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Drug action team hosts NAIDOC celebration

SURRY HILLS: On July 4 Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre and Surry Hills Community Drug Action Team (CDAT) hosted a NAIDOC afternoon celebration at the Neighbourhood Centre above Surry Hills Library. This year’s NAIDOC theme “Because of her, we can!” inspired the event and the celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their vital, although often unrecognised, contributions and service at the community, local, state and national levels.

 

Aunty Donna Ingram (right) and Natasha at the NAIDOC event. Photo: Stephen Lunny

Aunty Donna Ingram (right) and Natasha at the NAIDOC event. Photo: Stephen Lunny

“As leaders, trailblazers, politicians, activists and social change advocates, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women fought and continue to fight for justice, equal rights, our rights to country, for law and justice, access to education, employment and to maintain and celebrate our culture, language, music and art” (NAIDOC website).

Many community members attended the event, including the honoured guests, Aunty Donna Ingram and MP for Newtown Jenny Leong. Aunty Donna opened the event with a poignant Welcome to Country, and Jenny Leong also spoke to the theme: “Watching the aunties, sisters, mothers and daughters stand strong at rallies and actions, speaking out against injustices and ensuring that the harm done to their loved ones, their family members, their children is never forgotten is always such an inspiration for me.”

Central to the afternoon celebration was the showing of the movie Yajillara by Melanie Hogan. Yajilarra is a powerful, inspiring documentary about the courage and resilience of Aboriginal women from the Fitzroy Valley in the remote Kimberley region of outback Australia.

In 2007 a group of courageous women from the Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre led a transforming pioneering campaign to ban full-strength “takeaway” alcohol in their community. The alarming statistics in their town – 13 suicides in 13 months, commonplace reports of family violence and child abuse, high levels of dangerous alcohol consumption – gave them resolve to unite and insist on change.

Braving the opposition and standing their ground, these women saw the ban officially introduced, bringing not only reduced levels of alcohol abuse and domestic violence, but also giving back hope to the community, for the health and wellbeing of their children and future generations.

The topic of the film resonated strongly with the event participants, many of whom take an active part in the work of the local CDAT, aimed at introducing harm reduction measures around alcohol and drug use and improving the health of the community.

Jenny Leong commended and encouraged this approach: “The work of the Surry Hills CDAT is an example of the important collaboration and integration across services, organisations, and community members that happens locally to ensure a harm-minimisation approach to drugs in our local community.”

Stephen Lunny, the chair of Surry Hills CDAT, in the process of acquiring rights for the screening of the film, got in touch with the community of Fitzroy Crossing and the women featured in Yajilarra: “A powerful moment for me was when I made contact with the community and women of Fitzroy Crossing, and Emily Carter said to me, ‘We need non-indigenous Indigenous champions. We can’t do this on our own’. Emily was referring to a broader shift in thinking and an acknowledgement of our First Nations peoples and their place in our history and future. This inspired me to want to do more. We must do more; as individuals, as organisations, as a country.”

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