The threat of rain was not enough to keep what Worimi elder Neville Lilley said was the "biggest crowd we've ever had" from turning out to the opening of NAIDOC Week in Port Stephens.
About 150 people marched through the Raymond Terrace CBD to Port Stephens Council's administration building for a flag raising ceremony and breakfast on Monday morning, kick-starting a week of events aimed at recognising the Port's Indigenous community.
"NAIDOC Week is an opportunity for us to all come together as a community to celebrate the rich history, culture and achievements of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here in Port Stephens," Mayor Ryan Palmer said.
"Each year NAIDOC Week has a theme and this year's is Voice. Treaty. Truth. Those three words are incredibly important. They represent the call for recognition in the constitution for our First People so that we can all have a role in the decision-making in our democracy.
"Without truth and a shared understanding of our often troubled history there is no way that we as Australians can reach a place of true reconciliation."
Following the welcome to country, done in song by Worimi elder Uncle John Ridgeway OAM, and smoking ceremony by Justin Ridgeway, Cr Palmer spoke about the relationship the council has with the Karuah and Worimi Local Aboriginal Land Councils and the milestones reached in the year since the historic Road to Tomorrow agreement was signed.
Marchers in William Street, opening 2019 NAIDOC Week:
This has included installing signage at the "gateways to Port Stephens" that read 'Worimi country' in Gatung, funding $35,000 worth of Aboriginal projects, training council staff in culture awareness and connect to country and growing the Aboriginal collection in libraries.
"I am excited to see what we can deliver for our community going forward," Cr Palmer said.
Paterson MP Meryl Swanson and Worimi LALC chief executive officer Andrew Smith further spoke about the 2019 NAIDOC Week theme before the Australian, Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander flags were raised in the forecourt of the council's administration building.
Speaking to those gathered in the forecourt for Monday's ceremony, Ms Swanson said it was important to see First Nations people in parliament making decisions.
"For the first time in the history of the nation, I sit in a government where the minister for Indigenous First Nations people is Ken Wyatt, an Indigenous man, and the opposition representative for our First Nations people is Linda Burney, an Indigenous woman," Ms Swanson said.
"I think that that is so important in true reconciliation and determining a way forward. It is time for our first nations people to be at the decision-making table and I am greatly encouraged knowing we have Ken and Linda and Senator Patrick Dodson representing you in Canberra."
Ms Swanson also addressed the children in the audience.
"As I go to schools and present the flags of Australia which include the Australian flag, the Aboriginal flag and the flag of the Torres Strait, I talk to the children about navigation and a time before we had Google and Sat Nav," she said.
"I tell them that once upon a time to get somewhere, people used to look at the stars at night and sun in the day.
"When you look at the beautiful Aboriginal flag and see the symbol of the sun at the centre, and when you look at the Torres Strait Islander flag and see that magnificent white star in the middle, I want you to think about your future.
"I want you to keep your First Nations heritage a part of who you are as a person to help you... navigate through your life, knowing you have millennia of history on your side to help you in the decision making process."
In wrapping up Monday's speeches, Mr Smith said: "Whilst we can stand together and talk about having come a long way in relationships in Australia I think just the purpose of this year's NAIDOC tells us there's still a long way to go".
"We've still got uncomfortable conversations to have but they're important. It's important that we as Aboriginal communities see the right people at those tables, sharing that voice and making those decisions."
A march and foreshore activities are due to be staged in Nelson Bay on Wednesday morning.
The NAIDOC Touch Football Championship will be held at Lakeside from 8am on Thursday, followed by a mural unveiling at the fields by Worimi artist Jason Russell at 2.30pm.
The big family fun day will be held at Murook Culture Centre in Williamtown 10am-3pm.
There is a free film festival at the Port's Raymond Terrace and Salamander Bay libraries on Thursday and Friday.
NAIDOC Week 2019 calendar of events
Monday, July 8
- Raymond Terrace march and flag raising
March from Cenotaph (corner Port Stephens Street and Jacaranda Avenue) to Port Stephens Council's administration building. The forecourt will be yarn bombed in Aboriginal colours, all knitted by council staff and community volunteers. Flag raising, speeches and free breakfast to follow.
