Maari Ma Health Aboriginal Corporation
Bob Davis (Chief Executive Officer)
Justin Files (Executive Manager, Social and Community Programs)
and all the team at Maari Ma

ABC Broken Hill
Aimee Volkofsky and the crew, for their editing advice

Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly

Central Darling Shire
Bob Randall (Administrator)
Greg Hill (General Manager)

103.1 FM Wilcannia River Radio
Brendon Adams (Team Leader)
Nakeisha Jackson (Camera Operator)
and the team at 103.1 FM

Support crew
Hamish Cowan (Cameras and Editing)

Paul Kelly & Kev Carmody for the inspiration

And last but not least…

Thank you to the Wilcannia Central School murrpas (kids) and their families, who are the reason we love what we do.

All NSW Health regulations related to social distancing and hygiene were followed in the making of this film… with the exception of little Curtis, who didn’t get the ‘social distance memo’ when Ms Sarah turned up to collect his homework.

PS. We can’t wait for this to be over so that hugs are okay again.

On-screen text

Always Was Always Will Be
Abbey Noffke and Piper Stewart (Year 9)

Abbey and Piper, Murrumbidgee Regional High School

Yinaaglalangbu, gibirbangbu (ladies and gentlemen)

Nginyal Yindyamarra (I respect)

Wiradyuigu ngurambanggu (Wiradyuri country)

Wiradjuri maying gadhaang (Wiradyuri are happy)

Ngindhugir nginhi yanhayi (you all have come here)

Do you know what land you’re on today?

No matter where you are in Australia, you are always on Aboriginal Land.

The 2020 NAIDOC theme, Always was, Always will be, is a powerful NAIDOC theme for the Kooris in the South, the Murris up in the North and the Noongars in the West.

Always was, Always will be recognises that the First Nations people have occupied, cared for and possessed this land under our own laws and customs for over 65,000 years. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were Australia’s first explorers, our first navigators, first engineers and our first farmers.

This year marks 250 years since Captain Cook sailed the Endeavour along the East Coast of this country and the theme recognises that our nation’s history did not start here.

Did you know that Captain Cook wasn’t even the first non-Aboriginal person to come to this country? In 1606, the Dutch and Spanish came, looked around then left. They didn’t put a stake on our country.

In 1700, the Macassans regularly sailed from Indonesia to this continent to trade with the Yolŋu (yoo-long) people. The Macassans and Yolŋu mob even shared songs, stories and significant sites.

The Macassans always left the land as it was and Always Will be Aboriginal Land. 250 years ago, Captain Cook sailed The Endeavour around the coast to the continent. After Cook mapped Venus, the original purpose of his trip, he opened secret orders from King George III which explained the true purpose of his journey.

This was to find and take possession of the southern continent if it was uninhabited or with the consent of the natives if occupied.

I am sure the Aboriginal people did not give consent to Cook taking their land. This happened over 250 years ago and we are still waiting for dialogue to give consent to Cook taking the land. This land Always was and Always will be, Aboriginal land.

250 years ago after travelling along the East Coast and renaming locations and landforms along the way, Cook landed on a place he called Possession Island and claimed possession of the entire East Coast he had explored for Britain. Cook planted a flag in the ground which made thousands of years and hundreds of cultures in colonisation eyes invalid.

Well, that’s Cook's side of the story. Let me tell you the side of the Torres Strait Islander people who knew Cook was coming. Fires were lit from the traditional owners of the land along the coast as Cook was passing by. These fires told the next tribe of a stranger passing.

These fires were like the ‘Black Fellas’ Internet’. So when Cook got to Possession Island, 3000 Indigenous people were waiting for him with spears to set foot on their land. Cook saw this and kept on sailing. He knew this land was occupied by the Aboriginal people. He even wrote, “In the PM we saw smoke or fire in several places. A sign this country is inhabited.” How can you claim a country from a ship floating at sea, and how can you claim it as yours?

200 years ago in a battle for land, thousands of Aboriginal people were massacred by settlers, convicts and stockmen. These massacres are now known as Australian frontier wars. A battle for land that is, was and Always will be Aboriginal land.

185 years ago when John Batman first settled at Port Phillip, he attempted to do the right thing and buy the land from the Aboriginal people through a treaty by offering the Aboriginal people tools, clothes and food for their land. But the NSW Governor stopped this by issuing a proclamation stating that the land belonged to no-one prior to the British Crown taking possession of it and refused to recognise it as a legitimate treaty.

82 years ago, things started to change when Aboriginal people started fighting back for the land rights. On January 26th 1938, celebrations were held taking in Sydney. After the parade finished over 1000 Aboriginal people and their supporters took part in a silent march through the streets of Sydney. They were mourning over Aboriginal lives lost and pain caused by colonisation and the seizure of the land by white people. There were hundreds of other protests to follow after this.

32 years ago, Prime Minister Bob Hawke received the Barunga Statement from the Aboriginal Elders. The statement was a painted declaration that included the aspiration of the Indigenous Elders and occupiers of Australia and requested the Australian Government and people to recognise their rights. The Prime Minister, on behalf of the government, committed to developing a treaty with the Aboriginal people. Since then, there have been an exhausting number of government enquiries, meetings and reports but little progress has been made.

Aboriginal people are still not being heard. They never gave up on their country, they never gave up on their land. Always was, Always will be Aboriginal land.

Three years ago, a large group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people together developed the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The statement called for the establishment of the First Nations voices enshrined in the Australian constitution and the establishment of the Makarrata Commission to supervise agreement making, truth telling and treaties between Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal Australians but this was rejected by the government.

Always was, and Always will be Aboriginal Land.

So while we might say it Always was, Always will be Aboriginal land, there is still a long way to go before this is formally recognised by the Australian Government.

