Michael Del Monaco sells shirts celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander culture during Seymour’s NAIDOC celebration on Thursday. ​

By Colin MacGillivray

More than 500 people attended Thursday’s NAIDOC celebration in Seymour, the largest crowd in the event’s history.

The NAIDOC event, organised by the Seymour Local Aboriginal Network, LAN, each year, is a chance for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to come together to celebrate the history and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The celebration was operated successfully under COVID-19 restrictions in 2021, winning Mitchell Shire Council’s Community Event of the Year award.

This year’s event featured more than 30 stalls representing groups from across the Seymour community including health, education, advocacy, defence and emergency services and local government, along with displays of Aboriginal art and culture, free food, T-shirt printing, skateboarding and live animal displays.

Organiser Brenda Newman said the animal interactions had proven popular with children, as had the skateboarding and T-shirt printing by youth group Gnarly Neighbours.

She said organisers received plenty of positive feedback and had plans to make the event bigger and better next year.

“We’ve had about 250 people other years and 500 this year, so it was twice as big as usual. It was brilliant,” she said.

“People said they’d like to see the march in the street come back, which we’ll definitely do next year if we can.

“The animals were the most popular. The kids loved the snakes and the dingo. The ice-cream man was pretty popular as well.”

Ms Newman said State Government funding for the event was withdrawn this year, forcing organisers to rely on sponsorship and fundraising.

“It was all our wonderful sponsors and fundraising that got us through. FamilyCare paid for Gnarly Neighbours, Our Place paid the rent on the shed,” she said.

Rebecca Welsh opened the event with an acknowledgement of country, congratulating everyone on a successful event.

“This annual NAIDOC event is the only event of this scale held in the Mitchell Shire area,” she said.

“We are only a small group of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people working together to make this event happen every year.

Ms Welsh called on community groups to continue supporting the celebration.

“The Seymour LAN normally has some funding that supports this event. This year it was announced there was no more funding attached to that group, so that’s going to make it really hard for us to continue,” she said.

“We’ll have to be creative. It’s a matter of sitting down and getting the people who are willing to be involved in the future of this event together.”

Family support service FamilyCare’s Liz Franklin said the NAIDOC event was a great way to engage with the local Indigenous community.

“It’s important because we have so many First Nations people in the area who miss out on so much, and to be able to bring them together for a great outing and link them into all the services that are available is good,” she said.

“It’s so rewarding to be able to see all these people come along and enjoy themselves. People may not be aware of all the services that are in the area, so giving them the opportunity to talk to them is worthwhile.”

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