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NAIDOC Week reflections with Marsha Uppill


NAIDOC Week reflections with Marsha Uppill

NAIDOC Week 2020 was moved from July to November for this year and we wanted to take a moment to celebrate the rich culture and history of our First Nation people. We asked Marsha Uppill, a proud First Nation woman, now based in Geelong to share with us some reflections on NAIDOC Week.
We met Marsha through the Westfield Local Heroes program, she was a finalist for 2020.

Which nation you belong to, how has this shaped and impacted on who you are?
I don’t use the word tribe, we use the word nation, First Nation. I am an Adnyamathanha woman. My country is the Flinders Ranges region of South Australia. I now live, learn, work and play on the land of the Wadawurrung in Djilang - meaning Geelong. My mum was stolen generation. At age 7 she was forcibly removed from her country, community and culture. She spent the rest of her child and teen years in children’s homes, never being placed in a family home because she knew she wasn’t an orphan, she knew where she belonged. I was raised in Adelaide, on Kaurna Country. As a child I spent time homeless, in poverty and fleeing family violence with my mum and brother. I was told my identity by the media and the education system, telling me that all Aboriginal people were criminals, drug addicts, alcoholic, homeless and violent. It caused me to become very ashamed of who I was. In my mid-teens, my aunties took me back to country where my nanna told me who I was and showed me where I come from. They told me I was Arranyinha, the first-born woman of my mother, that my country was the Flinders Ranges and all about our rich culture, our cultural authority and cultural responsibility. I was told as Marsha, I am a citizen of Australia and have rights, but as Arranyinha I have responsibility. Since that time, I have grown with a clarity of my identity, a strong connection to my country, community and culture.

Image: The author, Marsha with ochre on country

What does this year’s NAIDOC theme Always Was, Always Will Be mean to you personally?
The 2020 NAIDOC theme acknowledges the First Peoples and their First Nations as the continued custodians of their land across the continent of Australia.
It tells the truth, that sovereignty was never ceded.
It acknowledges our cultural and spiritual connection to our country and our creation.

The Adnyamathanha believe that we are one with the earth, we were created from the ground and we go back into the ground when our journey, in this life, completes. For us, life and death are one and the same, we have no word for goodbye, only a word for see you later. When you understand the strength and connection we have as First Nations people to our country, you understand how deep our sense of custodianship really is, of care and of courage to continue to be walking in our cultural responsibility, in what we were created for. The country gives to us and we give back to it. The waterways, the lifeline of our country, just like the blood that flows through our veins, when the waterways are interrupted or are used in a way it was not designed, the country around it dies, just like we would if our blood, our lifeline dried up. Everything on country works in perfect harmony, and as the First Peoples and First Nations, we know and always will know how to care, nurture and walk on our country.

Image: Eucalyptus on the banks of a river in Adnyamathanha country

Do you have any traditions or special moments that you observe during NAIDOC week?
As a community, NAIDOC Week is celebrated locally, state-wide and Nationally. We love nothing more than sharing and showcasing how ‘deadly’ we are! For Aboriginal people, deadly means the best of the best and better! And if you put it with ‘Too Deadly’ you’ve just levelled up! We invite all people across this continent to celebrate with us, learn with us, walk with us, share with us.

We want to see generational change, not just for today but for our tomorrows.

Image: Adnyamathanha Country, Flinders Ranges, South Australia

What aspects of First Nation culture have you most connected with since moving to Victoria?
My family and I live, learn, work and play on the lands of the Wadawurrung. We don’t take this privilege lightly. Everything we do, we do knowing that we are visitors here and we ensure that we have the highest cultural respect for the cultural authority of the Wadawurrung. My husband and I made it our responsibility to learn about Wadawurrung culture, community and country so that when we walk on their unceded land we show honour, respect and kindness with all we do. We are all an active part of the Aboriginal community here in Geelong and love that we can celebrate and support the many First Nations people who now call Geelong home. My children participate in community activities and cultural gatherings, it is an honour to be able to come together as a community.

Image: Marsha with her family

All images supplied by Marsha Uppill. Used with permission.

About the author:
Marsha Uppill is the co-founder of Arranyinha Pty Ltd, an Aboriginal owned and operated business which focusses on strategic planning and system change for businesses wanting to build a First Nation cultural lens and principles into their organisational practises. They provide a range of services including training programs and workshops.
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