WOMEN who have played a crucial role in preserving Aboriginal culture have been lauded at the opening of NAIDOC Week celebrations.

CLEANSING: Aunty Esther Kirby, OAM, was involved in a smoking ceremony to mark NAIDOC Week at Kerang. Picture: ASH JAMES.

CLEANSING: Aunty Esther Kirby, OAM, was involved in a smoking ceremony to mark NAIDOC Week at Kerang. Picture: ASH JAMES.

WOMEN who have played a crucial role in preserving Aboriginal culture have been lauded at the opening of NAIDOC Week celebrations.

The tri-colour Aboriginal flag was proudly hoisted outside the Mallee District Aboriginal Service on Monday by Barapa Barapa elders, Aunty Phoebe Nicholson and Uncle Lloyd Murray before a gathering of local citizens then walked in unison to the Sir John Gorton Library for a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony. 

Barapa Barapa and Yorta Yorta elders were involved in the ceremony. Gannawarra mayor, Cr Brian Gibson said that this year's ceremony was different and the week's theme significant. 

"NAIDOC Week gives us another opportunity to show respect to the cultural significance, but also [with the theme], Because of Her, We Can." 

The "her" was an embodiment of the many Aboriginal women who became suffragettes to fight for indigenous and women's rights, he said. 

"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have been playing crucial roles in keeping Dreamtime stories, languages and songs alive, acting as conduits between the past and the present". 

Cr Gibson said that they were heavily involved in activism movements that used protesting and outspoken demonstrations to push for a referendum that would change their treatment by the political and social levels of Australia.

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