19 July 2023

While we celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures all year round, throughout NAIDOC Week, we support staff to attend local events in the community.

Image: Staff at the Life Without Barriers stall at the Townsville 2023 NAIDOC event.

We have the great privilege to live and work alongside the oldest living continuous culture in the world. This year for NAIDOC Week, we attended, hosted and supported events across Australia to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and culture.

New South Wales

AbSec’s NAIDOC Family Fun Day

Held at Marrickville YMCA on Gadigal country, attendees enjoyed performances, arts and crafts, jumping castles, games, food, and could visit an Elders tent.

Donna and Cheryl from the Cultural Support team hosted the Life Without Barriers stall, where foster carers, children and families had fun doing the sand art activity. Layla, a young person in care, put her artistic talents to good use by helping at the stall too.

“The highlight of the day for me was how the activity was such a hit, with many children lining up and waiting eagerly for their turn,” said Cheryl.

“Everyone was so engaged with the activity. Children got to make and take home their own colourful artwork. It was so popular that we ended up running out of materials by the end of the day.” Said Donna.

There were performances from special guests and Elders from a variety of organisations, with some Elders singing.

“You could feel a healing presence...It made me think how these old songs helped to strengthen and continue to strengthen so many Aboriginal people,” shared Cheryl.

Image: Children doing the sand activity at the Life Without Barriers stall.

Tweed Heads NAIDOC Week events

Staff and families we support celebrated with a week of jam-packed activities in Tweed Heads, home to the Ngandowal and Minyungbal people of the Bundjalung nation.

At the Hall of Fame Induction and Elders Lunch, Tyne Smith from the Cultural Team caught up with the community while enjoying a great curry and fired scones.

A mountain of community turned up for the Sports Day, with Community Organisations attending in full force, making the day a huge success.

“It was definitely one of the biggest turnouts I have seen in a number of years," said Tyne.

"A big shout out to the Police who were there cranking out the snags on the BBQ. They went through the 30kg of snags and 10kg of onions in just shy of an hour.” Said Tyne.

At the Juraki Surfing Community Day, mob learnt valuable surf safety from Surf Lifesaving Volunteers, the kids were also invited to do some surfing themselves with the local board riding school.

“The standout for the event was one of the Uncles on a longboard, walking the board doing Michael Jackson-like moves, 360s on waves and Hanging 10 with some flare, with the little ones cheering and laughing on the beach.” Said Tyne.

The NAIDOC march saw both Tweed and Gold Coast communities come together. There was a big Corrobboree after the march at Jack Evans Park, with dancing from Aboriginal and Torres Strait dancers from both sides of the border.

The big week ended with the NAIDOC Ball, and deadly dancing was on show from young and old.

“To have this year’s theme honouring our old people, and having their voices heard and then echoed from our babies over the week, shows how true it is that the stories and history are still strong," said Tyne.

"It just takes time to stop and sit down and take a break and really listen, not just with your ears but your heart and whole body.”

Image: People holding the Aboriginal flag and marching at the Tweed Heads March.

Shoalhaven NAIDOC Family Fun Day

Held on Wadi Wadi Wandanian country, the community came together for cultural activities. The event was opened by Elders Uncle Paul McLeod and Aunty Grace Crossley.

Our Disability and Mental Health and Cultural Support teams gave out treats, water and fruit for kids, as well as offered people a fun ‘makeover’ with coloured hairspray at the Life Without Barriers stall. It was an opportunity to connect with the local community and answer questions about our organisation.

Virginia Bridger, Disability and Mental Health Regional Operations Manager, attended the event and shared;

“This was my first ever NAIDOC event with Life Without Barriers, and I had a wonderful time.

"It was great to see many of the people who use our Day Program and SIL services attend the day – word has it that they all had lots of fun.

"A beautiful community came together to create and enjoy a fabulous event. The standouts of the day were hearing the local choir singing in traditional Dharga language, the smoking ceremony and the performances by the Doonooch Dance Company,” Virginia said.

Image: Staff at the Life Without Barriers stall.

Tharawal Family Fun Day

Life Without Barriers staff, carers, children and young people came together on the lands of the Dharawal people in Campbelltown. A range of services from foster care to community organisations to government departments, stood beside stallholders selling handmade items. NRL and South Sydney Superstar Latrell Mitchell dropped by to do a meet and greet with kids, then spent time in the Elders’ tent.

“It was great to be out and amongst community, talking about the work we do and sharing what is a very important week on the calendar for us. Wonderful to see such an amazing turnout on the day - the grounds were buzzing busily from open to close," said Jason Dowie, Life Without Barriers’ Area Manager.

"A special thanks to all our amazing staff who arranged the stall and the activities to engage with the children and young people, it was great to see so many people stop and put their handprints on the flag!”

