This year’s NAIDOC Week theme celebrates the essential role women play in building strong communities.
Katungal Medical Service’s Bega office celebrated the week on Wednesday, July 11 with community members from Eden to Batemans Bay.
Dunghutti woman Jessica Devine is a social and emotional well-being worker and youth worker with the service.
I want to give back to the community, make sure our mob have a say, and make sure all our young Indigenous children can have more opportunities.Jessica Devine
Thirty-two-year-old Ms Devine moved to the region 12 months ago from Canberra to take on the role.
“I want to give back to the community, make sure our mob have a say, and make sure all our young Indigenous children can have more opportunities,” she said.
“Keeping our children on Country and with family is the main goal.”
The theme for NAIDOC Week 2018 is "Because of her, we can", with a focus on female leaders and social activists.
“My biggest female role model would be my mum and my nan,” Ms Devine said.
“They made me the strong Indigenous woman I am today.”
She said she is enjoying her time in the region.
“There’s a sense of community here, they get together more here than they do in Canberra,” Ms Devine said.
She said access to drugs and alcohol by the region’s young people is a concern.
“It is the biggest issue here, because there’s not much to do down here,” she said.
The service’s chair and Bega Valley Shire Council’s Aboriginal Liaison Officer Graham Moore said staff numbers have grown from 19 to over 100 in just five years.
“We are the community,” Mr Moore said.
Mr Moore said he dreams of an Australia free from racism and inequality.
“I have a number of role models, but the number one is my mother who has given me the strong values of being true to myself, and to always be truthful,” he said.
“To be strong in times of oppression, and to stand up when injustices are thrown out there to our mob.
“To be able to walk on Country and share the living stories of the place, and more opportunities for our young.”
Mr Moore’s wife, and manager of the service’s Bega office, Donna Wade told the crowd “we have some powerful women here who I really respect”.
A poster carried the names of female elders, including Deanna Campbell, Shirley Aldridge, Wilma Manton, Faith Aldridge, Kaye Russell, Anne Russell, Joy Kelly and Annette Scott.
A winning artwork painted by Bega’s Jamara Nye, highlighting the importance of woman in the cycle of life, giving birth and raising future generations.
Members of the Ocean Dreaming Dance Group, including Nathan Lygon, Shaquille Aldridge, Bryton Aldridge, Buddy Bamblett and Pindy Hoskins held a smoking ceremony before a captivating dance performance.