NAIDOC WEEK 2020: Ballarat youth question ‘being Indigenous’ | Manning River Times

NAIDOC WEEK 2020: Ballarat youth question ‘being Indigenous’ | Manning River Times

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“Our culture is fun – there are a lot of things non-Indigenous Australians could get involved in, learn about our culture,” Deegan Craig-Peters says. The young Wurundjeri Yorta-Yorta man was prepared to answer the blunt, complex and controversial questions in a combined Loreto-St Patrick’s You Can’t Ask That-style video for NAIDOC Week. WATCH the You Can’t Ask That video below NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee and its roots can be found in the 1920s to increase awareness. EXPLAINER here. “If people get to know, it may actually improve knowledge and understanding in Aboriginal people, things we do and what our ancestors did,” Deegan says when quizzed about what he liked about Aboriginal culture. The project stemmed from a group of non-Indigenous Ballarat, Victorian-based Loreto year 11s who wanted to raise awareness of Black Lives Matter in their community in the wake of African American man George Floyd’s death earlier this year. READ MORE: Anonymous question boxes were placed about the school before a return to home learning, but the project was reignited in a partnership with St Patrick’s College for NAIDOC Week. St Pat’s Indigenous education manager Jason Napier said one key factor was there was not one type of “being Indigenous”. St Pats’ Indigenous program features boarders from the Northern Territory and day students with a completely different experience – and students would contradict each other. One key element they were united on was the question, how much Aboriginal are you: “If you’re Aboriginal, you’re Aboriginal,” Wemba Wemba woman Taleisha Wise said. “It’s like how much milk you put in coffee, you still have coffee in it,” Badimaya man Isaac Hucker said. Ballarat High School student Lillian Torney has only begun to learn about her Wurundjeri heritage the past year or so. High has about 25 student who identify as Indigenous but many, like Ms Torney, were not greatly aware of their culture. For the first time, Ballarat High School hosted an acknowledgement of Country and smoking ceremony in partnership with Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative for NAIDOC Week. “I didn’t know much about my tribe. I’m learning what it means to be Indigenous,” Ms Torney said. “It’s really good to have Aboriginal students included and doing this ceremony at school.” Ms Torney said classes at school had not taught Indigenous history or culture much before but this was changing with new year seven studies. She hoped this would encourage more Indigenous students to identify and learn about their ancestors and culture but also raise awareness on Indigenous issues among all students. BADAC Strong Culture, Strong Family leader Robert Watts said a lot of Aboriginal and colonial history might be graphic and confronting but there were ways to incorporate culture appreciation and stories into education that were important for all Australians to learn. “We need to be teaching young ones about their culture, their art and how things came about from Dreamtime stories,” Mr Watts said. “A lot of Indigenous kids don’t know our culture and that’s really hard but non-Indigenous kids need to learn it too. Hopefully that’s gradually changing.” Ballarat High School’s Indigenous students have unique polo shirts to wear for the week that feature a special design from Pitcha Makin’ Fellas’ Peter-Shane Rotumah. This design represents all the lands from which students come to study together at Ballarat High and is painted in school colours. Meanwhile, Mr Napier said St Pat’s Indigenous program was not just about supporting Indigenous students but letting everyone understand Indigenous culture. Normally, St Pat’s Indigenous students would lead an assembly for NAIDOC Week. This has instead been scaled down to classroom presentations but boys will join Loreto’s Indigenous students for a fun kayak session later this week.

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