Image: A child is adding their handprint to an artwork of the Aboriginal flag.

Tamworth NAIDOC Family Fun Day

Life Without Barriers hosted a stall, manned by Cultural Support, Family Based Care and Aged Care team members Lucinda, Jodie, Amanda and Tracey, at Bicentennial Park, on the lands of the Gomeroi people of the Kamilaroi Nation.

Attendees could create sand artwork and learn about Life Without Barriers. The sand art was a popular activity, with many children asking their parents to go back to the table.

“It was such a buzz watching people arrive from the NAIDOC March. It was wonderful to see the community coming together, and everyone was smiling and talking as they marched into the park. Our old people would stop for a yarn, and everyone would stop and listen," said Cultural Support Specialist, Lucinda Porter.

“Another highlight was the Community Corroboree. Members from the community learnt traditional dance and engaged in dancing alongside members of the Gomeroi Dance Company to participate in the Corroboree.”

Image: Two staff members stand behind a 'For Our Elders' cut-out, smiling at the camera.

Northern Territory

2023 NAIDOC Runway

The Northern Territory Government’s NAIDOC 2023 Runway was held on Larrakia Land at Palmerston. Life Without Barriers teams from Disability and Mental Health, Child, Youth and Family, and Aged Care services gathered at the Life Without Barriers Marquee, where they shared information about our services and supported the event by giving away cold water and fruit boxes.

The event showcased the central role Elders play in our communities and families, and featured keynote speaker Charlie King OAM, AM.

The highlight of the day was a fashion show by Aboriginal Elders from Government Departments. Dr Christine Fejo-King, ‘Elder in Residence’, Territory Families, Housing and Communities and Michael Mills, NT Dept of Territory Family, Housing, and Communities, walked the catwalk, and everyone had fun clapping, singing and cheering them on. There were also cultural dances performed with different colours representing the different tribes.

“We were honoured to be part of an event that featured remarkable speakers such as Charlie King, who discussed the importance of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament and expressed gratitude towards our Elders for their efforts in preserving Aboriginal culture for future generations,” said Mohammed Sameer, Regional Operations Manager, Disability and Mental Health.

“It was a lovely day. We got to witness some cultural dances and hear from some of our elders who discussed their efforts in preserving the Aboriginal culture for future generations,” said Nikki Matthews, Aged Care Program Manager.

Image: Three staff members at the Life Without Barriers stall.


Logan NAIDOC Celebration

The community braved torrential rain to attend NAIDOC Celebrations in Logan, where traditional custodians speak the Yugambeh language.

Attendees took part in the flag-raising ceremony, watched traditional dances, and kids played on the free rides. Many of our youth workers and carers brought children and young people along to visit the stalls and enjoy the food, playground and rides.

Lyn Schonefeld, Cultural Support Planner from the Springwood office, co-facilitated three panels of Elders who shared their experiences of being Elders in the community. The Life Without Barriers stall had giveaways and a large assortment of rocks and paint pens for visitors to decorate and experiment with. The rock painting was a big hit, with children and adults unleashing their creativity and producing beautiful designs.

Image: Children stand in front of a table, completing the rock painting activity.

Linda Innes, from Life Without Barriers Child, Youth and Family team was there on the day.

“Talented local musicians created a great atmosphere, as well as the fantastic friendly crowds braving the rain." She said.

"The attention to detail of the children and young people painting rocks at our stall, an increased number of people interested in more information on becoming a foster carer – it was such a wonderful day.”

To top it off, Linda was the lucky winner of one of the raffle’s major prizes – a surfboard decorated by some Aboriginal young people from our Youth Justice service in the region.

“It’s gorgeous! It will be mounted on the wall of our office - it’s too beautiful not to share!” Said Linda.

Image: Linda stands next to a man and a woman, holding the surfboard that she won in the raffle.

Cooktown Life Without Barriers Women's Shelter NAIDOC BBQ

The Cooktown celebrations were a resounding success, with activities for all ages - including spear-throwing competitions, face painting, a march down the main street, music and speeches.

House Manager, Chan Hennison, from the Child, Youth and Families team thanked the local organisations for their help on the day.

“We gathered For Our Elders, and they graced us with their presence, and regaled us with their knowledge and stories." Said Chan.

"A special shout out to Gungarde, CDCC and My Pathway, who hustled to get us the BBQ's after ours had a mishap. A great day was had by all, and to all those involved - a HUGE thank you and Happy NAIDOC!”

Cairns NAIDOC Event

The Cairns NAIDOC event was a big tribute to all the Elders, beginning with a march from Munro Martin Parklands, through town and ending at at Fogarty Park.

The event featured guest speakers and performances throughout the day. There were also lots of stalls with information and free activities to do, as well as good food, local arts and crafts and other local artefacts on sale.

