What the NAIDOC theme means to me

By Rhanee Tsetsakos

Posted in Culture


What does my VOICE sound like? What does my VOICE want to say?

Through the seasons of life I have been trying to figure out my place in this world and what I can offer to the people around me. How can I make a positive impact within my family, amongst my friends, at my workplace and in my community? Am I using my VOICE in an effective way to have a positive influence around me? If I am, what is my VOICE saying and how am I communicating effectively so that people can hear me?

Having a VOICE is important as it helps us to communicate and share information about ourselves, our beliefs, our values, our concerns, our ideas, our dreams and the things we are passionate about. Having a VOICE and being heard tells me that I am seen. Having a VOICE and being heard tells me that I matter to somebody. Having a VOICE and being heard tells me that I am worth somebody’s time. Having a VOICE and being heard helps me to feel like I belong to something and that my input is valuable. Having a VOICE and being heard makes me feel valued. When we give somebody or something a VOICE it becomes awoken and alive, it has value and we care for it.

For a long time the VOICE of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have been ignored. Yes we’ve been using our VOICE, but are we actually being heard and seen? I feel Australia still has a long way to go in terms of restoring pride and dignity amongst our First People’s. Its time to be awoken and come alive, using our collective VOICE!

Another VOICE that has become extremely important in my life is the VOICE of Arrawatanha – the Most High Spirit, or as you may know, God! Listening to the VOICE of Arrawatanha has helped me to discern my path in life; what gifts I have, where my gifts can be best used, how and when to have courage, how to love and forgive and most importantly when to rest in the Spirit. Being courageous takes strength and I draw on this strength from the Yarta of Arrawatanha.

An important part of my life has been knowing my identity and being proud of who I am and where I come from. When I say “where I come from”, I don’t just mean my physical being but also the deepest part of me, my spiritual being!

The blood that runs through my veins today has travelled over space and time and has flowed through the veins of my ancestors – the ones who came before me. Everything and everyone is connected so parts of my ancestors came together to give the world what you see today in me. Each part has experienced this world from different perspectives, have formed different ideas and opinions, and have had a different VOICE.

So what is my VOICE going to say now in this space and time? How can I take each VOICE from the past and bring it forward into the future? How can I use the knowledge that those VOICES spoke and apply it to my life? How can I make an impact in this world using my VOICE? I figured that writing articles like this one is a good start!


What is a TREATY? Why is a TREATY important? What would a TREATY look and sound like?

A TREATY, from my knowledge and understanding, is a formal agreement between groups of people who are seen to have sovereign or self-governing authority in the land that they are occupying. The importance of a TREATY is to recognise and acknoweldge that each group entering into the agreement have rights and authority to self-determine decisions about the use of the land, the use of its resources and how to govern the people that belong to those groups.

The luxury or “treat” of exercising the rights and authority of a sovereign nation was stripped away from Australia’s First People, which meant we no longer had the authority to make decisions about how our land was used, how our resources were consumed and how our people were governed. Our complete way of life, which was rich in culture, language and resources was almost completely eradicated. Since 1788, Australia’s First Peoples were forced to adhere to an unlawful exercise of power by Australia’s Second Peoples, and to this day Australia’s rightful owners, have never been justly and lawfully recognised and acknowledged through a formal agreement of their sovereign place in this nation.

Having a TREATY in place will help to heal what has been broken and will restore pride and dignity to our First People’s. A TREATY will help to create a space for deep listening. We need to give our First People’s a VOICE so we can be heard and seen. We need to be given a VOICE so that we feel like we matter to somebody. We need to be given a VOICE so that we know we are worth somebody’s time. We need to be given a VOICE to help us feel like we belong to something and that our input is valuable. We need to be given a VOICE so that we feel valued. When we are given a VOICE we will become awoken and alive, we will be cared for and our pride and dignity will be fully restored.


What is the TRUTH? Why is the TRUTH important? How can using my VOICE to tell the TRUTH bring about a TREATY?

When we are grounded in the TRUTH we have a better understading of how we can move forward and work together for a shared future. We can listen to each other knowing that we are going to be heard and cared for so that our most basic human needs are met. It’s important to be honest with each other in our endevaours for a shared future as well. Being truthful and honest helps to build trust between each other, and from that trust we can find more meaningful and effective ways of healing and mending broken relationships.

Australia as A nation needs healing and restoration. Australia’s First Peoples need to be healed and, in order for any healing to take place, we need to restore Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to their sovereign position. What this might look like, I am not sure. But the TRUTH of it all has to come from listening to the VOICE of Australia’s First Peoples and that may only happen through the formal, lawful agreement of a TREATY!


Rhanee Tsetsakos is an Adnyamathanha woman originally from Port Augusta. She is passionate about Covenanting Relationships within the Uniting Church and seeks to understand how Indigenous and non-Indigenous Christians can work together effectively to break down walls and barriers to bring everyone closer together. 

NAIDOC Week (7 to 17 July) celebrations are held across Australia to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Find SA events during NAIDOC Week here.



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Comments (3)

  1. Rev Sue Ellis 10 july 2019, 17:07 Link
    Thanks for these fabulous reflections by such a wise young leader