A few hundred people attended the official opening and flag raising ceremony at Fogerty Park on the Esplanade, to mark the start of the week celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements.
Natalie Ahmat

3 Jul 2017 - 5:52 PM  UPDATED 3 Jul 2017 - 5:53 PM

The event opened with a formal Welcome to Country, conducted by Traditional Owners of the greater Cairns region, Yidindji Elder, Uncle Peter Hyde and Gavin Singleton from the Yirrganydji nation, before Pastor David Gela blessed the big week of NAIDOC activities ahead.

"It is really wonderful to see that each year, the city's NAIDOC celebrations grow in energy, enthusiasm and attendance," said Cairns deputy mayor, Terry James, as he officially opened the celebrations.

Members of the 51st Battalion then raised the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags, alongside the Australian standard high over Fogerty Park.

The crowd then settled in for an afternoon of entertainment, with performances from the Minjil Cultural dancers, the Bungaree Navy Dancers and the Cairns Community Mer Island Dance Group.

The official Cairns NAIDOC calendar features 17 events across the next week, with highlights including an Elders luncheon, a Fun Run hosted by the Indigenous Marathon Project and the annual NAIDOC March from Barlow Park to the Esplanade.

Cairns NAIDOC Committee co-chair Nathan Williams said this year's program also featured several new events for young people, including a symposium hosted by students at Central Queensland and James Cook University.

Mr Williams said these events would give young people the opportunity to reflect on the 2017 NAIDOC theme, "Our Languages Matter", and their role in preserving them into the future.

"It's important that young people learn languages and that's been passed on and handed down from elders and our ancestors, to ensure that it continues," he said.

Mr Williams said while it was sad that 'roughly half' of our First Nations languages have been lost over the past 200 years, he was encouraged by recent efforts to revive them.

"The positive thing is, we have young people that are wanting to learn and maintain and keep languages strong, and they'll be the ones handing languages down to their children."

Queensland's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnership Minister, Mark Furner, who also spoke at the opening ceremony, said the state government was committed to language preservation and revival.

Mr Furner said the Palaszczuk government had allocated $1 million in its recent Budget to preserve Indigenous languages and promote reconciliation and culture.

"With the nation’s second largest Indigenous population and increasing, Queensland has a vital role to play in helping communities preserve and reconnect with language and with culture," he said.

NAIDOC Week: It’s 'past time' that Australia had a treaty with its First Nations
A Queensland politician has told the audience at the NAIDOC Week opening celebrations in Cairns it's time treaties were signed with the all of the First Nations Peoples of Australia.