Traditional games for NAIDOC Week

By Jamie Bennell, Indigenous Co-ordinator

NAIDOC Week celebrations were held across Australia in the week of 8–15 July. It’s a week to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

Brighton Grammar celebrated the week by inviting Will Austin and Alex Splitt from Yarn Bark to present at a 7–8 assembly.

The assembly involved acknowledgement of Country in language, traditional language song, didgeridoo performance and traditional storytelling. Will shared stories from his own cultural journey and one message especially stuck with me:

“I believe that too often being culturally connected is being categorised and determined by certain things such as skin colour, knowing your traditional dances, song lines and languages, environment in which you live and certain characteristics and personalities you possess. If you don’t have it all, then are you even Indigenous?”

The assembly ended with a cleansing smoking ceremony.

At the end of the week, eight boys joined me to welcome Sarai from TAG (Traditional Aboriginal Games). These boys were rewarded because of their results in the NAIDOC Quiz.

Saraia Yorta Yorta and Kulin woman, is the founder of TAG. Growing up in Shepparton, Sarai was fortunate enough to play netball at Rumbalara, which enabled her to represent her community in various elite sporting teams. She began to recognise the value of sport as a tool to educate peers about her culture. Traditional Aboriginal Games give both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians a strong sense of pride in Aboriginal culture and provide a robust connection through sport.

The boys played Edor (‘the running game’), a chasing/tagging game that originated in the Aurukun Aboriginal community and is still frequently played in North Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands.

They also played Puloga, is a mock warfare game that was traditionally played by the Mallanpara people. It was usually played for entertainment, but could also have been used to settle real disputes. Through Puloqa, men could showcase their courage and prowess.