NAIDOC Week celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This years theme, Always Was, Always Will Be, recognises that First Nations people have occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years.
NAIDOC Week is personal to us. At FDC, we’re passionate about the role we play in celebrating our Australian culture and are committed to achieving reconciliation. Below, two talented FDC team members share their stories of what it means to be Indigenous.
It’s about seeing, hearing and learning from our Indigenous team members, family and community that will allows us to celebrate one of the oldest continuing cultures on the planet.
Juliette Seymour only discovered her Aboriginal heritage at the age of 14. It’s taken her on a journey of self-discovery, culture and history.
Until I was about 14, I had no idea about my indigenous heritage. My mum was adopted and we didn’t know anything about her biological family. But in 2010, she was involved in a terrible accident, and it changed everything. Mum was hit by a car and although she was pronounced dead at the scene, on the way to the hospital she regained consciousness. She fought and she survived.
Mum sustained serious injuries including to her brain, partial paralysis, double vision and broken legs, but her recovery, over many years, has been the most incredible feat of resilience.
She had to start again – to learn to walk, talk, eat and drive. Something about facing that adversity made her want to start researching her family. When she eventually got in touch with them and we discovered we were Aboriginal, it was the beginning of a journey, understanding our history and learning about ourselves.
Embracing my newfound culture
The more time we spent with our family and community, the more my Aboriginal heritage became a key part of my identity. My biological grandparents were part of the stolen generation, so we still don’t know everything about our heritage. It’s terrible that there are so many others like us who don’t know where they’re from, as a result of this period in history. But to be part of a such a rich culture, and community was a really special thing.
I have been taught to be proud of who I am and where I come from. Our culture is truly beautiful and learning about who I am has changed my way of thinking and the way I view myself in today’s society. My culture has encouraged me to become an advocate for Indigenous women, especially in the arts and construction industries. I’m passionate about Aboriginal culture and history and I’m proud to be an Aboriginal woman in construction. I want to make a difference, not only in my industry but in others, as well.
Construction as art
Song, dance and art is an integral part of Aboriginal culture. I studied fine arts at university and I’m passionate about public art – especially Aboriginal public art, because it starts conversations and gets people talking about our history. One of the things I enjoy most about working in construction is the crossover with art, especially when you consider how art and culture is often incorporated into construction.
The fact that I can support Aboriginal artists and Indigenous businesses via the construction industry means a lot to me. I’ve been at FDC for about a year and I really appreciate working for a company that wants to learn more about my culture and make a difference. Change comes from the top, and if you don’t have support from your leadership, it’s really hard.
Education and understanding is key
In 2015, in my second year of university, I joined CareerTrackers. It’s a not-for-profit support system for Indigenous young adults, assisting with education, grades, career progression and more. I became the first person in my family to not only go to university but to finish it. But more than just my career, it’s put me in touch with a community of positive, passionate and driven people that I continue to look up to in both my professional and personal life. It’s a diverse group and every year we come together, share our experiences and our stories. When you’re surrounded by people who understand what you’ve been through and where you’re from, you learn from each other and you also learn about yourself.
It still amazes me how little some people in Australia know about our history, but there’s no point getting angry. It’s about starting conversations, educating people and answering questions in a way that brings our stories to the forefront. The NAIDOC Week theme this year, Always Was, Always Will Be, is about acknowledging our heritage and our connection to country. It’s about the truth of our shared history, recognition of how we got to this point and where we’re going in future, so we can make lasting and effective change. It’s about strength. One of the most enduring lessons my mother has taught me is about being strong; not giving up when you’re passionate about something, so you can truly make a difference.
Aidan Murphy is an apprentice carpenter at FDC and an advocate for Indigenous rights.
I’m just one of the many Australians who didn’t discover their Aboriginal ancestry until later in life. There are so many families torn apart as a result of the Stolen Generation. It was only when we did a DNA test to discover more about our heritage that we found out my great-grandfather on my mum’s side was Aboriginal, and suddenly, that incredibly dark part of Australian history became my history too.
I remember when I first heard the news we were Indigenous. I was just hanging out at home and it was pretty hard to comprehend at the time. But after that, we became more involved in the community, and I enrolled in the NRL School to Work Indigenous program.
They were the ones who gave me the contacts at FDC, where I’ve been working for about three-and-a-half-years now. I started as a cadet in 2017 and in 2019 I became an apprentice carpenter. One of the things I enjoy most about working at FDC is the culture; how accepting of me they were when I started, and how much it now feels like a family.
Standing up for a cause
My family is active in the Aboriginal community, and in many ways, it’s brought us closer together. We’ve been involved with Cheree Toka’s campaign to have the Aboriginal flag flown on the Harbour Bridge 365 days per year, and for two years in a row we’ve marched across the bridge for the cause.
At present, the flag is flown only 19 days a year, which is shocking. The Australian flag is flown every day of the year along with the state flag, but not the Aboriginal flag. It doesn’t make sense. Flying the Aboriginal flag permanently would be symbolic of the history of Australia before European arrival and settlement. It would acknowledge support for all Australians to be proud of Aboriginal history and culture. It’s about being recognised as a people.
Always was, Always will be
One of the reasons NAIDOC Week is so important to me is because it’s about acknowledging our culture and history and having respect for it. It’s hard not to feel down sometimes. Being Indigenous, you do get put down quite a bit. I just wish our heritage was more celebrated in the community.
I’m incredibly proud of my Indigenous heritage. We’re one of the oldest races in the world and we have such a rich history. It’s important to never forget who the traditional custodians of the land are, and to never forget our history. No matter how far into the future we go, we need to always be able to look back and see where we started from. Think about who we are and what we’re capable of. Give Indigenous people a chance and take us at more than just face value. One of the most powerful things people can do is to be more accepting.