We are not young and free but ancient and chained from the stains of our past. We need to own our history so we can move forward. We can start to learn about the true Australian history we need to map our destiny forward.

Interview with Benson Saulo

9am Wednesday. 11 November 2020

  • Acknowledgement of Country
  • Benson Igua Saulo, in-coming Consul-General to the US, based in Houston (2021)
  • Tamworth High School
  • Peel High School.
[Video duration: 26:21]
Students from Tamworth High School and Peel High School interview Benson Saulo, Australia’s first Indigenous consul-general appointed to the United States.

On-screen text

Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships Education and Skills Reform Division

NAIDOC Week 2020

[music plays while students hand a talking stick to one another]

Izzy, Soldiers’ Settlement Primary School

Yaama everyone. I would like to acknowledge that we are working, playing and living on Aboriginal land and pay respect to Elders, past, present and emerging.

Today we get to meet Benson Saulo. Benson is a proud Wemba Wemba, Jardwadjali, Weregia and Gunditjmara man. Mr Saulo is Australia’s first Indigenous consul-general appointed to the United States.

Montana, Tamworth High School

Can you hear me?

Benson Saulo, Consul-General to the United States of America, 2021

Yeah, I sure can. Yep.

Sorry, it was Montana, was it?



Benson Saulo

Fantastic, nice to meet you.


Nice to meet you.

Yaama, I would like to acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the traditional custodians on the land upon which we meet, walk, live and work on today.

We pay our respects to the Elders past, present and emerging and acknowledge that spiritual connection to Country and stand together with the leaders of today and tomorrow for they hold the memories, traditions and hopes of First Nation Australians.

Benson Saulo

Fantastic, thank you.

Michael Kellner, Teacher and Mentor, Peel High School

Good afternoon, we are here to have a bit of a chat with young Benson Saulo.

I met this young lad as a bright eyed bushy tailed Year 7 student at Peel High School in, oh, damn knows what year and I had the pleasure of being the year adviser for that particular group. He’s really hit his straps at half past Year 9, maybe quarter to Year 10 and started to really develop into an amazing young leader. As I look down his list of accomplishments on the cheat sheet that I’ve got in front of me, I just sort of think, you know, if that’s what a kid from a country high school in NSW can do, then there’s hopes for everybody.

His parents are amazing people. It’s an interesting mix of two different Indigenous cultures that allow him to, probably see the world from a unique perspective.

Ended up starting with a traineeship with ANZ bank. Working for the ANZ he got his first taste of the real world and how people outside school would treat him. I think he learned a lot during that year about people and about communities and about probably the Australian country culture and how people look at different people in different ways. I think this allowed him to start to develop a real social conscience that allowed him to go into the pathways that he’s been.

I think the highlight from his career for me at this stage would have to be his experience with the United Nations and just being a Youth Ambassador for Indigenous Australians. I think that experience and actually attending the General Assembly and just being at that level is a really unique experience that he’s been able to bring to his work with Australian youth and with community partnerships that he’s done, for many, many years.

He always tells the story of meeting the Dalai Lama and just coming into contact with people that most people don’t get to talk to, and don’t get to listen to and it’s just absolutely fantastic that Benson, starting in a high school in country NSW, much like many other, has had those opportunities so without any further ado, I’d like to introduce Benson Saulo.

Benson Saulo

Thanks for that Pav. It’s nice, it’s many years that we’ve known each other and I appreciate the introduction. And one of the things that always stuck with me, in regards to our relationship versus teacher, coach and friend.

You know, the thing that you always taught me and us as rugby students, you took us off the field and taught us the rules of how to play rugby and you said that the best players are the ones that go right to the edge and push the rules and push the boundaries within the game because they’re the ones that are going to make a difference and have an impact in the game.

So that’s something from Year 8, Year 9 that I remember you took us aside and gave us a little rulebook for rugby. That was something that really sat with me in that in life, there’s structures that we kind of operate in but, get to know that structure and get to know that system and then work within it to be able to change it but have that impact but that’s something that Pav, you have instilled in me from a very young age, so I want to thank you for that.

Michael Kellner

No problem

Benson Saulo

Montana, I also want to just wanted to say, again, thank you for the acknowledgement and welcome. I was just looking at your t-shirts and your logos and the thing I love about those is that the symbol, is one of the oldest symbols on Earth in regards to people coming together.

It’s so great to have you guys as part of the program and part of the leadership journeys you are on. I think that the powerful thing that is not only in those symbols but in the fact that you are wearing them. These have been around for 20,000 , 30,000, 50,000 years. You actually yourselves, represent the ongoing custodianship of culture in your own lives so I want to say well done to you and well done to the group and well done to the crew here at Peel here as well with Miss Bricknall.

Michael Kellner

I believe Tamworth High, you’ve got a question for Benson.

Tamworth High

How do you stay connected to culture when you have multiple roles to play in your life?

Benson Saulo

It’s a good question. As you all know, I grew up in Tamworth but my family are all from western Victoria and also from New Ireland Province in Papua New Guinea and so actually, I didn’t grow up in my own cultures.

By virtue of being surrounded by wonderful Elders many of you would know them. When I speak of Uncle Joe and Aunty Pearl Trindall and a number of the strong leaders we have in Tamworth, there was always that welcoming and that embrace and that emersion in culture.

When I think about the roles that I get to have and the places that I get to go to, one thing that I’m here to remember, particularly growing up in First Nations culture is that you don’t park it, you don’t put it to the side when you go and put on a suit or when you go to pursue any work in life.

You know, culture is who you are. It’s the flesh on your bones, it’s the spirit that drives you and it’s that continual and constant connection to the lands that you walk on.

Michael Kellner

Second question, I believe is coming from Peel High.

