Meander Valley Gazette

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‘Because of her, we can!’

FeatureJoanne EisemannComment

JULY 2018 | Hayley Manning

LAST YEAR’S NAIDOC celebrations in Deloraine drew the largest crowd in Tasmania. Now, the 2018 theme ‘Because of her, we can!’, is set to attract even bigger crowds.

In a year of many firsts, NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) will acknowledge the contributions Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women make as mothers, nurturers and teachers to their families, our communities and the country.

Melinda Scott has replaced her dad and the rest of the ‘male’ organisers for the event which starts at the Deloraine Cenotaph at 10.45am on Wednesday 11th July.

A ‘Welcome to Country’, flag raising, fire sticks and smoking ceremony will be held along the Greg Murray inspired Kooparoona Niara Cultural Trail. All are then welcome to a luncheon, traditional craft making and art exhibition at Rotary Pavilion, Alvestone Drive, Deloraine at 1.00pm.

But for Melinda, the day’s highlight will be the first-time inclusion of women telling the story of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) resilience through dance and chanting in Palawa kani language.

“We are really excited because we are going to have the 10 to 14 year old girls deliver speeches in traditional language also.”

Palawa kani or ‘Tassie blackfella talk,’ is a recently revived lutruwita/Tasmanian Aboriginal language, which has slowly gained recognition through the 2012 Aboriginal and Dual Naming Policy, given to some lutruwita landmarks such as Takayna/Tarkine, Yingina/Great Lake and Kunanyi/Mt Wellington.

Melinda says her father, educator, elder and story teller, Hank Horton, continues to be the greatest influence in her life, along with that of her children. “Growing up, dad made sure we were proud of our roots, by being in and around Aboriginal culture, and making sure we were taught the correct history from a young age.”

Melinda recalls the time she completed her Teacher Aid studies in 2012, to discover her teacher had enrolled her in the National ATSI Student of the Year competition. As the Tasmanian State finalist, she attended the awards in Melbourne and said despite being runner-up, she felt like she had won.

The guidance of her father is reflected in the rich cultural knowledge of Aboriginal Art and History she teaches, and her enthusiasm for creating change through education, learning and participation.

“Many people wrongly believe the controversial Australia ‘invasion’ Day issue and NAIDOC week are about rectifying the past, but that is not what it is about.

“This just deters people from learning and creates small mindedness.

“It is about healing, sharing and embracing what we have and maintaining what we have today.”

Melinda said she would like to keep the NAIDOC momentum going by forming a committee with the young participants in a bid to encourage them to get involved in future events.

“I remember Deloraine’s Aboriginal Centre in the 90’s where everyone knew each other and were there for each other. We achieved more in that short time than we have over the last 20 years.”

Photo | Hayley Manning