For UNSW alumna Nakari Thorpe, NAIDOC Week is about sharing and learning.
“NAIDOC Week is a time to showcase our amazing, beautiful culture to the world. It’s a week of sharing stories, sharing culture and history, and a chance for non-Indigenous people to learn more about Australia’s First Peoples,” says Thorpe, who graduated with a Bachelor of Media (Communications & Journalism) in 2014 and now works as NITV’s Political Correspondent in Canberra.
While she is always proud of her culture and heritage, NAIDOC Week makes the Gunai and Gureng Gureng woman feel even more proud of her identity, and where she has come from.
“It’s a time for all of us to celebrate our First Australians, a chance to celebrate our achievements, an opportunity to recognise our contributions, a moment to focus on the positive,” she says.
It’s also a time when the University and the wider community can gain a deeper understanding of the important role Indigenous Australians play in the community – their knowledge systems, history and, in particular their language.
“I believe NAIDOC Week creates the opportunity for this understanding to take place, a chance for non-Indigenous Australia to listen to the people that have looked after this country for thousands of years. I hope the University and wider community celebrate our achievements and recognise the important contribution First Australians make to society despite the adversity,” she says.
Around 100 people gathered at UNSW’s Kensington Campus on Monday for a flag-raising ceremony to mark the start of NAIDOC Week and its theme this year, Our Languages Matter.
For Thorpe, that theme is timely: “Language is a crucial element of any culture, in particular to Indigenous Australians. Unfortunately, much of our 250 languages across our nations have been lost, but there is a momentum building to reinstate some of the lost, and build upon what we have left,” she says.
“Language is so important to keep culture alive and strong, it gives us purpose, identity and links to our rich and diverse history.
Thorpe was the first in her immediate family to attend university, determined to get an education and “pursue my dreams of giving a voice to the voiceless”.
“I believe education is the key to unlocking many of the adversities faced by our mob, and I hope young Indigenous people see it as an option for them,” she says.
She has great memories of studying at UNSW Arts & Social Sciences and of time spent at Nura Gili, although she admits that as a mature-aged student, she found it tough at first.
“But as I settled in and got to know more people, I really enjoyed learning about the media industry and history. I really enjoyed the hands-on, practical approach used in some of the classes – it was a great opportunity to learn how a newsroom works in the real world.”
Her UNSW degree shaped her to become the journalist she is today: “What I learnt during my degree has been invaluable and absolutely driven my role within the media industry. It has been pivotal to my journalism career and I have grown and learnt a great deal not only as a media student but as a media professional,” she says.