The 2017 Naidoc March in Rockhampton.
The 2017 Naidoc March in Rockhampton. Chris Ison ROK070717cnaidoc16

PHOTOS: Proud and deadly at Rocky NAIDOC march

"GUDAMULLI, happy NAIDOC.”

"Hello, happy NAIDOC.”

Of the 250 distinct Indigenous language groups pre-European contact, only 120 remain today. They are at risk of being lost as Elders pass on.

Doing their part to keep the Darumbal language alive are Rockhampton sisters Shakara and Kelsey Long, alongside their cousin Keisha Williams.

The trio led this morning's NAIDOC march through Rockhampton, but before they rose the banner the teenagers took a moment to reflect on this year's theme, "Our Languages Matter”.

Keisha, 19, explained their cousin Trent White had recently produced the first traditional language song for many hundreds of years, and had passed on his knowledge to them.

"Just knowing your own language, your own cultural language, and passing it on to generations so it never fades out,” Keisha said of why it was so important to her.

Shakara, 18, said while it had been difficult at first, hearing Darumbal language spoken - particularly over the past week - had helped.

For Keisha, who donned the Darumbal Native Title Determination shirt, NAIDOC is a coming together as one big community; "celebrating our culture, and being proud of who we are”.

NAIDOC secretary and Ghungulu woman Melissa Lawton shared her sentiment.

The 2017 Naidoc March in Rockhampton.
The 2017 Naidoc March in Rockhampton. Chris Ison ROK070717cnaidoc20

"It's an inclusion, not an exclusion,” she said as extended family, friends and members of the non-Indigenous community gathered at the Rockhampton Regional Council chambers.

"NAIDOC, it is a time for us to get together and celebrate as one big group, big mob.

"The richness and the diversity that is our culture and showcase it to everybody else.

"It's quite amazing the amount of support, the endless hours for the volunteers that they put in and it's just beautiful to see.”

L-R: NAIDOC entrants Renae Mitchell, Nikeytah Hill ,LeLarnie Hatfield, Davina Toby, Hayley Doyle and Jordan Young
L-R: NAIDOC entrants Renae Mitchell, Nikeytah Hill ,LeLarnie Hatfield, Davina Toby, Hayley Doyle and Jordan Young Melissa Mills Photography

Melissa's pride in this week's celebrations were clear as she recalled the highlights, both of which had stemmed from the youth; the NAIDOC Baby Show on Monday and Tuesday, and the NAIDOC quest judging yesterday.

READ: NAIDOC queen a dream for 'emerging leader'

"The six (quest) entrants they were just inspiring, they showed real strength and courage, both individually and as a group,” she said.

"And they've just really stepped up from where they were for the whole journey through until now, and the judges commented it showed them clearly the leadership of our Indigenous youth in our community is still so very very strong.

"They are just really truly inspirational young people... and it's fantastic to see they are going to be our leaders, and I've got no concerns bout our future.”

The 2017 Naidoc March in Rockhampton.
The 2017 Naidoc March in Rockhampton. Chris Ison ROK070717cnaidoc17

The NAIDOC quest will culminate in a ball tomorrow night, where the winner will be announced.

It will mark the end of NAIDOC week, but not of its intentions.

For Melissa, this year's theme has pointed out how important it is to re-learn and start to get more involved in learning language.

She said for the younger generation, from language came a sense of pride, a sense of belonging and of who they are.

"They love trying to wrap their tongues around the words sometimes, and it just brings people together because it's rich, it's different and it's unique,” she said.

"And because this years theme is about language matters, we have lost quite a lot of our languages, so it is really important to try and maintain, and to continue to maintain, especially for the younger generation coming through.”



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