The importance of NAIDOC Week to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is nothing short of crucial. It’s an opportunity for all Australians to come together and share in the collective knowledge and experiences of First Nations peoples.
As a significant cultural event, Alicia – an Ability Options Community Engagement Consultant – said NAIDOC Week is a great avenue for people to come together and learn about First Nations peoples and understand their cultures.
To Alicia, identifying as a First Nations person is everything to her.
“It is all I know. It is who I am,” she said.
“Being connected to my culture, my community, and my country are the essence of who I am. It is the backbone of every decision I make in my journey through life.”
When it came down to her work life, Alicia wanted to work in an organisation that champions diversity and inclusion.
Right from the beginning, Ability Options has been a courageous disability and employment services sector leader and a strong advocate for its participants and their families, and it continues to pave a path forward in its mission of inclusion and equality. NAIDOC Week, according to Alicia, is a great way to do this.
She said that at work, NAIDOC Week presents an opportunity to bring Australian communities together and get discussions for change started.
“We, as society, have come a long way in the recognition of First Nations peoples, but there is still such a long way to go,” Alicia said.
“NAIDOC Week is a great place to start getting staff more involved in those discussions around the challenges that First Nations peoples face every single day.”
Alicia has worked with Ability Options for a decade, and in that time, she said she has been empowered to help people. She went on to say that seeing participants reach their goals has been some of her most rewarding experiences.
“I love that every day is different. No two days are the same, whether it’s the people you meet, the office you are working at, the communities you engage with, or the variety and diversity of changing people’s lives every, single day is the most enjoyable part,” she said.
“Seeing the outcome of someone [who has been a participant in our employment services] being in a job for six months, when they didn’t think they could do it in the first place, using the money they saved in that work to book their first overseas holiday, has been one of the most rewarding experiences.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a halt on so many of the vital in-person activities, celebrations, and events for the last two years.
Now, after such a long period of COVID-19 lockdowns and having limited opportunities to celebrate NAIDOC Week, connecting with communities in person, Alicia is keen to get out and celebrate again.
“I will be going to as many events as possible with my family and my community,” she said, “[I will be] yarning with my elders, helping out at events where possible, and having conversations with non-Aboriginal people about how they can be a good ally”.
For Alicia, NAIDOC is all about ensuring First Nations knowledge and culture is passed on and continued through the generations, “just like our ancestors before us”.
“The stories, the songs and the kinship are the most important as they keep our culture going, just like it has for the past 60,000 plus years.”
Learn more about Ability Options’ steps towards reconciliation, here.