Pyper, Peel High School

What does NAIDOC mean to you?

Benson Saulo

What was your name, sorry?


Pyper, sorry.

Benson Saulo

Pyper, no worries Pyper.

There’s two ways that I look at NAIDOC. For me, the first part is the annual reflection. So every year, we’re reflecting and celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture within schools, and workplaces within our communities.

So for me that one part for me is the celebration of all things powerful and important for our people. From the role models that we see across our society, through to our Elders as well that play a significant role, right through to our organisations that support our communities.

So there’s the celebration side of it and the other side of it is also the reflection.

When I think of reflection, it’s not only being able to look at our history, it’s also being able to reflect and think about our future. So the ability to reflect on our past role models, the past movements.

When we think about the Referendum in 1967, when we think about the, important work that’s been done around reconciliation since the 2000s. The apology in 2008, right through to the Statement from the Heart, which happened in 2016 I believe. It’s important to understand those movements that have happened to support opportunities that we have today. Then that extra element of reflection is looking into the future.

Michael Kellner

So, I have great pleasure in introducing colleague and friend Kate Bricknall. Kate, I think met Benson around the same time I did, way back in yeah – we won’t talk about how long ago it was.

She is an outstanding teacher of English and an outstanding mentor of young people. I think she saw in Benson quite a few things that others missed. I think that she has a number of interesting stories that she’d like to tell about Benson. Then, she will tell about what she is supposed to in the interview.

Kate Bricknall, Teacher, Peel High School


Thank you Michael. It is a pleasure, Benson, to be able to sit here and have the opportunity to speak about you and who you are and who you have been as a student but also as an adult who has never forgotten who he is and where he came from.

So often when people leave their country towns or their local high schools, and go off to the sort of amazing achievements that Benson has achieved, that past tends to be a little forgotten. Whereas I know I can rely on Benson to come and speak with young people.

Just recently, zooming to my kids at a different school from here, spending time talking to young people. Giving them time, giving them words and showing them that there are ways to become just about anything you want to be. But the important thing I think about all of it is that whether learning was formal or informal, Benson took it with him.

Now I remember the frustration of teaching English and knowing Benson had it in his head and not necessarily on the page and a great pride and pleasure when a few years after he finished school, I looked at Benson’s blog and here were all the things I had taught him and here were all the structures and styles and the language that I had taught him. It made me realise that as a teacher, we don’t teach children for the day that they are with us and the exam at the end of Year 12, we teach them for life.

I will sum him up with a quote that I used time and time in class and every time I write on a student’s farewell message and it’s a quote from Hamlet and the quote goes like this:

“This above all, to thine own self be true.”

And Benson personifies that quote. To himself, he is true.

And that is a quality that I would hope to see in any young person more than anything else.

So congratulations on your achievements, we watch with bated breath and excitement and hope that your future holds for you, your wife and your baby such amazing things. Congratulations.

Michael Kellner

OK, is there another question from Tamworth High?

Bianca, Tamworth High School

Who would you say was your biggest role model when you were our age?

Benson Saulo

Sorry, what was your name?



Benson Saulo

Hey Bianca! Firstly, role models are so important and the reason why I love role models is they’re the people that are in your corner. You know, they’re the ones that are going to support you and encourage you.

One of them, is actually on the call, particularly in Mr Kellner, Pav, in the sense that the coach that I needed, and the time he took to talk about how to navigate and what happens on the field, on the rugby field it has so many applications and translates so well into real life.

It’s the idea of teamwork, it’s the idea of planning and then executing that plan and also the importance of technique as well. If you do things wrong on the field, if you lean into a tackle incorrectly, you can injure yourself and so it’s not only important to go through the motions, it’s also important to get the technique right.

For a young person, that was really important to me. It was being able to think through things deeply and understand how to do things correctly in the way that I wanted to see them done.

The other people, it’s absolutely my Mum and Dad. My mum very young age she grew up in a tin shed with dirt floors on the outskirts of Bordertown, South Australia.

She’s my connection back into culture from an Aboriginal standpoint. She’s Wemba Wemba and Jardwadjali, which is in western Victoria. She was 11 years old before she was actually considered a citizen in Australia so she’s born obviously before 1967.

So that idea of almost, that lack of identity from an early age, of not knowing where she stood in the broader society, right through to seeing her own journey, her working life but also being able to raise three kids and become a grandparent as well and the lessons she continues to instil in us is really powerful.

And then also for my father that was born on a beach in Papua New Guinea, came to Australia when he was 19 years old. Rocked up in Sydney in the middle of winter with shorts and T-shirts in a single bag. A little carry bag, and one pair of shoes and was the first in his family to leave the island and the first in his family to come out to Australia.

Seeing that, his journey, he’s a main of faith, as am I, but it’s a really important foundation in our lives. So for me growing up, one of the most powerful things my father said to me when I was quite young.

He said, “never think the world is not yours.” And that line has always stuck with me because what he was saying to me was, no matter what your skin colour is, no matter what your background is, no matter where you come from, never think that you’re not valid and important and valuable in this world.

And I think that’s such an important thing about someone's identity, we can almost try and get validated or feel valued by what other people think of us and so it’s what we wear or how we talk or what we do online or things like that. It’s around being true to yourself is really important.

So, when I kind of move through the world and I do the things that I do, I still get this thing called imposter syndrome where I think I’m not good enough, or I’m not smart enough or why am I even here and then I just have to reconnect and reflect and think, well actually no. If I am here, I am important and I am valuable and I’ve got something to say and I think sometimes we need to remind ourselves of that in our life.

No matter how old you are or how accomplished you are, what you do, we still have those moments where we doubt ourselves.

Thank you for the question though.

Michael Kellner

I believe there’s a second question coming from Peel High School.

