NAIDOC 2020 Message From the NSW Aboriginal Land Council Chair Anne Dennis

11 November 2020

When our current Council including five new Councillors took office following the November 2019 NSWALC election, none of us could have predicted the challenges we would face in the coming year.
 
As the year began, we all believed we would be celebrating NAIDOC in July and the Knockout in October, as always. COVID-19 changed all those plans.
 
It was a year when bushfires and then floods devastated our Country. That devastation was soon followed by another major crisis – the COVID-19 pandemic. The threat posed by the escalating COVID-19 crisis was so great that NAIDOC 2020 was postponed so we could all focus on the vital work of keeping our communities, Elders and those with chronic health issues safe.
 
But while the date of NAIDOC changed, the theme remains a reminder of our strong links to Country. ‘Always Was Always Will Be” has particular relevance for the Land Rights network. “Always Was Always Will Be, Aboriginal Land” originated in the 1980’s Land Rights movement in far-western NSW.
 
Barkandji people were fighting for their rights as sovereign owners of their homelands.  William Bates led the 1983 Mutawintji blockade in 1983, which resulted in the NSW Government closing off sacred sites to the public and 15 long years later, the eventual return of the Mutawintji National Park. It is a community campaign I will always remember as strong, united, persistent and inspiring.
 
“Always Was Always Will Be, Aboriginal Land” continues to be chanted at gatherings and rallies as we remember everyone who fought so tirelessly for our land. And it is reinforcement for all of us today, of our ongoing work in addressing health, social, employment, housing and education issues in our communities.
 
That important work, along with essential bushfire recovery for impacted communities, has been a major focus for NSWALC and the Land Right network this year.
 
So now, as we enter NAIDOC in November 2020 and reflect on what we’ve achieved and who we’ve kept safe this year, it’ is also a good time to celebrate the Land Rights catchcry “Always Was Always Will Be, Aboriginal Land.”

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