Bass Coast proudly supported NAIDOC Week at a moving event at Churchill Island where Elders, Traditional Custodians and members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community joined with the wider community to celebrate and acknowledge the invaluable contributions that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have made, and continue to make to our communities.
Bunurong Elder Aunty Dyan Summers commenced proceedings with a moving Welcome to Country shared with grand daughter Jannali. “This year’s theme is ‘Because of Her, We Can’ and I stand with much pride whilst I acknowledge the Traditional Owners,” said Aunty Dyan.
“This acknowledges our birthright, our mothers, our grand mothers, our aunties and all women beyond connect each of us with our ancestoral past, and our traditional lands, and the real connection remains with us today.”
Following the welcome, the group experienced a symbolic flag raising ceremony where representatives of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community were supported by Bass Coast female leaders to raise the Australian, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags.
It was a special moment for Safina Stewart as she raised the Torres Strait Islander flag for the very first time at Churchill Island supported by Catherine Basterfield and Liz Stinson, Phillip Island Nature Parks CEO and Board Chair.
During the ceremony, local Aboriginal identity Patrice Mahoney and NAIDOC event MC said “When all the flags fly side by side that means a lot to us. It means we are standing together.”
During a later presentation Cr Pamela Rothfield, Mayor of Bass Coast acknowledged the strength of her fellow women as she provided the introduction to a presentation on the life of Ruby Gates. “Women are pivotal to stability and also big drivers of change,” she said.
Aunty Dyan then reflected on her own personal journey telling the group that her great, great, great grandmother was taken by sealers from Point Nepan and that Bunurong People are still very much alive and strong in their culture today.
A moving session followed, presented by Stan Gates, ex Phillip Island Shire President, whose wife Ruby instigated the raising of the first Aboriginal flag at the Cowes Shire offices in 1993. Stan spoke of Ruby’s invaluable contributions, support and legacy with friends including Anne Davie, Sue Chadwick and Camille Monet sharing their memories.
“We celebrate Ruby and all women and their connection with the land and the important role they have in mothering the land,” said Anne.
“Ruby was always smiling and it’s a privilege to honour her today,” said Sue.
This is the first time that Bass Coast has worked together to present a joint event program for NAIDOC Week in conjunction with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community members, Bass Coast Shire Council, Westernport Water, Phillip Island Nature Parks, Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation and Bass Coast South Gippsland Reconciliation Group.
To find out about Phillip Island Nature Parks, Westernport Water and Bass Coast Shire’s journey to reconciliation, please visit their websites.