Shakayla, Peel High School

My question is, do you have any advice for us as future leaders?

Benson Saulo

Thanks very much, what was your name again?



Benson Saulo

Shakayla, awesome. Thanks very much, what year are you in?


Year 9

Benson Saulo

Awesome. Oh this is the right question to be asking when you are in Year 9 because this is the time that you’re starting to find your voice, figure out where you want to work or think about how you want to have an impact on the world and advice for young people that are stepping up.

In the past we have always looked at the leader as the strong person who’s out front. We’ve always thought about well, that’s the leader up front and they’re the ones that are going to take us through. The way that leadership has really evolved in society is that actually it’s not really necessarily about being the person that’s always out front, it’s about being the person who's willing to stand beside or even stand behind.

We use this term called empathetic leader. It’s the ability to understand where people are coming from. It’s a sense or a feeling, the ability to be able to empathise with someone.

Now it’s not about being the person up front that’s telling people what to do and bossing people around, whereas that may have been valued in the past in leadership.

Now it’s actually about supporting people, encouraging people and uplifting people. So that term of empowering.

So my advice for young leaders today is actually, be that person that lifts up the person next to you. Be that person that encourages the person next to you because you will also find that the person standing next to you or the person who has come before you or the person standing behind you is wanting to do the same to you as well.

And what’s amazing when surrounding yourself with people that are lifting each other up is that you can actually achieve far greater things together rather than pulling everyone down.

It’s actually up to all of us as young leaders to be able to step up and help people up as well.

Michael Kellner

Is there anybody else who has anything else sort of off scrip that they would like to ask Benson before we round out the afternoon?


I don’t know how to explain it but, what drove you to be so successful? What encouraged you to become who you are?

Benson Saulo

That’s a really good question. The thing that kind of drove me to succeed, there were a number of things. Two things that really stand out for me. There’s this saying that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’.

When I was 15 years old, I didn’t see another Aboriginal face working in the bank. I think I was the third trainee, the first one in Tamworth that came through. So for me, the bank didn’t seem like a natural place for a young 15-year-old Aboriginal kid.

When I think of Cathy Freeman for instance. When she won gold in the 2000 Olympics, there was a huge amount of young Indigenous kids that looked at what Cathy had achieved, that decided that athletics is what I wanted to be. That athletics is what I wanted to do.

So being able to create a new possible means our young people are actually allowed to dream or to be able to dream of what is possible in their life as well. So that’s one thing so being a role model is really important.

The other side is not taking yourself too seriously. So a lot of the things I am able to do are really fun and I really enjoy them so the thing in my mind is ‘why not?’

If there’s an opportunity to do something really cool like go to the United Nations or travel around Australia and work with young people right across Australia. Then why not? Let’s just do it.

When you’re having fun and doing the things that you feel naturally pulled towards then you are actually being able to be attract other people that also share the same passions with you or share the same interests with you, and you actually find yourself surrounded by people that you really connect with.

So one thing is that thinking about what kind of impact you can have on the world that enables other young Indigenous kids to dream of what they can be when they grow up

And the other side is don’t hold yourself back. Pursue the things you enjoy and the things that you love doing and the success will come. Success doesn’t mean to be the representative going to the US or anything like that. Success is how we define it for ourselves in our lives.


Thank you.

Benson Saulo

It was a good question, thank you.

I’m a representative of Australia, of the Australian Government across over in Houston, so down in Texas and the focus of my role is supporting our trade and exports. So Australian companies, making the products and going into the US and selling over to the US. But then also attracting investments so bringing US dollars back into Australia to invest in projects here.

It might be solar farms, it could be renewable energy. It’s a whole range of things that we are trying to attract.

The thing that I really want to achieve while I’m across there, I’m a big believer in building relationships. Whilst Australia and the US are very similar and have been friends for many, many years, it’s always important that we continue to build that relationship between our nations.

One of my hopes is, I’ve already connected with the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana. So Louisiana is one of the states I will also be looking after while I am over there.

So connecting with our First Nations mobs over there and also connecting them with our mobs here to ensure that there is actually some sharing, some cultural sharing, but also trade, export and investment is all part of that relationship as well.

The exciting thing over the next three years while we’re based over there is the relationships that we can build between our nations and First Nations over there.

Michael Kellner

Sounds like an interesting time ahead for you.

Benson Saulo

That’s right. If anyone is following what’s happening in the US, we’ve got the US election that’s coming up with Donald Trump competing against Joe Biden, former Vice President.

That happens in two weeks so that’s going to be an interesting time depending on which way that goes and then also, we’ve got COVID. At the moment, they’re still getting 60,000 cases of COVID every single day and they’ve reached over 5 million deaths because of COVID in the US.

So there’s concerns from my side in regards to the political security of what’s going to happen come the election and then also around our own personal health and safety. Flying into what is, essentially a country that is in a bit of disarray and concerned because of COVID at the moment.

Michael Kellner

I’m sure you will make it your own though mate, you always have.

Benson Saulo

I hope so. I’m a bit nervous but I’m also equally excited.

Michael Kellner

After that, come back, first Aboriginal Prime Minister of Australia, is that in the cards somewhere?

Benson Saulo

Well I don’t like showing all my cards at once, so.


Wouldn’t it be amazing though, in our lifetime to see an Indigenous Prime Minister? It would be pretty amazing. And if it’s not me, the idea of creating the new possible is really important.

Hopefully within my lifetime at least, we will be able to see that.

Michael Kellner

I really hope so, I think it would be a very exciting thing to have happen to Australia.

Benson Saulo


Kate Bricknall

And a Peel kid.

Michael Kellner

And a Peel kid.

Benson Saulo

Yeah. He knows how to fight too?


Michael Kellner

I didn’t have to teach you that one on the rugby field though.

