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“For Our Elders”: Honouring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wisdom and Leadership

July 4, 2023

The vibrant spirit of National NAIDOC Week has begun, as Australia eagerly awaits a time to recognise and celebrate the remarkable contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This year’s theme, “For Our Elders,” serves as a heartfelt tribute to the pivotal role and immeasurable importance of Elders within their communities. It is a reminder to all of us to cherish the living libraries of wisdom and knowledge that the Elders embody.

In the tapestry of our diverse nation, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders stand as beacons, preserving the threads of cultural heritage. Their wisdom represents the bridge that connects the ancient past to the present and carries the torch of tradition into the future. They hold within them the essence of ancestral stories, customs, and practices that shape the identities of their communities.

Guyson Baker, the Indigenous Officer at the Australian Workers’ Union, passionately emphasises the significance of this knowledge: “Our Elders are the gatekeepers of our cultural identity. They are the living embodiment of our ancestors’ teachings, guiding us through the complexities of modern life while honouring our roots.”

Within Indigenous communities, Elders are revered as the pillars of cultural continuity. They are the compasses that help navigate the complexities of contemporary society, ensuring that the spirit of their ancestors continues to guide their people. Through their teachings, Elders empower younger generations to embrace their unique heritage, fostering a strong sense of cultural identity and pride.

Guyson Baker remarks, “The Elders hold the keys to our cultural identity. They unlock the understanding of who we are as a people and provide the foundation upon which we build our futures.”

The theme of NAIDOC week “For Our Elders” magnifies the intergenerational connections that sustain Indigenous cultures. It highlights the vital exchange of knowledge, stories, and experiences from Elders to younger community members. This passing of the torch ensures that the cultural flame burns bright, preserving the values, traditions, and languages that are the lifeblood of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Guyson says the significance of this intergenerational connection, is, “The passing of cultural knowledge from one generation to the next is the lifeblood of our communities. Our Elders carry the flame, ensuring that the fire of our culture continues to illuminate the path forward for generations to come.” Embedded within the fabric of Indigenous communities is the profound respect and reverence afforded to Elders. They are not only revered as custodians of wisdom but also recognised as leaders and decision-makers.

National NAIDOC Week serves as a strong reminder to show respect and give recognition to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders who have played a significant role in shaping society. Their voices are sought after and valued, as their experiences and perspectives offer guidance and insight derived from a lifetime of lived experiences.

Guyson acknowledges the leadership and wisdom of Elders, stating, “They are the true torchbearers of our communities, illuminating our way with their profound understanding of our culture and traditions.”



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