• Canberra Raiders Aidan Sezer & Jack Wighton along with local player Luke Dumas take part in smoking ceremony with Ngunnawal elder Uncle Billy 'T' Tompkins (NITV)Source: NITV
The Canberra Raiders have kicked off NAIDOC celebrations today with a special smoking ceremony in the lead up to their clash with the North Queensland Cowboys on Saturday
30 Jun 2017 - 12:35 PM  UPDATED 30 Jun 2017 - 12:35 PM

The Canberra Raiders have kicked off NAIDOC Week celebrations with a special smoking ceremony at their home ground paying homage to Indigenous culture. 

The celebrations come as the Raiders face the North Queensland Cowboys for Round 17 at GIO Stadium in Canberra, where it's hoped a NAIDOC Round will be become a permanent fixture.  

Ngunnawal elder Uncle Billy 'T' Tompkins performed a smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country to officially kick off celebrations in the lead up to NAIDOC Week. 

"First and foremost I'd like to pay my respects to elders past and present, and towards the future of our younger generation," Uncle Billy said during the ceremony. 

The Canberra Raiders were proud to be highlighting Indigenous culture. 

"It's really a chance for the Raiders to embrace Indigenous heritage and culture of the Ngunnawal people," an official said.  

Indigenous stars Jack Wighton and Aidan Sezer, as well as local player Luke Dumas from the Queanbeyan Kangaroos, showed their support by taking part in the ceremony. 

Raiders halfback Aidan Sezer says any opportunity to showcase Indigenous culture is good. 

"As an Indigenous person its always good to be at the forefront of people's minds and reconcile in Indigenous culture," he said. 

"It's good for the Indigenous boys in the team and obviously good for the Ngunnawal people, and hopefully we can put on a good show for them tomorrow night." 

The Raiders team will also wear an Indigenous jersey designed by local artists in collaboration with the Raiders NRL Playing Group, officially launched during the NRL Indigenous Round. 

Raiders fullback Jack Wighton said he was proud to be wearing the jersey again. 

"I can't wait to wear the jersey again and it means a lot of everyone," he said.  

"All the boys are really respectful and it always means a lot and when you put it on you always feel that little more energised, it's an unreal feeling."

The Raiders side are desperate for win and eager to prove their last-minute win against the Penrith Panthers without Johnathan Thurston was no fluke. 

Aiden Sezer hopes the cooler weather will work in their favour. 

"Hopefully it can be a little bit of an advantage but it's gonna be a tough game for us."  

The round will also help to promote the upcoming elections of the ACT's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Body (ATSIEB) coming on the weekend.

Robyn Forester, Director of the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, encourages all Indigenous Canberrans to have their say. 

Continue reading
Record number of candidates contest election for ACT Indigenous body
A record number of 25 candidates are stepping forward to represent their community on the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body, the only body of its kind in the country.

"Everyone who is eligible to vote should get out over these next eight days and vote. These people are there to represent you and represent your voice," she said. 

ATSIEB, the only body of its kind in the country, elects seven members to represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT community, providing advice to government. 

Voting for the elected body begins 1 July. 

Related reading
NRL to debut alternative national anthem for Indigenous round
In a historic move, an alternative national anthem will be played when the NRL Indigenous round kicks off tonight.
Totems empower NRL Indigenous All Stars
The inspiration behind the 2017 NRL women’s and men’s Indigenous All Stars jersey stems from artwork designed by Chern’ee Sutton.
The jerseys of the NRL Indigenous round
Indigenous pride will be front and centre for the Parramatta Eels, West Tigers, Gold Coast Titans and Melbourne Storm this weekend.