Benson Saul

You still encouraged us. No he didn’t, he was a very good coach. 

Michael Kellner

Thank you very much for everybody being online this afternoon and for being able to have this chat with Benson.

I’ve really enjoyed it, I’ve actually learned a few more extra things about him that I’m going to hold against him for the rest of his life.

But we thank you for this opportunity to have this discussion with you.

Benson Saulo

No worries.

[end of transcript]

Language lesson

9am Thursday, 12 November 2020

  • Acknowledgment of Country
  • Uncle Michael Jarrett delivers a Gumbaynggirr language lesson.
[Video duration: 19:58]
Uncle Michael Jarrett delivers a Gumbaynggirr language lesson

On-screen text

Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships Education and Skills Reform Division

NAIDOC Week 2020

[music plays while students hand a talking stick to one another]

Izzy, Soldiers’ Settlement Primary School

Yaama. Today we are all joining this NAIDOC celebration from different lands. Each land is special.

I would like to acknowledge that the traditional and ongoing custodians of the land I am on today and extend that acknowledgement to the traditional custodians of the land that you mob are on today.

Today get to meet Uncle Michael Jarrett, Uncle is the teacher from Gumbaynggirr Language and Culture Nest. The Gumbaynggirr lands extend over an estimated 6000 square km covering an area of the Mid North Coast from Nambucca River to as far north as the Clarence River in Grafton and eastward to the Pacific Coast. There are currently five languages and culture nests and one satellite nest in NSW.

Uncle Michael Jarrett, Language and Culture Nest Teacher, Gumbaynggirr Country

Yuuway (Hello)

Yaam Ngaya gunganbu (I’m a friend and I belong)

garlaway bari nyaagaygu (I’ve come back to see you)

Gala wunaa dawaarra (But don’t be angry)

yaamagay nganyumdi barrmarrmany (this is my family)

gunganbu (and this is my friends)

gala wunaa ngalgirra (but don’t harm us)

yaam nganyundi wajaarr (this is my land)

yaam nginundi wajaarr (this is your land)

Ngiiabarr gunganbuwala (therefore let’s be friends)

Baabagu ngurraang ngiyaanya wajaarr yuludarla. (The great Ancestral Spirit gave us the land in the Dreamtime.)

Marraal-gundi julu gurray yarrang jaagi. (Every part of the Earth is sacred.)

Ngiyaa yaarri julu marraal-gundi marraal julu ngiyambandi. (We are a part of the Earth and the Earth is a part of us.)

On-screen text

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following film may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

The story of Birrugan is the great epic storyline of the actions and events of the hero ancestor in creating the landscapes of Gumbaynggirr country

Uncle Michael Jarrett

Giinagay (Hello)

This is an old Gumbaynggirr dreaming story about Birrugan who was our hero ancestor, a fighter, a warrior.

Up in the north, Birrugan lived in a camp with another guy called Mindi. Mindi owned a yam field and used to get lots of yams and used to bring them back to all the people and share them.

Birrugan hunted kangaroos and wallabies and paddy melons. They were easy for him to catch because they were blind.

So one day, Mindi stopped sharing his Yams as he wasn’t giving as much as he can to lots of people so Birrugan confronted him and asked him why he wasn’t sharing and they had an argument about why Mindi wasn’t sharing with the rest of the people.

Mindi was angry with Birrugan for approaching him and saying that. The next day when Birrugan went out to the hunting grounds to catch his kangaroos and wallabies, Mindi followed him and after Birrugan had left Mindi done magic on the kangaroos and wallabies and paddy melons.

Yuu, Yuu, Yuu - He opened the eyes of the kangaroos and the wallabies.

The next day when Birrugan went out, the kangaroos and the wallabies were hard to get because he saw them coming. He went back to Mindi because he knew Mindi had done some magic on them and argued with him again. The next day when Mindi went out to his yam fields Birrugan followed him out and after Mindi had left Birrugan had done magic on his yam fields.

He piled all these rocks, rocks and rocks, he put all these rocks on top of the yam fields and made a mountain called Glenugie Peak.

So now, Mindi went back and Birrugan they were fighting. They were physically fighting having this big fight. Mindi was getting beat so he started running down the Clarence River.

Birrugan chased him and caught him at a place called Tyndale and they fought there. Birrugan struck and Mindi fell in the water and Birrugan said “Muniimba” and turned him into a rock.

A relative of Mindi was standing on the other side of the Clarence River and ran back down and told the people in the south. Birrugan has just killed our relative Mindi, so now the people from the south challenged the Gumbaynggirr people for a big war which was held down in Marrgaan, Marrgaan, down at South West Rocks a place called Arakoon. So the battle was raging.

Our people down there sent for Birrugan because they knew how powerful and strong Birrugan was to come down and help them fight these people from the south.

So Birrugan packed his stuff up and walked down along the beach going down south to the battle. He come along the beach, he saw two women.

They were getting pippies and they stopped Birrugan and have a talk. After the talk, the girls offered Birrugan some water and Birrugan went on his way down to Valla underneath his favourite tree. HIs favourite tree where he cut boomerangs and spears and nulla-nullas to go down to the battle.

After he had finished making his weapons, the people from the south knew that Birrugan was coming so they sent six clever people in Gumbaynggirr ngaluunggirr and these six clever people came in the form of snakes and ants but Birrugan killed them.

One got up a tree though and let a spear fall into Birrugans shoulder. Birrugan pulled it out and and snapped it and killed him.

Then Birrugan crossed to a place called Deep Creek. Deep Creek, it’s where his mother Gawnggan had a camp. He put this magay, this ochre on a camp and he said, I’m going down to battle. If this magay falls off the camp, you know I’ve fallen in battle and then he left his mother there and went down across the creek, he painted up with up more ochre, went to a place called Wirriimbi.

