Gundungurra elder Aunty Val Mulcahy didn't miss the opportunity to draw attention to key issues in front of a packed crowd at the opening of NAIDOC Week in Moss Vale.
Fitting in with this year's theme: 'Because of her, we can', Aunty Val promoted the importance of Indigenous employment and continued to lobby for a long sought after Indigenous community centre.
"I'll tell you what, looking at this crowd we're going to need that new centre. We're not the village that's gone to sleep," she said.
Wingecarribee Shire Council Aboriginal Community Development Officer Melissa Wiya said that this NAIDOC week was about honouring the contributions and the sacrifices made by Indigenous women.
“They are our mothers, our elders, our grandmothers, our aunties, our sisters, our daughters. We celebrate the invaluable contributions these women have made and continue to make to our communities,” she said.
Councillor Larry Whipper paid tribute to the "countless generations of Aboriginal women" that played a "critical role" in the fight for justice and equality.
"Most programs are driven by women. I haven't seen men step up in the same way and make the same sacrifices. It's these women that keep the dreaming alive," he said.
Kirli Saunders, founder of the Poetry in First Languages project in conjunction with Red Room Poetry highlighted the artistic and cultural contributions of Aboriginal women in her poem 'Matriarch'.
Ms Saunders then introduced two Moss Vale High School students who read some of their work made through the Poetry in First Languages project.
Ms Wiya spoke about the number of programs and intiatives currently running through Wingecarribee Shire Council that promote and celebrate Aboriginal culture.
"Women fought and continue to fight for justice, equality, and access to education and employment," Ms Wiya said.
"Programs don't just happen, it's because of relationships."
Here’s to you
and your soul
that is drained
but carries on giving,
who is tired
but keeps on,
so close to breaking
and yet so strong
to hold it together
for someone else
for something else
for something bigger
Here's to you.
'Matriarchs' was written by Kirli Saunders and will be featured in her forthcoming collection Kindred with Magabala. Ms Saunders is a proud Gunai woman with ties to the Yuin, Gundungurra, Gadigal and Biripi people. She is the manager of Poetic Learning and Aboriginal Cultural Liaison at Red Room Poetry.
See what's on this NAIDOC Week:
Tuesday July 10: 'Finding Food in the Forest' hosted by NPWS Discovery Rangers. Contact Fitzroy Falls Visitor's Centre 4887 7270 for more inofrmation.
Thursday July 12: 'Aboriginal Art Workshop – Because of Her, We Can!', hosted by Creative Space Arts and Wingecarribee Shire Council. Contact Melissa 4868 0856 for more information.
Saturday July 14: 'NAIDOC Family Fun Day' hosted by Yamanda Aboriginal Association at Aboriginal Community Cultural Centre, Mittagong. Contact 0447 723 017 for more information.