National NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia in the first week of July each year to celebrate and recognise the history, culture, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. 

The Benevolent Society’s vision is to walk alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in a respectful and meaningful way that highlights the wisdom, strength and resilience of one of the world’s oldest cultures.

This year’s theme is ‘For our Elders’ 

This year’s theme – ‘For Our Elders’ - recognises the role our Elders have played, and continue to play in our communities and families. 
Kelly Bruce, Executive Director, Future Directions said, "We have many Elders working in TBS, from whose generosity and patience we continuously learn. They teach us about their culture, history and lived experiences. And they inspire us by sharing their vision for the future. Our Elders help guide us to ensure our services and programs are culturally appropriate and safe, when supporting First Nations Peoples. And our Elders are proud advocates for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. For this, and on behalf of TBS, I’d like to sincerely thank all Elders who represent TBS, and who maintain such an important, prominent, and influential role in our workplace."

Meet Zoe Cunningham

Zoe Cunningham is a Butchulla and Gubbi Gubbi Woman, from both Gubbi Gubbi and Butchulla Country. She's in an identified role and works at Gracemere/Mount Morgan’s Early Years Place, QLD as a Child & Family Practitioner

Zoe shares with us some of her family history, why she’s proud to work for The Benevolent Society and how she’ll be celebrating NAIDOC Week.

Why is NAIDOC Week important to you?

I’m always proud to be an Aboriginal Woman – but there isn’t a feeling quite like standing up with my First Nations brothers and sisters to celebrate the survival of our culture. NAIDOC Week to me is a platform for education and acknowledgement. It’s the week to say, ‘This is Australia’s roots, it’s real, raw history – Australia’s soul IS the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.’And, it’s about spending time with my two babies, empowering them to be proud of their culture and to take care of the lands and waterways.

Zoe smiling
Pictured above is Child & Family Practitioner, Zoe. 

What are your reflections on this year’s theme ‘For our Elders’?

Our Elders carry the knowledge and tradition. They’re the ones we go to when we feel lost or disconnected. My grandparents live right on the salty waters of Butchulla country and it’s where my soul feels fed and where I love to get back to several times a year. My Grandparents, as they’ve aged, have started sharing stories of their upbringings when their kids and us grandkids visit. Each time I’m left both in awe and with an ache in my chest. What a generation of people! 

This year, when I’m marching with Rockhampton NAIDOC over the Fitzroy River, alongside my parents, with my babies holding my hands, I’m marching against every injustice and every barrier that our Elders endured. And with every step I’ll be giving thanks to our Elders and Ancestors for the path they’ve laid out for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to walk proudly on today.

What are some cultural activities and events you and your family celebrate during NAIDOC Week?

During NAIDOC Week, I’ll be joining my family at the NAIDOC march in Rockhampton, Queensland. The following week I’ll also be joining my daughter at her primary school for her first school NAIDOC celebration, where she’ll be showing her peers her Emu (Ngurunj) feather headpiece, made for her by her Aunty, and sharing other family cultural practices. 

To see what’s happening in your local community, visit the NAIDOC website event calendar.