He made a canoe there and he dragged the canoe down and put it in the Nambucca River.

And then, he went across the creek and come out at Gumma. He walked down and he got into the battle at South West Rocks and he started smashing these guys, smashing, smashing them.

An old man, a clever man from the other side said he’s going to kill us all, he’s so powerful, he’s so strong. So the old man went to the cave up in the mountains and called on his ancestors and spirits to give him the knowledge on how to kill Birrugan.

The sign come, that Birrugan had a wound. He had a wound in his shoulder. In our Dreaming stories, a hero as powerful as Birrugan can only be killed if you hit them in the same spot twice.

So he come back down and he told all the warriors from the south. Throw your spears up and aim for his shoulder, he’s got a weak spot. They threw their spears up, the spears come down and hit Birrugan in the shoulder.

And when he fell, the mugay from his mother’s camp, Gawnggan's camp fell down and made a big hole in the ground.

She got upset, she knew her son had fallen in battle. So she got all the ochre and she painted up, she painted herself up, like a brolga. Gawnggan was like a brolga. She went down to the battle.

She saw these people trying to help Birrugan but Birrugan had died. When she got to the battle where all the enemy was standing, she looked at the enemy and said “Balawunga, Balawunga,” turn to tea-tree.

So they all turned to tea-tree.

Then they built a tomb, at the very spot where Birrugan had fallen and Gawnggan, his mother turned into a brolga and every year the old people used to say that Gawnggan used to come back and dance around the tomb.

Now the two women that he saw up on the beach heard that Birrugan had died in a battle, so they come down and they got Birrugan out of the tomb and went south, as far as Seal's Rock.

So the enemy chased them all the way down there, then they went across to an island at Seal’s Rock and then they ascended and created a ladder out of myrtle and ascended into the sky so Birrugan then became the Southern Cross and the two sisters became the pointer stars and that’s the story about Birrugan.

On-screen text

Macksville High School
Calijah Craig
Wulaaran Walker
Amalie Quinn
Zenobiah Hicklin
Harmony Marley
Jalaara Walker

Macksville High School AEO
Paul Evans

Mark Werner
Terry Argent

Unkya Local Aboriginal Land Council
Michelle Donovan CEO
Belinda Donovan

Special Thanks
South West Rocks Country Club

Elder and Storyteller
Uncle Michael Jarrett

Claire Lindsay
Simon Portus

Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance

Australian Government
Indigenous Languages and Arts

Uncle Michael Jarrett

Happy Birthday song

Nyaagili-gaywa nginu

Gaywa giingan nginu

Nyadgili-gaywa Gagu/Jinda

Gaywa giingan nginu

Ngaa! Banyjarrambil!

Uncle Michael Jarrett’s language lesson

Jiling (Blue)

Muluurr (Red)

Duna (Yellow)

Minya giiguybali yaam (what colour is this?)

Jiling (Blue)

Ngii (Yes)

Minya giiguybali yaam (what colour is this?)

Muluurr (Red)

Darruy (Good)

Minya giiguybali yaam (what colour is this?)

Duna (Yellow)

Ngii (Yes)

Guuru (Black)

Minya giiguybali yaam (what colour is this?)

Guuru (Black)

Minya giiguybali yaam (what colour is this?)

Duna (Yellow)

Minya giiguybali yaam (what colour is this?)

Muluurr (Red)

Minya giiguybali yaam (what colour is this?)

Jiling (Blue)

Guunuga (Green)

Minya giiguybali yaam (what colour is this?)

Jiling (Blue)

Minya giiguybali yaam (What colour is this?)

Muluurr (Red)

Minya giiguybali yaam (What colour is this?)

Duna (Yellow)

Minya giiguybali yaam (What colour is this?)

Guuru (Black)

Minya giiguybali yaam (What colour is this?)

Guunuga (Green)

Barridamam (Purple)

Minya giiguybali yaam (What colour is this?)

Barridamam (Purple)

Minya giiguybali yaam (What colour is this?)

Guuru (Black)

Minya giiguybali yaam (What colour is this?)

Duna (Yellow)

Minya giiguybali yaam (What colour is this?)

Muluurr (Red)

Uncle Michael Jarrett by the river

Baabagu ngurraang ngiyaanya wajaarr yuludarla. (The great Ancestral Spirit gave us the land in the Dreamtime.)

Marraal-gundi julu gurray yarrang jaagi. (Every part of the Earth is sacred.)

Ngiyaa yaarri julu marraal-gundi marraal julu ngiyambandi. (We are a part of the Earth and the Earth is a part of us.)

Yuuway (Hello)

Yaam Ngaya gunganbu (I’m a friend and I belong)

garlaway bari nyaagaygu (I’ve come back to see you)

Gala wunaa dawaarra (But don’t be angry)

yaamagay nganyundi barrmarrmany (this is my family)

gunganbu (and this is my friends)

gala wunaa ngalgirra (but don’t harm us)

yaam nganyundi wajaarr (this is my land)

yaam nginundi wajaarr (this is your land)

Ngiiabarr gunganbuwala (therefore let’s be friends)

Yaam Gymbaynggirr nginundi wajaarr (this is Gumbaynggirr Ground)

Gymbaynggirr nginundi Bindarray (this is Gumbaynggirr River)

Gymbaynggirr nginundi Jagun (this is Gumbaynggirr Homeland)

(I am Gumbaynggir Man)

(I am from Nanbucca)

(Good to see you all)

Bindarray Windiylah, It means River in the Stars. 

So in the Bindilay Windiylah, the Gugahlan lives. So in the Milky Way, the emu lives.  This is the story about the emu and the platypus.

