Keep her­itage strong


GEN­ER­A­TIONS of in­dige­nous women were among hun­dreds who gath­ered in Dar­win for the NAIDOC Week march yes­ter­day.

Among them, Tor­res Strait Is­lan­der Natalie Leysley walked with her fam­ily and her two daugh­ters Ruby, 6, and Siob­han, 8, be­fore watch­ing the singing and danc­ing cer­e­monies.

Ms Leysley said it was im­por­tant for her to keep their her­itage alive and NAIDOC week pro­vided a plat­form to pass it to the next gen­er­a­tion.

This year’s NAIDOC theme is “Be­cause of her, we can”.

“My mum’s Tor­res Strait, and be­cause of her I can do this, and my kids can do this, so the danc­ing is re­ally im­por­tant and if she wasn’t here, I wouldn’t have that con­nec­tion to my peo­ple which would be re­ally sad,” she said.

“We keep telling the chil­dren how im­por­tant it is that we keep it, be­cause at some point my mum is go­ing to for­get.”

Ms Leysley draws in­spi­ra­tion from all the women in her life, in­clud­ing her mother and her chil­dren and ev­ery­one in be­tween.

“My mother, she didn’t do much when I was a child, but as she grew older she re­alised that was a mis­take, she should have been teach­ing me and my sib­lings more about our peo­ple and cul­ture, but she was quite happy to find that I was in­ter­ested be­cause she thought ‘now I can teach you’,” she said.

“Now my chil­dren say things like ‘when I have kids, I’m go­ing to teach them these dances and I’m go­ing to per­form and keep it alive’, so it’s re­ally em­pow­er­ing to hear that bit of in­ter­est in my mum got this whole thing rolling.”

Sally Gar­ling was at the march with life­time friend Kathy Parfitt. The pair met four decades ago when they were teenagers in Dar­win.

“It’s be­ing able to iden­tify in our­selves … it’s about be­ing able to walk in the street and say ‘I’m Sally Gar­ling and I’m in­dige­nous, I be­long here’,” she said. “(The theme) makes me miss my mother … but it’s won­der­ful that they have ac­knowl­edged our moth­ers and their moth­ers.”

Ms Gar­ling is one of 17 sis­ters. She said Dar­win’s com­mu­nity has been im­por­tant to her over the years.

“We are a close fam­ily and we love every­body, we love the peo­ple, I’ve adopted this place, I’ve lived here for 52 years and I’ve grown up here, so this is my coun­try.”

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