“Keep the fire burning”: celebrating NAIDOC Week

“Keep the fire burning”: celebrating NAIDOC Week
Sean Car

With the annual celebration of the history, culture, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples now upon us, proud Aboriginal woman and Member for Northern Metropolitan Sheena Watt reflects on what NAIDOC Week means to her.

Kicking off on July 7 and running through until July 14, NAIDOC Week 2024 is an opportunity for all Australians to learn about First Nations cultures and histories and participate in celebrations of the oldest, continuous living cultures on Earth. 

The year’s theme is “Keep the fire burning! Blak, loud and proud” and the Victorian Upper House member Sheena Watt said it was a “really bold” and “brave” response to the disappointment of last year’s Voice to Parliament referendum.

“It’s reminding community that we are still here and that for some this might be the first really significant loss to our agenda for deeper rights and recognition,” Ms Watt told North West City News.

“But for some of us that have been around a little longer and been fighting for a little while longer, this is a reminder that we’ve just got to stay strong, and that strength comes from being together.”

Having previously worked for a number of Aboriginal community organisations prior to her entry to Victoria’s Parliament where she has served since 2022, Ms Watt said she knew the barriers her community faced better than anyone.

While she said that “putting yourself up for public scrutiny is enormously challenging”, NAIDOC Week represented another opportunity for her to share her story and to inspire others to make a difference in the community.



“It’s important to understand very deeply how decisions are made, understand the spoken and unspoken rules of parliament and of politics, and of community expectations,” she said.

“I think my approach is to be honest and truthful to myself and to my community about what I can and can’t do because not everything can get changed today, but as for the things that can get changed tomorrow, I’m going to work really hard.”


For me, it’s about making sure that wherever conversations are happening about changing laws and policies that I think really critically about the impact of those proposals on Aboriginal people.


“I keep a constant sort of eye on that, with an eye also on the effects of what’s being proposed on my community in the Northern Metropolitan region.”

While the pain of last year’s referendum result is still felt right across the community, here in Victoria, Ms Watt said people were “really excited about the fact that we’re on the path to Treaty”.

With Victoria “taking the right steps when it comes to telling the truth of our story” she said NAIDOC Week was a chance to unite and “celebrate all that we have achieved.”

“We celebrate our resilience, our strength, our pride, our culture, our elders, and our young,” she said.

“We reaffirm why we do what we’re doing, which is for the next generations and that’s what I think NAIDOC Week is all about.” •

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