The University of New England's acknowledgement of NAIDOC week was marked with a flag raising and smoking ceremony on the lawns of Booloominbah this week.
Master of Ceremonies and Student Engagement Officer at Oorala Aboriginal Centre, Bruce Dennison introduced this year's theme Always Was, Always Will Be and called for a minute's silence in memory of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that have passed.
UNE's Elder in Residence, Colin Ahoy, performed the Welcome to Country.
In her welcome to more than 100 people in attendance, CEO & vice-chancellor Professor Brigid Heywood spoke of Indigenous history and 75,000 years of environmental guardianship, of citizenship being valued, of family being at the heart and of friendship being the narrative.
Guest speaker Donna Moodie, a lecturer in Contextual Studies in the School of Education, acknowledged the theme of Always Was, Always Will Be throughout her speech.
"Indigenous People have never ceded responsibility and custodianship for Country and we will keep taking responsibility for caring, crying, singing, learning, acting, speaking and thinking of Country, on or off Country," she said.
Ms Moodie also highlighted the damage being done by climate change, persistent drought, extreme weather, deforestation and species extinction and called on Australians to have respectful relationships with each other and work together for a healthier future for everyone.
We can learn from each other- Donna Moodie
"Let us start a healthier, more helpful respectful dialogical discourse," she said.
"In other words let us two start yarning and talking and speaking Country again for a healthier future. Our children, our future generations and our sentient beings demand this of us.
"We can learn from each other, respecting the concept of Always was, Always will be..."
Student guest speaker UNE Archaeology student Colin Ahoy Junior also spoke about witnessing the destruction of culture and working together to ensure a future for all. Colin Junior is a former TRACKS student, who successfully completed his preparatory course with Oorala Aboriginal Centre before enrolling in Archaeology at UNE.
Proceedings wrapped up with performances by the Gogan Dancers.
The NAIDOC 2020 theme Always Was, Always Will Be recognises that First Nations people have occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years and are spiritually and culturally connected to this country. The theme acknowledges that hundreds of Nations and their cultures covered this continent. All were managing the land - the biggest estate on earth - to sustainably provide for their future.
A spokesperson for UNE said UNE NAIDOC Week 2020 acknowledges and celebrates that our First Nation's story didn't begin with documented European contact whether in 1770 or 1606 - with the arrival of the Dutch on the western coast of the Cape York Peninsula.
"The very first footprints on this continent were in fact those belonging to First Nations peoples," they said.
"Our coastal Nations watched and interacted with at least 36 contacts made by Europeans prior to 1770. Many of them resulting in the charting of the northern, western and southern coastlines - of our First Nations lands and waters.
"NAIDOC 2020 invites all Australians to embrace the true history of this country - a history which dates back thousands of generations. It's about seeing, hearing and learning the First Nations' 65,000+ year history of this country - which is Australian history.
"We want all Australians to celebrate that we have the oldest continuing cultures on the planet and to recognise that our sovereignty was never ceded.
"Our First Nation's story began at the dawn of time. Always Was, Always Will Be."
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