Spirit of the Tent Embassy celebrated during NAIDOC Week at Notre Dame

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Winter 10-7-2012

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame Australia

Publication Place



"It is not until we sit down and talk to one another that we find how much we have in common. When we find that, we will have a wonderful opportunity to share this land." – Dr Noel Nannup

Creating future paths to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples was the focus for keynote speaker, Dr Noel Nannup, at the 2012 NAIDOC Week celebrations at The University of Notre Dame Australia's Fremantle Campus on Tuesday, July 3.

Discussing his perspectives on the 2012 NAIDOC Week theme, Spirit of the Tent Embassy: 40 years on, Dr Nannup said the spirit of the Indigenous peoples in the past ensured their stories, songs and art weren't lost upon the arrival of "the tall ships".

"As the people travelled across the land, at the end of each day, they would draw on the earth the places they had visited. They would all sing together and dance those symbols into the ground," Dr Nannup said.

"The impact of not being able to dance those dances, sing those songs and draw those symbols simply meant that those people would just become a shell of what they were truly intended to be."

Notre Dame staff, students and community members gathered to recognise and celebrate the history, culture and achievements of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The Welcome to Country was delivered by a representative of the Wadjuk people in Western Australia's Nyoongar country, Matt McGuire. Mr McGuire said he was proud to represent his elders at the ceremony and called on Australians to work collaboratively to deliver greater social harmony between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the future.

Notre Dame's NAIDOC celebrations continued with the flag raising ceremony. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands flags were presented to Pro-Vice Chancellor Fremantle, Associate Professor Mark Tannock, and Student Association President, Sophie Harrison, in the University's Malloy Courtyard and raised alongside the Australian flag on Mouat Street.

Dr Nannup, a Nyoongar/Injabarndi man who has dedicated his career to educating Australians about the important cultural heritage of Indigenous people, contextualised the flag raising ceremony by calling on all Australians to establish closer working relationships with the country's first peoples.

"Let us look to the future; let us open our hearts to one another as we look to that future and let us place our stones on a path so when we walk we can build that path to the future together," Dr Nannup said.

As a way of recognising the importance of Aboriginal heritage at the Fremantle Campus, the University will plant a Balga Grass Tree in Malloy Courtyard as a symbol of its commitment to the Wadjuk people and their culture.

In his concluding address, Associate Professor Tannock said one the University's key priorities was to further the cause of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

"From its establishment, The University of Notre Dame Australia has considered one of its main functions to be the recognition and celebration of Aboriginal identity within Australia," Associate Professor Tannock said.

"The injustices of our past must continue to be a source – not of shame – but of a renewed commitment by all Australians to seek a future where the child born to Aboriginal parents might have the same opportunities to live the good life as that child born to non-Aboriginal parents."

Head of Indigenous Health Curriculum at the Fremantle Campus' School of Medicine, Associate Professor Clive Walley, said it was encouraging to see people from diverse cultural backgrounds celebrating Australia's Indigenous culture during NAIDOC Week.

"This year's NAIDOC Week celebrations highlight the importance of collaborating as a community to recognise the Indigenous past of Australia's history in order to deliver a better future for our Indigenous peoples," Associate Professor Walley said.

"I am proud to be part of a university that is supportive and showing strong leadership in recognising the importance of Indigenous education and culture here on its Fremantle Campus."

NAIDOC is the acronym for 'National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee' and is now the title of week-long activities to celebrate Australia's Indigenous culture.

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