Representatives of the local Aboriginal community attended the NAIDOC Week ‘lighting the flame’ gathering hosted by Tamworth LALC at the Tamworth Botanic Gardens on Monday, with a smoking ceremony and dancing launching the line-up of activities.

Originally planned for Trelawney Station near Somerton, the constant rain saw a quick change of plans to a sheltered area at the gardens ensuring the “Lighting the Flame” ceremony went ahead.

The performers and partners included Mitchum Neave (Min Min), Gunida Gunyah Aboriginal Corporation Community Services & Housing Hub, Winanga-Li Aboriginal Child and Family Centre, YMP Boys Dancers, Wade Natty, Bec’s Deadly Dancers and Vicki Gardner, Toby Reid (smoking ceremony and didgeridoo) and Jack Conlan (artwork on lanterns).

“This year’s theme celebrates the unyielding spirit of indigenous communities and invites all to stand in solidarity, amplifying the voices that have long been silenced,” Red Chief Local Aboriginal Lands Council CEO Troy Ruttley said.

“The fire represents the enduring strength and vitality of indigenous cultures, passed down through generations despite the challenges faced. It is a symbol of connection to the land, to each other, and to the rich tapestry of traditions that define Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“As we honour this flame, we kindle the sparks of pride and unity, igniting a renewed commitment to acknowledging, preserving, and sharing the cultural heritage that enriches our nation.”

Mr Ruttley said the 2024 theme “Blak, Loud and Proud” encapsulates the unapologetic celebration of indigenous identity, empowering them to ‘stand tall in their heritage’ and assert their place in the modern world.

“This theme calls for a reclamation of narratives, an amplification of voices and an unwavering commitment to justice and equality,” he said.

“It invites all Australians to listen, learn, and engage in meaningful dialogue, fostering a society where the wisdom and contributions of indigenous peoples are fully valued and respected.

“Through our collective efforts, we can forge a future where the stories, traditions, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are cherished and celebrated, enriching the fabric of the nation with the oldest living culture in the world.”

As the sounds of the didgeridoo filled the air, the smoking ceremony heralded the start of traditional dancing and other activities planned for the week ahead, including the Elders lunch, Brolga dance workshops and performance, Red Chief LALC market place with stalls, Goanna Academy mental health workshops and sporting activities with footballer Greg Inglis.

DEADLY DANCE GROUP: Back, Beauu Wortley, Jai Wilson, Bloom Riley and Blaire Costello. Front, Freya Appleyard and
Jahli Budden Talbott.

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