NAIDOC Week is an annual celebration of the history, culture, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia. On 6 July 2023, Launceston Grammar proudly joined the nation in honouring this significant event, by flying the Aboriginal Flag for the first time at a special flag-raising ceremony. The ceremony not only reminded us of the deep spiritual significance this land posesses, but allowed us to celebrate the wisdom and resilience of the Palawa and Pakana peoples, fostering a sense of unity and cultural appreciation within the school community. Let’s look back over just some of the highlights from this momentous occasion, including the exceptional individuals that played a significant role in making this event unforgettable.
A Symbol of Unity
On a misty winter’s morning, a small crowd began to gather on the Senior Campus school grounds, surrounding the flag poles. Grade 11 and 12 students were invited to attend, as well as staff, Indigenous students of the school and distinguished members and guests of the Melythina Tiakana Warrana Aboriginal Corporation.
Welcoming Elders and Special Guests
The ceremony began with a heartfelt Welcome to Country by Aunty Patsy Cameron, a respected Elder from the local Indigenous community. Aunty Patsy’s words acknowledged the traditional custodians of the land, paying tribute to her ancestors and recognising the continued presence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Northern Tasmanian community. Launceston Grammar had the honour of hosting esteemed guests, including Mr Lyndon O’Neil, a proud Tasmanian Aboriginal person, a Trawlwoolway and Pairabeene man, director on the board of Melythina Tiakana Warrana Aboriginal Corporation and coordinator for the Tebrakunna Rangers.
The Heartwarming Student Involvement
One of the most remarkable aspects of the ceremony was the active participation of Launceston Grammar students. A handful of Indigenous students played a central role in carrying out the event. As Mac W. (Grade 11) raised the Aboriginal flag, while Chloe W. (Grade 4) and Luwanna B. (Grade 9) raised the two Australian flags on either side, it was evident that this moment meant more than just a symbolic gesture. It represented a collective effort to foster a sense of belonging and cultural understanding among the wider school community.
In the spirit of NAIDOC Week’s theme for 2023, For Our Elders, several inspiring speeches were delivered. Principal, Mr Dale Bennett, emphasised the importance of this momentous occasion at Launceston Grammar. He touched on the deep spiritual significance of the land in which the school stands and the importance of developing a relationship with our Aboriginal Elders, to strive toward a more inclusive and harmonious school community. Aunty Patsy Cameron also addressed the crowd, expressing her joy for the relationship that Launceston Grammar is building with the local Aboriginal community, as well as the history of her people, the Palawa and Pakana people and the teachings that she is still practising today because of them.
Adding an element of joy and celebration, two ceremonies were performed as part of the event. Aunty Patsy and Mrs Cherrilyn Parker orchestrated an Ochre Ceremony, by mixing up an Ochre paste, then presenting it onto members in the crowd. Mr Lyndon O’Neil performed a Smoking Ceremony while the flags were being raised for the first time. As the crowd stood in silence, the smell of smoke filled the air as the flags were raised above us, over a misty winter backdrop.
Commitment to Ongoing Education
The flag-raising ceremony was not just a one-time event; it marked the beginning of a commitment to ongoing education and awareness. Launceston Grammar announced that the flag will be raised each day alongside the Australian flag, to ensure that the spirit of NAIDOC Week and the importance of the cultural community ties continue into the school’s future.
The NAIDOC Week 2023 Flag Raising Ceremony was an inspiring testament to the school community’s commitment to cultural appreciation and unity. The powerful presence of esteemed Indigenous guests, the active involvement of our Indigenous students and the heartfelt speeches and ceremonies, all contributed to the event’s profound impact.
The ceremony served as a catalyst for ongoing education and awareness, fostering a deeper understanding of Australia’s First Nations peoples and their history among students and staff alike. Beyond a symbolic gesture, it ignited a passion for continued advocacy, healing the country, and acknowledging the rights and struggles faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
As the three flags danced above the crowd and the misty morning settled around them, a sense of togetherness enveloped the school grounds, signalling a collective purpose to honour the past, celebrate the present, and build a more inclusive future. This celebration of culture and unity will undoubtedly leave a lasting legacy, inspiring positive change within the school community and beyond.