They are our mothers, our elders, our grandmothers, our aunties, our sisters and our daughters.”

This is how Candita Cutmore, Customer Service Officer with UNE Student Success, introduced the University’s NAIDOC Week celebration on Monday.

The week’s theme, Because Of Her, We Can!, recognised that, as Candita put it, “sadly, Indigenous womens’ role in our cultural, social and political survival has often been invisible, unsung or diminished”.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have for thousands of years “carried our dreaming stories, songlines, languages and knowledge that have kept our culture strong and enriched us as the oldest continuing culture on the planet”.

“They have marched, protested and spoken at demonstrations and national gatherings for the proper recognition of our rights and calling for national reform and justice.”

“They did so while caring for our families, maintaining our homes and breaking down cultural and institutional barriers and gender stereotypes.”

Lisa Waters, who works on the Ability Links Program for Pathfinders, reflected on the individual women who have helped her — her mother, aunties, women of the local Indigenous community, and the non-Aboriginal women who have been “a part of my walk”.

UNE student Ali Archibald, a second-year Business student majoring in Finance, then spoke eloquently about her mother, who sacrificed her own career to raise her six children; and her sister Erin, commanding officer and senior instructor of the Command Training Wing at the Army School of Transport in Puckapunyal.

Monday’s flag-raising ceremony proved to be the biggest NAIDOC Week event held yet by UNE, with about 180 people in attendance.

About 70 people afterwards sat down to the Elders Luncheon, which featured a well-received bush tucker menu conceived by the UNE Life chefs.

Oorala Aboriginal Centre Director, Greg Davison, congratulated all those who contributed to make the day a success.

“We at UNE are committed to assisting Indigenous people find a place and a role in a fast-changing world, and this was a terrific opportunity to show the wider community our commitment,” Mr Davison said.

“Thanks to all those who invested so much thought and time into the day — and not coincidentally, most were women — I believe we hosted a wonderfully successful day for all.”