Long ago in the Uaadala, The Dreamtime. There were two young boys. They said to their clan, the Budibung clan. We are going to go up the river and catch lots of fish.

So the two boys headed off up the river, they took two poles with them. They got to a place called flora. They got vine and they got grass and they weaved it together on these two sticks. They made a net. The first net. They put each pole on the side of the river and they waited all night.

All night they waited and come back in the morning and when they looked at the net, the net was empty and the kookaburra laughed.

(kookaburra cries).

And the two boys felt so ashamed. Really felt ashamed because they had told everyone they were gonna catch all this fish. Never got nothing.

One boy said, I am not going back and he jumped in the river and he started swimming and swimming and swimming and swimming as he swum he transformed into a beautiful, beautiful platypus. Shy, so you never hardly see him. So when people come near him he’d swim away.

The other boy was so scared to go back without his cousin, he started running on the north side of the Bellingen. All the way from flora, down the Bellingen River, as he run, he run and he run. He got close to Bellingen, he started transforming into this beautiful, beautiful emu and he kept running and running and running and now all the emus along the coastal areas, from this one emu. So every time an emu sees a man, he runs away because he’s ashamed because he that didn’t catch the fish.

And that’s the story about the emu and the platypus how it come to the Bellingen Bay.

Up until the 1980s there were lots of emus along the East Coast but, due to disruption to the way of Gumbaynggirr people and not looking after Country anymore.

These emus have slowly started to disappear. Now we have less than 50 left so it’s very important that we! All! Everybody! has a responsibility to look after these emus.

Emu in Gumbaynggirr is gugaamgan.

So these two young men told everybody that day that they were going to get fish and they were boasting about how clever they were, you know?

So, they went and caught nothing so for me, the moral of the story is you know, you do something, you just do it.

You don’t go and boast about what you are gonna do and so the moral of the story is to just go and do your best. And without showing off or boasting about what you are gonna do.

[music plays]

On-screen text

This story was originally told by Uncle Lambert Whaddy

Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation

Wajaana Yaam Adventure Tours

Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and Culture Co-operative


Uncle Michael Jarrett singing with students

Naguarrambi ganyjumbi, naguarrambi ganyjumbi

Ngarri, Ngarri, la

Naguarrambi ganyjumbi, naguarrambi ganyjumbi

Ngarri, Ngarri, la

Naguarrambi, ngarri, ngarri, la

Uncle Michael Jarrett

That’s just a simple, simple song that means:

Ngarr is your chest, ngarr. Ngarr is your chest. Ambi is along the chest, (so along the chest of a mountain they’re singing about). So they are walking along the chest of a mountain saying Nguarrambi.

Ganyju, ganyju is a valley. Ganyjumbi is down the valley, ganyjumbi is down the valley and Ngarri is play and la is let’s, so walking across the chest of the mountain and down the valleys, play, let’s. Let’s play, la, yeah?

That’s, that’s basically what the song is, It’s about walking on the country. Isn’t it beautiful?

Uncle Michael Jarrett

Baaba (Father)

Miimi (Mother)

Nyugin (Son)

Nyugiyan (Daughter)

Gagu (Brother)

Jinda (Sister)

Waanyji (dog)

Singing with Uncle Archie Roach

9am Friday, 13 November 2020

  • Acknowledgement of Country
  • Uncle Archie Roach sings ‘Took the Children Away’ and ‘Children came Back’ with:
    • Woronora River Public School
    • Prestons Public School
    • Northern Beaches Secondary School
    • Leichhardt Public School
    • Evans High School.
[Video duration: 16:53]
Uncle Archie Roach sings virtually with NSW public school students.

On-screen text

Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships Education and Skills Reform Division

NAIDOC Week 2020

[music plays while students hand a talking stick to one another]

Acknowledgement of Country, Tyalla Public School


Protocols for welcoming visitors to Country have been a part of Aboriginal culture for thousands of years.

Despite having no fences, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders groups have clear boundaries separating Country from that of other groups. Crossing into another group’s Country needed a request for permission to enter and when that permission was given, the Custodians would welcome the visitors offering them safe passage.

In some areas, visitors would sit outside the boundary and light a fire to signal the request to enter. A lit fire in response would indicate approval and welcome from the Custodians and often on meeting, gifts would be exchanged. While visitors were given a safe passage, they also had to respect their protocols and rules of the custodians while on their Country.

Today we are welcoming you and offering safe passage on this land. Welcome to Aboriginal land. Always Was, Always Will Be.

When you walk here today, you walk among the spirits of our ancestors, we show respect for our ancestors by maintaining cultural practices and being proud of our identity and culture. We ask you to recognise the importance of this place to all Aboriginal people. Past, present and future. For many years, Aboriginal people have struggled but we have survived and remain strong.

We believe our Country has a special role to play in the healing of our people. We now invite you to join us celebrating the survival and strength of our people and culture so that we can create a shared future for all. Thank you.

Izzy, Soldiers’ Settlement Primary School

Yamma you mob. Today will be the closing of our virtual 2020 NAIDOC celebration. I would like to introduce Aunty Karen Jones, the Executive Director of the Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships Directorate.

Karen Jones, Executive Director, Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships

Good Morning, my name is Karen Jones and I am the Executive Director of Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships, I am also a proud Anaiwan Woman and I’m here today to celebrate as part of this week of celebration our NAIDOC events for the Department of Education.

What an exciting week it has been. A range of speakers, but nothing more important than the questions raised by our students in our schools that remind us that they are the very reason that we are in the positions that we are and we do the work that we do. But nobody can say that 2020 has not been a year without its challenges.

However, we’ve responded with ingenuity, strength, resilience and triumph in the face of adversity. It reminds us that there could not be a more fitting theme for NAIDOC 2020 than the theme we have this year, ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’. A theme that recognises that First Nations people have occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years.