Life Without Barriers had an information stall where kids and families could do Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-themed beading, colouring-in and cupcake decorating activities.

“Our Stall was packed from beginning to end - the children loved it! We had great interaction with community members about our information, and it was good to hear children and adults say positive things like how they enjoyed the activities. All in all, it was a busy and engaging day for all of us, but we had a lot of fun,” said Neari van Hooren, Child, Youth and Family Operations Manager.

Image: Two men standing side by side at the Cairns NAIDOC Event at Fogarty Park.

Cairns NAIDOC Breakfast and Trivia

Cairns Life Without Barriers staff attended the Cairns NAIDOC breakfast. It was a record-breaking event with 265 guests!

“Cairns has a full week of NAIDOC events, and we are proud to be a part of it,” said Liz Lewry, Aged Care Operations Manager.

We attended trivia, Wuchopperen celebrations and the March, as well as NAIDOC in the Park.

“There were awesome speakers, including Kenny Bedford and Mick Gooda talking Treaty and Truth and the Indigenous Voice to Parliament, and recognising our Elders and the tireless work they contributed to building positive change and recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the years,” said Liz.

Lockyer Valley NAIDOC Event

Life Without Barriers Ipswich staff and people celebrated at the Laidley District State School, attendees enjoyed performances and bush tucker, and we also had a stall.

“The rock painting activity is always a hit with young and old," said Cultural Support Planner Michelle Watson.

"There was also an opportunity for people to share 'What have you learned from your Elders' on a canvas. It was great to see how our Elders are guiding our generations to pave the way for our families and communities.”

Townsville NAIDOC Event

The Townsville Child, Youth and Family Team supported young people and carers to take part in the march. The children enjoyed coming together with the community, it was a great experience for all!

The march led to the Deadly Day Out cultural event, held at Riverway. There was dancing, food, clothing and products along with other Townsville organisations.

“We were lucky to be invited to hold a Life Without Barriers table where our Townsville Child Youth and Family team set up activities and gave the opportunity for children to paint their own traditional artwork,” said Elizabeth Browne from the Child, Youth and Family team.

“It was amazing to see some of our young people join in the cultural dancing at the main stage."

Image: Staff at the Life Without Barriers stall at the Townsville NAIDOC event.

South Australia

Life Without Barriers hosted stall activities at three NAIDOC Week events in South Australia, with the Living Arts program running our ‘Language into Action’ activity. Attendees learnt animal names and phrases in Aboriginal language, then created their own paper puppets of the animals and puppet shows incorporating language. Phi Theodoros from the Living Arts program explained,

“Naa Marni from Kaurna Land in South Australia. With our activity, we're sharing the names of animals and some phrases in Kaurna language and then encouraging people to decorate their own animal paper puppets.

"We hope this activity inspired event attendees to explore how they can weave Kaurna language into their own puppet shows and conversations.”

NAIDOC Family Fun Day Murray Bridge

Held on Ngarrindjeri Land, our Aboriginal Resident Artist practised her weaving with rushes from her community out at Raukkan, and met with her family who live locally.

The Language into Action activity received a great response from young people and big kids alike.

“There was a lot of interest in learning language and hearing our ambitions to expand the activity into more language groups,” said Phi.

NAIDOC in the Mall

Held on Kaurna Land, at Rundle Mall, guests listened to a Welcome to Country from Ngangki Warra (a Kaurna Women’s group) and speeches from the Deputy Lord Mayor of the City of Adelaide.

“The women at Ngangki Warra told us ‘Kaurna language is not extinct, just sleeping for a time.’ They then invited everyone to sing the "Niina Marni" song, which translates to 'it's good you are here' or ‘hello’. It was great to hear children sing along to the song,” said Phi.

“One of our young people connected with the artist who had designed the NAIDOC artwork for the City of Adelaide. They learnt that they are both of Barkandji heritage.

"The young person’s carer had commissioned the artist to create a piece sharing his and his sisters’ journey from Barkandji land to Kaurna land. This inspired the young person to create his own adaptation of the piece for an exhibition.  

"It was wonderful to see the artist and budding artist connect and pose for a photo together,” Phi said.

The Language into Action activity was run by Living Arts Resident Artists Phi and Natasha, and Carer Assessors Rebecca, Karen, Natalie and Emma helped out on the day. The activity drew a great response from everyone who stopped by – there was a lot of interest in learning language, hearing our plans to expand the activity and lots of conversations about what young people have been learning at school.

“Some school teachers asked to take photos and videos of the display to continue encouraging language to be used in their classrooms. It made us so happy,” said Phi.

Image: Four staff members at the NAIDOC in the Mall event.

