This week we celebrate NAIDOC Week, and join the rest of Australia in recognising the spiritual, cultural and custodian connection the First Nations people have had with our lands for over 65,000 years.

This year's theme, 'Heal Country, heal our nation' focuses on how Country is inherent to our identity.

The APA will shine a warm light this week on some of our bright and young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander physiotherapists in our midst who are paving the way for those who follow.

What does NAIDOC Week mean to you?

NAIDOC Week is a celebration of Country, culture and community. NAIDOC Week celebrations allow us to express our love of Country, to demonstrate we are strong when we are on our Country and we are proud First Nations people. This year’s theme, 'Heal Country' is particularly important for the continuation of our culture, the recognition that we live on Aboriginal lands and waterways and Aboriginal people were the first to care and maintain the lands we live on today.

Tell us about your Country.

I am a Palawa woman from Lutrawita (Tasmania). My ancestors lived on Putalina land (Oyster Cove), whereas I was born in Pataway (Burnie) on saltwater country. The kangaroo is sacred for Palawa identity and bounds Aboriginal people to Lutrawita land. Kangaroo, or Tarner in Palawa Kani, is known as a creation spirit and ancient story teller. The kangaroo is our sacred totem. The saltwater Palawa people passed down the tradition of Kelp water carriers, that are still being created from the land today passed down by our Elders.

How do you connect with and heal your Country?

I am currently living on Gadigal land and I can sense when I need my feet grounded on Palawa country and my arms around my mob. This is where I feel connected, enriched and empowered. Healing Country is important, it is how we will keep our culture’s heart beating. Palawa people were amongst the most devastating of genocides and many traditional practices and customs were lost. I am still learning and researching how my ancestors lived and this is how I am a part of healing Palawa, and passing this knowledge on. Another important way of healing country is using traditional names of places – this recognises Aboriginal people as the traditional custodians of the land and aims to empower both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal brothers and sisters to do the same for language, culture and community to live on.

What does NAIDOC Week mean to you?

To me it’s about all people coming together to recognise and celebrate our history, resilience and strength and moving forward together.

Tell us about your Country.

I am from Biripi Country of the Gathang speaking people - the land surrounding the Manning river and valleys of the Mid North Coast land, from Gloucester eastwards to the where the Manning River opens into the Pacific at Taree. Traditional practices include blanket stitch weaving of baskets and dancing ceremonies.

How do you connect with and heal your Country?

I connect with Country by being outside in the fresh air surrounded by nature as much as possible. Swimming in the ocean and walking on the ground. I connect by returning home and spending quality time with my family and friends. I try to immerse myself in as much learning about my history and culture as possible so I can share and educate others so that everyone can keep healing and moving forward.

What does NAIDOC Week mean to you?

For me, NAIDOC Week shines a nationwide spotlight on First Nations people, representing a time to celebrate Indigenous culture and the achievements that our people have made throughout the year. Hearing the pleas to provide better management and empowerment of Indigenous people over their country. Indigenous culture is the heart of Australia, it’s alive and NAIDOC Week amplifies it. Working in healthcare, I also see this week as a chance for Indigenous Health advocacy and increasing cultural awareness throughout Australia. After a while, I can get pretty disconnected from who I am, it comes in waves and NAIDOC Week helps me re-charge or re-connect, putting me back on track.

Tell us about your Country.

I am a proud Woolwonga man and recently have identified that I am also of Larrakia descent. My Woolwonga heritage are described as 'warlike' people of Alligator River, near Pine Creek/Katherine, and my Larrakia heritage are known as the saltwater people, traditional custodians of the greater Darwin region. Personally, I consider myself culturally disconnected. I have started trying to re-connect over the past few years due to being involved with indigenous students at university and receiving support throughout my studies. This is due to repercussions of the Stolen Generation. My nana doesn’t talk about what happened back in the day, but we know that three of her sisters were taken during the Stolen Generation, but my nana got away because she was the oldest and could run fast. However, she ended up being raised in white society anyway and married my grandfather at a young age. The other reason is that there aren’t many Woolwonga people left, they have been called the forgotten tribe, the only people remaining descended from one survivor of a massacre that occurred in Pine Creek in 1884. Therefore most Woolwonga customs and traditions have been lost.

How do you connect with and heal your Country?

I have always found art and fishing to be the few traditions I know, they’re something my mother, uncles and nana have always done and taught me to do, and are tasks I find peace in doing. Also returning home to Larrakia country where I grew up and was born, helps lift me back up, like most people when they’re away from home for too long. I have been doing my best to help my people by pursuing a career in healthcare as a physiotherapist and have gone down the path of Indigenous Health. I try to stay connected with other Indigenous health workers and advocate for Indigenous Health when I can. I will be working in Cairns over the next year with Indigenous communities around the area and on Groote Eylandt, predominantly through NDIS and those who suffer from Machado Joseph Disease in the communities.

What does NAIDOC Week mean to you?

To me, NAIDOC Week is a time to celebrate our voice, successes and reflect on our strength and resilience over 60,000+ years. It provides an opportunity for us to connect with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers, sisters, aunties and uncles, as well as our allies.

Tell us about your Country.

I’m a proud Kija Bardi woman. My Mob comes from two separate tribes located in the Kimberly Region of North Western Australia. My grandmother came from Kija Country, near the Bungles Bungles. While my grandfather came from Bardi Country, on the Dampier Peninsula, a couple of hours north of Broome.

How do you connect with and heal your Country?