We have cared for Country continuously. It’s about seeing, hearing and learning the First Nations 65,000 year history of this country which is the majority of the history of this nation.

We want all Australians to come together and celebrate that we have the longest continuing cultures on the planet and to recognise that our sovereignty was never ceded.

I would like to personally thank you for the wonderful work happening in our public schools. The teachers and the students who have a true passion for making a difference in the lives of not only themselves as students but for their colleagues.

I would also like to thank the teachers and the students who contribute to the teaching of the history of this country.

I’d also like to acknowledge the very important role that our partners in NSW, the NSW AECG, and our Aboriginal community members contribute to the understanding of all staff in our schools around the local cultural knowledge of Aboriginal people. This is an important part of education in every NSW public school and it’s critical that we continue to learn from our Elders and our community members in our local schools.

It has been an exciting and terrific week, the way we’ve celebrated. A virtual approach is a new way of connecting with people. It’s gone incredibly well. I’d like to thank all of those involved in pulling it together and I hope that you continue to have a wonderful NAIDOC Week.

Take care, look after yourselves and continue to look after one another in our great public schools. Thank you.

Archie Roach, Musician

Hello, I’m Archie Roach and today, I’ll be singing ‘Took the Children Away’ from the album Charcoal Lane which is 30 years old this year.

It’s part of my healing and it was the only way I could get it out. Through music and song. It helped me deal with it, the trauma of being taken away as a child from my family.

It’s also important for younger people and for children of all walks of life across this country to hear this song and understand it because it’s an Australian story.

It’s something that happened in this country, it’s part of their history as well. Not just our history, the First Nations people, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people but all our history, all our story and it’s the only way we can move on in this country.

I believe children and younger people, when they hear the song or read about the song, they will be able to do something with it and make sure it never happens again.

Took The Children Away

(Guitar plays)


This story's right, this story's true

I would not tell lies to you

Like the promises they did not keep

And how they fenced us in like sheep.

Said to us come take our hand

Sent us off on mission land.

Taught us to read, to write and pray

Then they took the children away,

Took the children away,

The children away.

Snatched from their mother's breast

Said this is for the best

Took them away.

The welfare and the policeman

Well they said you've got to understand

We'll give to them what you can't give

Teach them how to really live.

Teach them how to live they said

Humiliated them instead

Taught them that and taught them this

And others taught them prejudice.

When they took them children away

The children away

Breaking their mothers heart

Tearing us all apart

Took them away

One dark day on Framingham

Where they came and did not give a damn

My mother cried go get their dad

He came running, fighting mad

Mother's tears were falling down

Dad shaped up and stood his ground.

He said 'You touch my kids and you got to fight me'

And they took us from our family.

Took us away

They took us away

Snatched from our mother's breast

Said this was for the best

Took us away.

Told us what to do and say

Told us all these white man's ways

Then they split us up again

And gave us gifts to ease the pain

Sent us off to foster homes

As we grew up we felt alone

Cause we were acting white

And feeling black

One sweet day all the children came back


On-screen text

Ally, Isabel and Lily, Leichhardt Primary School; Maclean High School; Woronora River School; Tom, Northern Beaches Secondary School; Gemma and Chloe, Evans High School; Prestons Public School

Students performing to a remix with Briggs’ 2015 song ‘The Children Came Back’

I’m Fitzroy where the stars be

I'm Wanganeen in '93

I'm Mundine, I'm Cathy Free-

Man, that fire inside-a-me

I'm Adam Goodes, and Adam should

Be applauded when he stand up

You can look to us when that time stop

I'm Patty Mills with the last shot

I'm Gurrumul, I'm Archie

I'm everything that you ask me

I'm everything that you can't be

I'm the dead hearts, heart beat

The children came back

The children came back

Back where their hearts grow strong, back where they all belong

The children came back

I'm Patty Mills, u-huh, with 12 million dollars

I'm Doug Nicholls, I'm Jimmy Little

With a royal telephone

I'm the world champ in '68

Boy I'm Lionel Rose

I'm William Cooper, I take a stand

When no one even knows

I'm the walk off, I'm the sound of

The children coming home

Boy I'm Gurrumul, I'm Archie

I'm everything that you ask me

I'm everything that you can't be

I'm the dead hearts, heart beat

The children came back

The children came back

Back where their hearts grow strong, back where they all belong

The children came back

Royal Patty Mills

Let me take it home, I'm Rumba

I'm the sand hills on Cummera

I'm Les Briggs, I'm Paul Briggs

I'm Uncle Ringo with all them kids

I'm Uncle Buddy, everybody loves me

Ain't none below, ain't none above me

I'm the carvings outta every scar tree

I'm those flats that birthed Archie

Now Mr Abbott, think about it

Me and you we feel the same

That might sound strange, but I'm just sayin'

We both unsettled when the boats came

I'm Gurrumul, I'm Archie

I'm everything that you ask me

I'm everything that you can't be

I'm the dead hearts, heart beat

The children came back

I'm the dead hearts, heart beat

The children came back

I'm the dead hearts, heart beat

Back where their hearts grow strong, back where they all belong

The children came back

The children came back

The children came back

Back where they understand, back to their mothers' land

The children came back

The children came back

The children came back

Back where their hearts grow strong, back where they all belong

The children came back

Archie Roach singing virtually with the students

The children came back

The children came back

Back where their hearts grow strong

Back where they all belong

The children came back

I said the children came back

Oh those children came back

Back where they understand

Back to their mothers’ land

The children came back

Back to their mother

Back to their father

Back to their sister

Back to their brother

Back to their people

Back to their land

All the children came back

The children came back

The children came back

Yes I came back.

[end of transcript]

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