Personal reflections on NAIDOC week


NAIDOC is hands down my favourite time of the year – I love it more than Christmas! The theme this year is ‘Heal Country’.

By Trenae Jia, a past Bupa Dr Evelyn Scott Scholarship recipient.

The most important part of this theme, for me, is the representation of how I interact with Country. Life has been crazy the past 18 months, so this theme has been a gentle reminder to prioritise returning to Country. I am a proud Wanyurr Majay Yidinji, Kuku Yalanji and Badu Island woman. I have been blessed to live a 30 minute drive from my Wanyurr Majay Yidinji Country for 20 years of my life. It is a big part of my identity – how I interact with my land, my family, my languages, my Elders and their stories. We come from the land, live off the land and eventually return to the land.

This connection and desire to be on Country is what encouraged my move back to Cairns in April of this year. Prior, I was living in Brisbane whilst studying full time and working two part time jobs – at a high school and with Bupa in the ADF/DVA People Team. Upon my return home, I had to reassess my career direction. I eventually decided to work full time at my former high school, whilst studying a Bachelor of Psychological Science part time. This move has also allowed me to be with my family, friends, nieces, nephews and godchildren. These are the people that know me and keep me grounded.

Although I will not be interning at Bupa anymore, I will forever cherish the connections, memories and experiences I’ve had over my four summer internships. What I loved most about interning at Bupa was the opportunity to connect with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university students. I have made lifelong friendships with individuals who are going to become our next leaders, and I can’t wait to see them all succeed. I am grateful for the opportunities that Bupa offered to interns. I had access to a wealth of knowledge from my managers and teams, opportunities to explore different career paths, and scholarships.

In 2020, I was the Dr. Evelyn Scott Scholarship recipient. This scholarship awards one female CareerTrackers intern $10,000 each year to support them through their education. Dr. Evelyn Scott was an avid activist who was strong and sure within herself and would stop at nothing to fight for the rights of her people. To be named as Bupa’s second recipient of this scholarship and to represent the late Dr. Evelyn Scott was an honour, to say the least. This scholarship helped me through what was the hardest year of my education.

With COVID-19 and university being moved from face-to-face to online, it was not an easy transition. I was away from my family, away from my friends, and lacked the support of the Indigenous Unit from my university. The scholarship helped me to purchase all required educational material and a new laptop, which allowed me to have all the resources needed to continue my studies. I was also able to travel home to Cairns three times throughout the year. With my family being separated throughout the country, it was rare and special for us all to be together. It was also important to my mental health for me to return to Country.

I ask you all to embrace NAIDOC this year. It’s a time for inclusion. For Indigenous people to celebrate and share culture, and for non-Indigenous people to learn more. It is important to remember that these conversations and interactions should not be contained to one week every year. These conversations are important to have year-round. If you want to know more about what is happening in your city, you can always Google search for events near you. Happy NAIDOC!