It’s NAIDOC Week – when the history, culture and achievements Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia and beyond are celebrated throughout the country.

Each year NAIDOC Week (named after the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) focuses on a theme, and 2021’s theme is Heal Country! – calling for greater protections for First Nations lands, waters, sacred sites, and cultural heritage from exploitation, desecration, and destruction.

But what does this year’s NAIDOC theme mean to young First Nations peoples? A bunch of Indigenous legends shared their thoughts and feelings on Heal Country! with PEDESTRIAN.TV, and what it means to them personally.

Felicia Foxx
Gamilaroi and Dunghutti Sistergirl and drag queen

“Black fellas have lived on this earth since sunrise, and when we take from this earth, we gave back to this earth. That’s how we existed for so long,” she said.

“Healing country is making sure we’re looking after country as much as we take from this earth and as much as we take from you know, society we need to be giving back to this earth and looking after our mother nature.

“For me, healing country is healing ourselves and speaking about our past issues, so we all heal together and heal is one.”

Danzal Baker (A.K.A. Baker Boy)
Yolngu man, rapper, artist and dancer

“Heal Country is about looking after the land, giving back to the land, and connecting to the land, which in turn keeps our culture strong,” he said.

“Indigenous people of Australia have been practicing this for tens of thousands of years to keep the circle of life going. If we don’t look after our country, we have no future.”

Bobby Hill
Whadjuk-Ballardong Noongar man and GWS Giants player

“As a proud Whadjuk-Ballardong Noongar man from Northam in Western Australia, NAIDOC week means a great deal to my family and I,” he said.

“It’s an important week as it gives us the opportunity to teach non-Indigenous people our culture.

“I’m proud to have told some of my story and what family means to me on the Indigenous jumper I designed that my club the GIANTS has worn the last two years.”

Joey Althouse
Wunujaka actor and TikTok creator from the Arrernte / Tiwi peoples

“Heal Country’ to me means, listening to the concerns of my elders and continuing the work of being a Sovereign Custodian of my Country and Sea-Country. On Country and in Sea-Country, all natural things are interconnected,” he said.

“We understand this in both Arrerente and Tiwi culture. Currently, the Tiwi Elders and People are working to stop the development of Santos’ Barossa Offshore Gas Project. This project will have devastating effects on the natural Sea-Country and all the creatures that inhabit that space, and thus have devastating effects on Tiwi life.

“I encourage all of the wonderful people of Australia to be conscious and vigilant about their relationship with whatever Country they are on, and connect to the dreaming of those places.

“We all have a responsibility to care for our Earth and ensure all creatures, big and small, have the best chance at survival. First Nations people can no longer walk this path alone, we need our allies to carry our voices into places that are not accessible to these Black ideas of Sovereign Custodianship.

“I have a dream that everyone that calls Australia home will listen to and work with First Nations Elders and truly open their eyes to the beauty of this Continent, and feel the pride we feel as First Nations people.

“This is the dream we have as Blak people living in modern Australia. Australia always was and always will be Aboriginal Land. Our healing is our responsibility and we must do it together.”

Cienan Muir
Yorta Yorta and Ngarrindjeri man, Deadly & Proud storyteller and creator of Indiginerd

“To heal Country is to heal Community, we are intrinsically intertwined with our Land as caretakers,” he said.

“We must come together to take steps to heal our Land, to respect and protect it.”

Courtney Ugle
Noongar woman, Deadly & Proud storyteller and vice-captain of Essendon Bombers’ VFLW team

“We need to look after our land that provides for and sustains as, as well as looking after each other,” she said.

“Healing Country also means finally resolving many of the outstanding injustices which impact the lives of our people.”

Kristy Dickinson
Deadly & Proud storyteller and Haus of Dizzy creator

“This year we need to come together and celebrate our country,” she said.

“But to do better by Country, to protect and respect it, and to listen to the first nation voices about how to do this.”

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NAIDOC Week events are happening right across the country and online this year, and you can check out what’s happening near you over on the NAIDOC Week website.

Always was, always will be.

Image: Getty Images / Matt Jelonek / Stefan Gosatti / Supplied