Students from the Follow the Dream/Partnerships for Success program were invited to co-ordinate and run the NAIDOC Week assembly at Muswellbrook Senior High School in June. Tyrell Roadley and Marcus Morris were MCs for the event and following are extracts from some of the students’ speeches at the event.

Each year there is a different theme for the NAIDOC celebrations and I would like to invite Maddy Van Vliet, Keely Ruttley, Kobe Bartholomew and Katie Van Vliet to the stage to introduce the NAIDOC theme and poster for this year.

The National NAIDOC theme for 2015 is: We all Stand on Sacred Ground: Learn, Respect and Celebrate. This year the theme highlights Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ strong spiritual and cultural connection to land and sea. The theme is an opportunity to pay respects to country; honour those who work endlessly on preserving land, sea and culture and to share the stories of many sites of significance or sacred places with the nation.

As the oldest continuing culture on the planet, the living culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is intrinsically linked with these sacred places. Sacred places can be geographic feature like a river or lake, a beach, bays, inlets, hills or a mountain ranges or ceremonial grounds, galleries of rock art or engravings or places used for gathering for cultural practices.

Long before European arrival, these places had traditional names – names that now reflect the timeless relationship between the people and the land. Often sacred places are connected with Dreaming stories or tell of the meaning of an area. This year’s theme was also chosen specifically to highlight and celebrate the anniversary of the ‘Handback’ of Uluru, one of these sacred sites, to its traditional owners on 26 October 30 years ago.

The 2015 Poster is called ‘We all stand on Sacred Ground’ by Elaine Chambers. Her artwork is a combination of photography, drawings and graphic designs work, representing the ages and colours of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and their strong spiritual and cultural connection to the land and sea. The feet represent the different people, from elders to the young and the stories our elders shared of the significant sites and sacred places, and how all Australians should take the time to learn about our history and stories.