Big crowds have turned out for this year’s NAIDOC Week celebrations showing a growing interest in the region’s aboriginal culture.
Crowds of more than 80 people attended the presentation of local NAIDOC Week awards on Monday and at the screening of a mini-documentary on Sunday on Gunditjmara elder Rob Lowe’s great grandmother and other female forebears.
Mr Lowe said the local aboriginal community was “opening the book” about its culture and finding a lot of interest from the wider community.
Local NAIDOC Week organisers want to lift the profile of the event and this year brought back NAIDOC Week awards after about a 10-year absence.
Ashley Couzens, from the Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative, said the awards had been brought back by popular demand and plans were afoot to return the NAIDOC Week march and dinner dance in future years.
Rob Lowe, who educates the wider community about aboriginal culture, was awarded the 2018 male aboriginal elder of the year award and Libby Clarke, who works on the local “ancestor tree,” the female aboriginal elder of the Year.
In his address Mr Lowe called on the aboriginal community to support rather than criticise each other.
“We all belong to our culture,” he said.
The male community member of the year went to East Warrnambool football coach Danny Chatfield and the female community member of the year was won by Diploma in Community Services student Hayley Harrison.
Victorian Young High Achiever finalist Cody Chatfield was the female youth award winner and Tori Miller, the first indigenous person to address the Warrnambool Anzac Day dawn service, the male youth award winner.
Brett Clarke, Glenda Austin, Anne Lister, Jamara Ugle-Hagan and Shylee Corrigan were awarded certificates of recognition.
This year’s NAIDOC Week has the theme of “Because of Her, We Can” to recognise women who have played a significant part in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.
Among those to pay tribute to the aboriginal women who had shaped them was Roslyn Clarke-Britton.
She said her mother Maisie Rose-Clarke had been instrumental in keeping aboriginal culture alive not only in her family but among other aboriginal families who moved from the Framlingham aboriginal mission into Warrnambool in the early 1970s.
Ms Clarke-Britton said her mother overcame racism in her street to become respected not only in the indigenous but also the non-indigenous community.
She had hosted many gatherings of former Framlingham residents to keep the community connections alive and was one of the first directors of the Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative.
Younger members of the aboriginal community, Brianna Harrison, 23, and Doreen Austin, 26, said women passed on a lot of aboriginal arts such as making possum skin cloaks, beading and basket weaving.