What Naidoc Week Means to Wiradjuri woman Dorothy Kelly

By , Melinda McCarthy published on 27/06/2024 Ochre Recruitment, ochrehealth, Indigenous Health,

The Ochre Group acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and we recognise the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, and to Elders and Custodians past, present and emerging.

Ochre has been very involved with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities since we were founded in 2002. Our Ochre Recruitment team recruits doctors for Aboriginal Medical Service organisations around the country and, through our medical centres and the doctors we support, we deliver care to around 12,000 patients around the country who identify as First Nations peoples. This includes the doctors who practice with us on Flinders Island flying across to Cape Barren Island every fortnight to run a clinic for the Aboriginal community there.

During NAIDOC Week last year, we were proud to launch our inaugural Reconciliation Action Plan in our Bathurst practice with the help of the local Wiradjuri elders and community. 

This year, our Interim CEO Michele Smith has packed the camper and she and her husband have been on the road, following a 5,000km “Ochre trail”, visiting Ochre practices across Victoria, NSW and the ACT. She was in Collarenebri on Tuesday and she took the opportunity to sit down with Ochre team member, RAP Working Group member and proud Wiradjuri woman, Dorothy Kelly, to talk about NAIDOC Week. Here's a snippet from their conversation.

Can you explain to me the significance of NAIDOC Week to you and what it means to you personally?

Well, NAIDOC to me is inclusion learning about our past history. NAIDOC week is for everyone to come in and join and learn what it is and recognition to our elders, our young pastor, presidents coming through. It's a lot to do with learning the culture. Like you come in, they see how they do the cooking, like some NAIDOC days they have, they're cooking, they have their dancers, and it's a lot for everyone no matter what colour you are to come in and learn about our history. It's a celebration of our history.

Ochre RAP Coordinator, Wiradjuri woman Dorothy Kelly & Ochre Co-founder & Director Ross Lamplugh

NAIDOC week's about a celebration. It's about your song lines and it's about your art,  your weaving and all of those things. Tell me about some of those cultural aspects to your life?

Well, my cousin, Wayne Martin is a famous indigenous artist. I think it was 2018 or 2019,  when he'd done the NRL Premiership ring when the Cowboys won.  Jonathan Thurston actually picked him out and went down his boots. He has a massive website. He's gone really, really big. He's very, very cultural. He's been teaching me a lot about our culture from Wiradjuri area. See, I'm a Wiradjuri woman who's grown up on Kamilaroy Country most of my life. I pay respect to the Gila Roy people and I'm a Wiradjuri person. He goes home to country and I love my home. And I'm learning about my history down.. it's amazing. And with his artwork, I'm astounded by it and I'm still learning. 

If you could encourage us white fellas to celebrate NAIDOC week, what would you suggest we do?

Go down into your local council where they have the NAIDOC days. All different areas have different sorts of things. I know at Lightning Ridge, they have a band there, they have all sorts of different things there. Growing up,  when they have NAIDOC day, they had the elders sitting around making different things, cooking things, and just depending on what area you're in, go down and have a look at Match the local NAIDOC Day, NAIDOC week, and how they celebrate it. Every area is different, but it's amazing to watch and see.

For a rundown on all the NAIDOC Week events happening in your community, click here. 

View the Ochre Reconciliation Plan (RAP) and a brief outline of our involvement with, and care for, First Nations people here.

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