The region’s Aboriginal leaders have welcomed the next generation into the community.
The Awabakal Baby Welcoming Ceremony was held at Fort Scratchley’s function centre on Thursday as part of the 30th anniversary of National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day.
Youngsters were blessed by Awabakal elders, marked with ochre and given a possum skin bracelet with their name on it, before a traditional smoke ceremony outside.
Seven-month-old Deontay Roberts was one of the 45 children welcomed into the Awabakal community.
“This ceremony, to us, is about keeping our culture going and just keeping it growing,” Deontay’s mum, Wiradjuri woman Nicole West said.
“It’s very important. If we don’t do ceremonies like this, our culture won’t go forward.”
Elder Aunty Gloria Smith, one of the foundation members of Awabakal, said the ceremony “means everything” to the families involved.
“You feel so much joy with all of these babies coming along. Our culture is going to live more,” she said.
“That’s the point, to give that extra push for our babies coming up behind us.”
Uncle Bill Smith, who conducted the smoke ceremony, told the gathering it was important people understood where they came from or they would be “like a cork floating in the sea”.
Thursday’s event was Awabakal’s fourth baby welcoming ceremony.
Since it started, Awabakal senior family health practitioner Julie Rose said, more than 150 babies had been presented to elders.
There were 45 children welcomed this year, up from 15 at the inaugural ceremony.
She said some of the children from Awabakal Preschool at Wickham who performed the acknowledgement to country on Thursday were among the babies who took part in the first ceremony.
“Since the expansion of our clinics and services, we have more families from the Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens regions participating,” she said.
“This day is my favourite Awabakal event as I love seeing the pride on the faces of the parents as they present their babies to our elders.”
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day is promoted as a day for all Australians to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and reflect on the impact of community, family and culture.
“Our children are the centre of our families and the heart of our communities,” SNAICC, the peak non-government body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, said in a statement about children’s day earlier this year.
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