- NAIDOC Week kids disco
- Murook Culture Centre, Williamtown
Get your dancing shoes on and dress up in your favourite disco clothes to dance the night away. This NAIDOC event is designed for the kids aged 5 to 13 years to enjoy the evening listening and dancing to the DJ's music. Supervision is required by a parent or guardian.
Tuesday, July 9
- Worimi LALC hosting movie night - Undermined: Tales from The Kimberley
- Murrook Culture Centre, Williamtown
- From 6pm
Join the Worimi Local Aboriginal Land Council at Murook for an evening of entertainment watching the feature film Undermined - Tales from The Kimberley. Australia's vast and unspoiled Kimberley region is under threat with mining, pastoralism and irrigated agriculture driving an unprecedented land grab. Undermined investigates the politics of an area now branded "the future economic powerhouse of Australia" and what this means for our First People and their unique cultural landscapes. It is a free event but bookings are a required, through Sticky Tickets.
Wednesday, July 10
- Nelson Bay march and entertainment
- 9am to 3pm
March from Nelson Bay Bowling Club down Stockton Street to Foreshore Park (near d'Albora Marina). Rides and fun for kids, beading and weaving demonstrations, plus local entertainment. Barbecue lunch and refreshments available.
Thursday, July 11
- NAIDOC Touch Football Championship
- 8am to 2.30pm
- Lakeside Sporting Complex, Raymond Terrace
The Port Stephens NAIDOC Touch Football Championship brings together the local Aboriginal community, NSW Police, Port Stephens Council, the Royal Australian Air Force and the NSW Education Department to celebrate history, culture and the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples while playing a few friendly games of touch football.
- Mural unveiling by Worimi artist Jason Russell
- Lakeside ovals, Raymond Terrace
Friday, July 12
- Family fun day at Murrook Culture Centre, Williamtown
- 10am to 3pm
Head along for entertainment, rides and face painting for kids, stalls and workshops from community service providers. Barbecue lunch and refreshments available.
June 29 to August 1
- NAIDOC Week Art Exhibition, Raymond Terrace Library
Worimi Wild Flowers by Pauline Coxon will be on display for the duration of NAIDOC Week at the Raymond Terrace Art Space at Raymond Terrace Library.
July 11 and 12
- NAIDOC Week Free Film Festival, Raymond Terrace and Tomaree (Salamander Bay) libraries
The story of blind Indigenous artist Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, one of Australia's most important and acclaimed voices, whose music took inspiration from his country in North East Arnhem Land. (96 mins)
Showing: July 11, Raymond Terrace Library, 2.30pm and July 12, Tomaree Library, 10am
Movie: Putuparri and the Rainmakers
Set against the backdrop of their long fight to reclaim their traditional lands, Putuparri and the Rainmakers is an emotional, visually breathtaking story of love, hope and the survival of Aboriginal law and culture against all odds. (97 mins)
Showing: July 11, Raymond Terrace Library, 10am and July 12, Tomaree Library, 12pm
Utopia is a vast region in northern Australia and home to the oldest human presence on earth. 'This film is a journey into that secret country,' says John Pilger in Utopia. 'It will describe not only the uniqueness of the first Australians, but their trail of tears and betrayal and resistance - from one utopia to another'. (110 mins)
Showing: July 11, Raymond Terrace Library, 12.30pm
Two city-bred siblings are stranded in the Australian Outback, where they learn to survive with the aid of an Aboriginal boy on his "walkabout": a ritual separation from his tribe. This is the original 1971 movie featuring David Gulpilil. (101 mins)
Showing: July 12, Tomaree Library, 2pm
Movie: The Song Keepers
The inspiring, joyous story of an 32 member Aboriginal women's choir who embark on a historical tour of Germany, taking back the baroque Lutheran hymns, but in their own Western Arrarnta and Pitjantjatjara languages and on their own terms. (88 mins)
Showing: July 12, Tomaree Library, 4pm