NAIDOC Week celebrations kicked off in Bendigo today with soccer matches and a smoking ceremony.
FC Eaglehawk and Spring Gully United SC players, their families and friends braved the cold for a day of friendly competition at Truscott Reserve in California Gully.
About 2.50pm, the Division 1 teams lined up on the pitch for an introduction to a match unlike most others.
Warren Meeks, a traditional owner whose country is in Far North Queensland, led the attendees through official proceedings to mark the start of NAIDOC Week.
The week is a celebration of the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
This year’s theme – Because of her, we can – especially recognises the importance of women.
With the help of four young men, Mr Meeks conducted a smoking ceremony to cleanse and bring harmony to all those in attendance.
Eleven-year-old Mgatatji (Coe) Bysouth, 14-year-old Kalkiri Bysouth, 22-year-old David Williams and 14-year-old Malcolm Davies performed a creation dance, along with a mosquito dance and a song of love and respect.
Keen AFL fans might recognise the young men from performances during Dreamtime at the ‘G.
Mr Williams said he and his fellow performers today had been involved in the AFL Indigenous Round for a number of years.
Read more: ‘What’s On’: NAIDOC Week in Bendigo
Mr Davies featured in this year’s performances.
The young men said they learned the mosquito dance and the song they performed today from Mr Meeks, who said they originated from Far North Queensland.
Their contributions made an impression on the audience, which included members from multiple tiers of government.
NAIDOC Week runs from July 8 – 15.
Read more: Culture and fun for NAIDOC Week