THE inclement weather failed to dampen the spirits of those who attended the Wanaruah NAIDOC Committee's annual Flag Raising and Fun Day at Simpson Park on Monday.
Under threatening skies, with the rain badly needed, proud local Aboriginal man and world-renowned didgeridoo player Richie Lawton spoke of the importance of the occasion.
"This year's theme is Voice. Treaty. Truth," he said.
"They are three key elements for generational Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are seeking significant and lasting change.
"Now, we need our fellow Australians to join us on this journey to finish the unfinished business of this country.
"It is time for our knowledge to be heard through our voice - an indigenous voice, which is more than 65,000-plus years old.
"They were the first words spoken on this continent, languages that have been passed down from generation to generation.
"Culture and knowledge are precious to our nation and need to be celebrated.
"But, our voice must be listened to as well.
"The first nation's desires for lasting and effective agreements, such as treaties, cannot be achieved unless we have a shared, truthful understanding of the nature of the dispute [of the history] of how we got to where we stand.
"The history, and the truth, of our first peoples is the history for all of us, of all of Australia.
"We need to own it.
"Hearing the history, the truth, is necessary before we can come to some true reconciliation, some genuine healing for both sides.
"Then we can move forward.
"So, let's work together for a shared future."
Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon told the crowd that NAIDOC Week meant many things to many people.
"I pay my respects to all indigenous people, as well as the Elders past, present and emerging," he said.
"And, I'd like to thank the members of the Wanaruah NAIDOC Committee for allowing me to participate in their ceremony today, too.
"It's not just an opportunity to celebrate the culture of our indigenous Australians.
"It is also a time to reflect on past wrongs and commit ourselves to future equality of opportunity and empowerment.
"We need to learn lessons from the indigenous people - and work together as one."
The committee also provided a lunch, music featuring Imogen Hall, demonstrations, activities, information stalls and much more.
Another highlight was the announcement of the winners of the 2019 NAIDOC Art competition.
Overall: Alicia Davis
Adult: 1st Jamie-Lee Stair, 2nd Jean Hands, 3rd Denise Hedges
Highly Commended: Michael Stair, Renee MacDonald
High school: 1st Bree McSweeney, 2nd Katelin Pascoe, 3rd Sharlotte Meyer
Primary school: 1st Michaela Boyd, 2nd Miley MacDonald, 3rd Ethan Hines
Pre-school: James Cogan, Charlotte Cogan, Jett Verburg, Blake Perreau