Congregation member Margaret DiGeorgio writes about her experience:
The theme of NAIDOC Week 2022 was Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!, so several of the congregation from Engadine Uniting Church and I showed up at the celebration marking the week held at Gunnamatta Park in Cronulla on Thursday 7 July. The hall was packed, standing room only, and a great atmosphere of celebration and solidarity.
The day started at 10am with the Welcome Celebration. Master of Ceremonies was Bruce Howell, from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Sub-Committee, who introduced Aunty Barb Simms, Traditional Owner from the Gweagal and Bidigal Peoples. Aunty Barb gave the Welcome to Country and then went on to make a very powerful and moving speech in which she revealed that her father had been a mission boy and she too was a mission girl. At the age of nine she was forcibly taken away from her mother at La Perouse and taken to Bidura Home in Glebe.
Following speeches from Mark Speakman, NSW Attorney-General; Councillor Carmelo Pesce, Sutherland Shire Mayor; and Aunty Deanna Schreiber, the Chair of the Kurranulla Aboriginal Corporation, the audience was treated to a cultural performance by young women called the Djaadjawan Dancers. The young children sitting on the floor had the best view.
A year six girl from a local primary school sang the National Anthem, the first verse in English and the second verse in Dharawal language. She sang unaccompanied and it was her first public performance.
After the formalities were over Col Hardy entertained the large audience, singing and playing guitar. Col was the first Aboriginal person to win a Golden Guitar at Tamworth Country Music Festival. The large audience was well represented by First Nations People, both young and old. There were a variety of stall holders – you could even have your blood pressure checked at one stall. With plenty of free activities for the children, everyone in attendance seemed to be having lots of fun, including ourselves.
A highlight of the day for me was having the chance to speak to Aunty Barb Simms. I let her know that her speech had a powerful impact on me, and she replied: “That’s truth telling”, and she gave me the warmest hug, which was very special.
Afterword: After listening to a library talk via Zoom on Thursday night I learnt that the cabbage tree palms are called Dharawal by the local indigenous people. The guest speaker had written Les Bursill’s biography, “The Past is in Us”. Les’ son John also spoke about his father.