Photo supplied by Nartarsha Napanangka Bamblett
The Foundation celebrated NAIDOC Week 2020 with Nartarsha Napanangka Bamblett, a member of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, who spoke to staff and Aboriginal Communities’ Gambling Awareness Program partners about her hopes and optimism.
The event opened with a Welcome to Country by Janet Galpin, representing the Boon Wurrung people. Janet reflected on the theme of NAIDOC Week 2020, ‘Always was, always will be’, reminding us that First Nations People are the traditional custodians of the land and have cared for it for more than 65,000 years so we may enjoy it today.
Nartarsha is a proud Yorta Yorta, Gunai, Wiradjuri and Walpiri woman. She was the first recruit to Richmond’s VFLW team, was involved in the Deadly Questions initiative, and is the co-founder of Wala Connections, a project that delivers dance and movement workshops, performances and mentoring.
Connection to Country
Nartarsha spoke of the significance of her connection to Country, using vivid language to describe the Tree of Life as a powerful metaphor.
‘The tree is a pure reflection of life, of us,’ she said. ‘It’s … the source that takes in … carbon dioxide and gives out this fresh air… That’s us walking a life as the tree… We are deeply connected, whether we see it on the surface or not, and every tree and every person is unique, and it also carries its scars and breakages, it continues to shed its layers and it goes through seasons, just like us as humans …
‘No matter where we are … we are deeply rooted to this Earth.’
‘‘The tree is a pure reflection of life, of us.’
Her work in, and passion for, song and movement reconnects Nartarsha with these roots and Country.
‘Aboriginal dancing and practices were all imitations of the Earth’s elements – it may not have been written but it’s in us and it’s programmed in me,’ she said.
Motherhood and the strength of women
While she has garnered an impressive array of professional accolades, Nartarsha feels her greatest achievement is ‘the birth of [her] son and … how [she] shows up as a woman’. Consequently, she’s particularly focused on working with young women.
‘We’re the rocks, we’re the glue, we’re the water that flows…’
‘I know the stories and the power our women held in our communities before we went through colonisation and this generational trauma where it’s … conditioned women to be … below or small and voiceless,’ said Nartarsha.
‘When we can work with … young women as a focus … we can change the conditioning they’ve been through… If we can do it at a young age, it actually sets them up … so they can build this solid foundation – a connection to themselves, to their culture and their Country… We’re actually raising women to be the powerful women they’ve been created to be … to raise strong and resilient children.
‘We’re the rocks, we’re the glue, we’re the water that flows in between the Earth of our communities.’
Working towards reconciliation
Nartarsha feels that by speaking up for her community, she is on the right path to connect non-Aboriginal Australians with a deeper understanding of the history of First Nations People.
‘First Nations people work in a circle,’ she said. ‘We’re all connected in this harmony and this unity, side by side… Nobody’s above; nobody’s below.
‘[I am] continuing the march for our people. The recognition. The acceptance. The solidarity of our Country; the truth telling of past wrongs, but also everything we did right.’
‘We’re all connected in this harmony and this unity, side by side.’
She concluded with a celebration of NAIDOC Week, and Aboriginal history and culture.
‘I can share in this culture, share in this Country, and I have every right, and you have every right, to celebrate where you live; the people around you; the culture that is on offer …
‘Australian history is my history, and my history is your history – wherever you’re from – it’s for us to embrace. Together. United.’