Joyce Dirdi reflects upon the cultural significance of NAIDOC Week


Born out by the McArthur River, Joyce Dirdi has called Borroloola home for most of her life.

As fresh-faced graduate from the Batchelor Institute in 1990, she embarked upon a journey which would lead her to the remote community of Ngukurr. It was here she spent several years by the banks of the Roper River, pursuing her love for education as a teacher.

Yet it were her ties to family and connection with her elders that brought her home to Borroloola, and what was originally intended as a six-month stint has now become a lifelong connection with the town.

This NAIDOC Week, Joyce is embracing the opportunity to share traditions and values with the young members of her community, just as the Elders once did for her.

“I came back home to Borroloola to learn knowledge from the Elders, as the culture was slowly fading as they were getting older,” she said.

Since 2010, Joyce has worked for Territory Families, Housing and Communities as a remote family support worker, which she says is a vital way for her to build a strong community and educate future generations.

“It was hard at first,” she said.

“My two siblings were part of the stolen generation, and I had to explain to my family that the work I was doing was to help support our youth. It’s all about communication and finding ways to keep our kids in community,” she said.

For Joyce, NAIDOC Week means a great deal. She believes in the value in passing on tradition and knowledge to the young members of the community.

“We didn’t have NAIDOC Week when we were young. Christmas and ceremonies were our only big celebrations,” she said.

“There were no distractions back then, no phones, television, or computers. Our storytelling took place by the fireside and with our families.”

“For me, NAIDOC Week is all about sharing our traditions with the young, and showing them how proud they should be of their culture,” she said.

This NAIDOC Week in Borroloola, Joyce is looking forward to watching four clan groups pass on their stories through dance.

“It’s about keeping those traditions alive and teaching them to be the next generation of leaders,” she said.

For more information about the events happening in your local area this NAIDOC week, go to the National NAIDOC website.

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