NAIDOC Week in Your Margaret River Region
NAIDOC week is a celebration across the country – but regionally, we have a lot packed in, including a host of events and an ABC series going to air on iview that captures the locals.
Tom Forrest might not be a household name to most over the age of 30, but ask any recent high-school grad, and chances are they know him as ‘The Kununurra Kid’. Tom made his television debut on the ABC’s ‘My Year 12 Life’ and has gone onto feature in a new iview series following his journey around Australia. Fortunately, Tom was determined to include Margaret River as a pit-stop on his road trip, and episode four beautifully captures the heart of the surfing community that is so iconic to the region.
With Tom identifying as Italian and Aboriginal – he questions his culture throughout the documentary. The bush kid was raised by a teenage single mum, and an absent Dad, and has survived paycheck to rent-day since he was 16, all the while putting himself through school without any help. As Tom would tell you – ‘s**t happens in life’, but he reckons it’s what you learn from it and how you act that matters.
The series will be released on July 8th coinciding with NAIDOC week and features a few local legends from the region. Artist Troy Bennell provides some inspiration through a paintbrush and canvas – teaching Tom that his connection to land is important in searching for his identity. He also takes a surfing lesson with local instructor Max Alcock from Margaret River Surf School, and 1970s photography icon Ric Chan takes him out on the water to capture some surfing shots.
The series takes Tom from the top-end of Western Australia and down to Margaret River. After a confronting trip to see his Dad in prison in Perth, Tom flies over to Victoria to meet Robyn Davidson (aka ‘the camel lady’ – who wrote Tracks), to the top of Mount Kosciuszko, and onto Los Angeles. Tom reflects on the Margaret River leg of the journey with fondness. ‘Filming in Margaret River was stunning. The landscape, good vibes and culture of the small surf town really worked out well when it came to the filming of the documentary. The town is so full of character and I was lucky enough to be able to capture that. I caught my first wave here and it couldn’t have been a better one anywhere else.’
Tom got such a sense of comfort in ‘Margies’ that he even mentioned he’d like to move to the region. ‘For me it’s not too big and not too small, the people are very friendly and always up for chat. It’s got good community spirit and the support involved in that is amazing. Out of all my travels Margaret River has stuck with me the most, there’s so much to do and it was one of the most welcoming places I passed through. It’s bigger than my outback hometown but not crazy busy like Melbourne or LA. The people really make the town and of course so does the beautiful area itself. I definitely plan on heading back.’
Catch the series on iview here.
For visitors and locals hoping to get involved in activities throughout the region over NAIDOC week, there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate. The Undalup Makuru NAIDOC festival, supported by Act-Belong-Commit, runs the full week of July 8 – July 15.
This year’s theme, ‘Because of her we can’, aims to emphasise and celebrate the unique and essential role that Indigenous women play in our society.
With the feminism movement reaching critical mass across the world and in Australia, this year’s NAIDOC week is relevant and necessary. As leaders, trailblazers, politicians, activists and social change advocates, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have fought and continue to fight for equal rights, rights to country, for law and justice, access to education, employment and to maintain and celebrate their unique culture, language, music and art. Festival Director, Rachelle Cousins says, ‘this year the Undalup Association honours the late Mrs Vilma Webb as a great Wadandi women who has passed her knowledge and traditional skills on to the younger generation to be shared and showcased to the local communities within Wadandi Boodja, keeping the culture alive.’
A range of free events including art exhibitions, cultural dancing, cooking of bush foods and medicines with traditional elders, and a NAIDOC family fun day – will be held in Busselton.
Rachelle is particularly excited about this year’s event. ‘It is an exciting time for the Undalup Association as it is runs the full week, and showcases the Wadandi Culture through Cultural workshops and activities with our Cultural Custodians, sharing their knowledge and skills with everyone who participates and attends. It is also a great opportunity to have the use of the kitchen at this year’s venue as we are setting up our restaurant with the Makuru menu having many lunch time specials, lots of good bush tucker for ale, emu pies. kangaroo stew, damper, bush food taste plates and lots of healthy yummy food.’
Most of the events will take place at the Busselton Youth and Community Centre. Rachelle encourages visitors to get along ‘Having this years event in the one place makes it so much easier for us, as we are under cover every day. The opening of the Merenj Boodja Bush food garden is also a very exciting time for us’, she said.
Images by Tom Forrest and from the Undalup Association