NAIDOC Family Fun Day Christies Beach

The community came together to celebrate on Kaurna Land. Attendees included MPs Katrine Hildyard and Nat Cook, plus local council Councillors from the City of Onkaparinga Region.

Our Language into Action activity was once again a big hit with big kids and little ones fanning interest in learning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. Members of the Living Arts, Disability and Mental Health and Child Youth and Family teams represented Life Without Barriers on the day.

“Some of the highlights were seeing the amazing collection of school students participating in the march, reconnecting with a person who formerly used our mental health services, and sharing stories and poems.

"We also used the Living Arts Transformer Van to record some animal names and phrases for future activities in Ngarrindjeri Language,” said Phi.

Cultural Morning Tea for Life Without Barriers Carers

Life Without Barriers’ Child Youth and Family and Living Arts teams held a morning tea for carers and staff on Kaurna Land.

Aboriginal Resident Artist Natasha Sumner led a Ngarrindjeri Weaving session for guests. She shared the importance of weaving and how it represents community and kinship connections. Natasha shared her story of weaving and how her family have connected with weaving across generations.

‘Carers and staff learnt how to weave their own objects from the very beginning step. Everyone was very focused, and many expressed how much they enjoyed engaging in the weaving – even those who found it challenging to begin with,” said Phi.

Everyone enjoyed the delicious morning tea by ‘Something Wild’ - a local Aboriginal-run business that infuses Indigenous food with modern cuisine and also employs young Aboriginal people.


The Amazing Race Nipaluna

We took part in the Amazing Race Challenge organised by Karadi Aboriginal Corporation, a Tasmanian Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation.

Celebrating the theme ‘For Our Elders’, competitors had to race through 10 pitstops, each stop shared captivating stories of a featured Tasmanian Elder. At the stop, teams had to complete different activities in order to receive their next clue for the race.

“It was a great opportunity for teams to work together with staff they might not ordinarily have the chance to and delve into Aboriginal history in Tasmania,” said Ashton Wynn from Life Without Barriers Children, Youth and Family team.

Western Australia

NAIDOC Week celebrations in Kings Park, Perth 

The WA Disability team put on an unforgettable event at Kaarta Koomba, Kings Park. The event brought together the people we support, their families and staff and featured storytelling, Didgeridoo playing, dance, and delicious food.  

Guests enjoyed Kangaroo stew and traditional damper prepared by our very own staff member, Cissie. Cissie and her family cooked for our celebration, including jam and relish.   

Known as 'Kaarta Gar-up' or 'Mooro Kaarta', Kings Park has been a place of great significance to its traditional custodians, the Whadjuk Noongar people, for at least 40,000 years. Noongar Elder Stan Headland gave a beautiful Welcome to Country, then performed a smoking ceremony, where he warmly invited everyone to let the herbal smoke wash over them and embrace its purifying properties. 

Johnny Garlett and his father, two men from the Whadjuk nation, wowed audiences with their storytelling, song, and dance.  

“Johnny's passion for improving the education of vulnerable youth and his involvement in the First Nations Youth Advisory Group left us all inspired. Our NAIDOC event was a wonderful and very special experience to celebrate culture and unity,” said Ainslee Ferraris from the Disability and Mental Health team.

Mirrabooka NAIDOC Cultural Celebration

Life Without Barriers staff celebrated with the community at the Mirrabooka event, which took place on the traditional lands of Whadjuk Nyoongar. We also had a stall at the event.

“It was a very busy and successful event,” said Carer Engagement Officer Charlene Harkin.

“Our merchandise was very popular, and it was good to be able to talk to people who were interested in foster care.”

There was a lot going on for all ages to enjoy, including a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony, flag raising, live music, cultural performances, interactive children’s activities and free tucker.


NAIDOC Celebrations at the Canterbury office

Staff from all service groups came together at the Canterbury Office in Wurundjeri Country to connect. Rob Russell, Director, National Reconciliation, opened the event from Awabakal land. Jodie Reid, Child, Youth and Family Program Coordinator, then facilitated a Trivia session.

“It was an energetic session with the group learning through the Trivia questions and Jodie sharing stories. We look forward to the Victorian RAP Working Group kicking off. Everyone in Victoria, keep an eye out for information about how you can get involved,” said Nicole Hassall, Executive Officer.


Life Without Barriers NAIDOC Week 'For our Elders' special live presentation

Life Without Barriers staff and carers had the privilege of hearing from three Elders who shared their stories, including Elder Aunty Ruth Hegarty, who wrote the award-winning book ‘Is that you Ruthie?'.

Some of our colleagues also yarned about the impact Elders have had on their lives.

Image: Liz and her mother sit side by side.

We are committed to Reconciliation

Learn more about our commitment to Reconciliation through our Reconciliation Action Plan

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