Camperdown smoking ceremony for NAIDOC week

Published on 08 July 2024

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More than 50 people gathered for a smoking ceremony in Camperdown to celebrate NAIDOC Week.

Gunditjmara/Kirrae Whurrong man Brett Clarke and his sons, Jirra and Wirran, performed the ceremony at the community flagpole outside the Camperdown courthouse.

Mr Clarke wore a shirt bearing the face of Wombeetch Puyuun, a member of the Leehoorah Gundidj clan, who lived freely on the ancestral lands of the Djargurd Wurrung people around present-day Camperdown.

In the late 1800s he refused to move onto Mission in what Mr Clarke described as the first peaceful land rights protest in Camperdown.

The land where he lived in a traditional mia mia is now the site of the Wombeetch Puyuun reconciliation garden maintained by Mercy Regional College students supported by Council’s Parks and Gardens team.

Mr Clarke said he and Jirra had performed a ceremony at the opening of the garden.

“Jirra was four or five years old. It was his first cultural dance.”

After the ceremony, Mr Clarke, Corangamite Shire Deputy Mayor Laure Hickey and Cr Ruth Gstrein raised the Aboriginal flag.

“NAIDOC week to me personally is a week of shining the light on Indigenous culture,” Mr Clarke said.

“It’s about having pride in our culture and stories and teaching people the true history of the first peoples.”

Cr Hickey thanked the Clarkes for the ceremony and for educating those present about the importance of NAIDOC week in the Shire.

“Held across Australia in the first week of July each year, NAIDOC Week celebrates and recognises the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Cr Hickey said.

“It is an opportunity for all Australians to learn about First Nations cultures and histories and participate in celebrations of the oldest, continuous living cultures on earth.”

The fire was kept burning until 4 pm and Council staff spoke with members of the public about the Aboriginal Participation and Engagement Action Plan and Council’s commitments to Reconciliation, local Traditional Owner Groups and First Nations organisations.

The fire represents the enduring strength and vitality of Indigenous cultures, passed down through generations despite the challenges faced. It is a symbol of connection to the land, to each other, and to the rich tapestry of traditions that define Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

As we honour this flame, we kindle the sparks of pride and unity, igniting a renewed commitment to acknowledging, preserving, and sharing the cultural heritage that enriches our nation.

The theme of NAIDOC Week 2024—"Blak, Loud and Proud".

Corangamite Shire Council acknowledges and pays our respects to the Eastern Maar and Wadawurrung peoples, as the Traditional Owners of the Lands that we work, live and play. We also acknowledge their Elders, past and present, and recognise their ongoing cultural, spiritual and educational practices.