Myself and a fellow Aboriginal colleague are in the process of educating our physiotherapy department on the importance of acknowledgement and recognition of the Country that we live and work on. We are also striving to enhance cultural safety in our workplace in order to provide better care to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. Outside of physiotherapy, I connect with my local Aboriginal Community and support a foundation that works to aid in Closing the Gap. These are just a few of many ways that I connect with Country.

What does NAIDOC Week mean to you?

I am extremely proud to be part of the one of the oldest living cultures in the world. NAIDOC Week means a lot to me as it gives a chance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to showcase their talents, come together as one and celebrate our rich culture.

Tell us about your Country.

My family comes from Narrogin in Western Australia on Noongar country. Noongar country is situated along the south-west coast of Western Australia. It extends from north of Jurien Bay, inland to north of Moora and down to the southern coast between Bremer Bay and east of Esperance. It is defined by 14 different areas with varied geography and 14 dialect groups. I was raised in the Blue Mountains and have a deep connection to Gundungurra and Dharug land.

How do you connect with and heal your Country?

My connection to Country stems from spending time on the land either on my own or with other people and being grateful for every aspect it encompasses. I have found a deep connection to Country from exploring the rich environment I was raised through running, walking and canyoning. Building a relationship with Country has helped shape my cultural identity and gives me a sense of belonging. 

What does NAIDOC Week mean to you?

NAIDOC Week means a lot in short. It’s a week where we can reflect and repurpose ourselves around a theme – for example, this years being ‘Healing Country’. I find it to be a fantastic time and opportunity to engage with those around us, a chance to grow and foster that learning relationships within the community and create a space where we (and others) feel safe and more open to learning, expanding and engaging with our culture.

Tell us about your Country.

I am a Gamilaroi man from North Western NSW – specifically the Tamworth/Cassilis regions. Geographically, it’s a large nation extending from Goondiwindi in Southern QLD along down below Tamworth NSW and all the way out west towards Lightning Ridge. The Gamilaroi nation has many wonderful customs and practices, most notably the Bora ceremonies, which people may recognise the famous tree carvings created by the Elders from which are used when performing the Bora.

How do you connect with and heal your Country?

Personally, I find my connection to Country through reflection on the land itself. I love to go out to my parents’ property and just spend time in the quiet on my wood working projects or painting. There is nothing better than just surrounding yourself in nature to put the worries of the city life behind you for a while. At this moment, I am working with a few others to help Indigenise our local physiotherapy department here at Westmead. We hope that by furthering the cultural knowledge in the department and by creating a visually receptive space for Indigenous people that they may feel safe and comfortable. In doing this, we are hoping to improve first nations healthcare and cultural safety.

What does NAIDOC Week mean to you?

NAIDOC Week is about celebrating our people’s achievements, as individuals, families, and communities. It’s about reflecting on the past and be humbled by where we came from and where we are today. It’s about our resilience, as the oldest living culture in the world. For me personally, it’s a time to remember the hardships my family faced in the past, which serve as a reminder to enjoy the privileged life I live today, and to embrace every opportunity that comes my way. During NAIDOC Week, I try to slow down and connect with the land and the people in my life that mean the most to me.

Tell us about your Country.

I am a proud Biripi woman. My mob come from Taree – the mid north coast of NS. The area is known for its beautiful coastal line, and the Manning River, one of kind in the Southern hemisphere with two oceanic openings. Although I grew up in the western suburbs of Sydney - on Dhurug land, I still feel a connection to the ocean and feel at home when I am by the sea – this is one way I connect with my Aboriginality and where my people are from.

How do you connect with and heal your Country?

‘Heal Country’ is a reminder to protect and respect the land we live on. I try to make sustainable choices wherever I am living; being mindful of proper waste management and water use, as well re-using or re-purposing recyclables. Aside from this, continuing to support local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owned business’ has been as easy change, and is a choice that we can all make. Whether it be artwork for home, a gift for a friend, or a dinner out – there is always a local, sustainable choice that supports our people.

What does NAIDOC Week mean to you?

NAIDOC Week is a chance to celebrate, reflect, connect and educate with people from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous backgrounds. Personally, I embrace this opportunity to listen to stories, learn from others, and feel proud of culture. It is also a chance to educate others about culture, and the history of our continent. It is a chance to start conversations with those willing to participate, about the past, current and future.

Tell us about your Country.

I’m a proud Garrwa woman, and was born and raised on Kaurna country (Adelaide). Garrwa country is located in the North of Eastern NT and Western QLD. Unfortunately, like many others, my grandfather was part of the Stolen Generation. He was unaware of the country he was from until later on in his life. He was able to visit the NT to meet family, including brothers he had never met. Unfortunately, I have not visited Garrwa country yet, but I am currently in plans to do so soon. I am eager to visit, meet extended family and learn more about the traditions and their stories.

How do you connect with and heal your Country?

This year’s theme of ‘Heal Country’, is extremely important in today’s climate. The Indigenous traditions maintained country for over 50,000 years, and now, more than ever, we all need to collaborate to protect the beautiful country that we all live on. For me, this involves educating others about the importance of Country, and continuing to educate myself on the matter. It provides a good reminder, that to love Country, we all need to make better choices need to made each day. I regularly connect to Country by disconnecting from technology, and embracing the local regional parks and beaches, and painting stories when I’m inspired.

Check-in daily during NAIDOC Week as we spotlight incredible stories and journeys from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander physiotherapists. 

 
 

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