Colin Warns the ‘Cultural Clock Is Ticking’

Colin Majid, Community Engagement Manager, Buslink NT

Colin Majid is Buslink NT’s community engagement manager and, as such, he’s embedded in the Darwin community. As a respected Indigenous man and a role-model, he regularly educates youths about school bus safety and anti-social behaviour. That makes him the perfect person to spearhead Buslink NT’s NAIDOC Week celebrations.

NAIDOC Week, which is being marked nationally from July 4 to 11, celebrates history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and is a great opportunity for all Australians to come together to support Indigenous communities. NAIDOC Week celebrations in the Northern Territory were deferred due to the COVID-19 lockdown, with public events being held between 11-21 July 2021.

“Growing up in Darwin and Thursday Island, I have been able to experience the good lifestyle my parents have given me, and also witnessed the not-so-good side of how the Indigenous have been treated over the years,” he said.

“You can slowly see how the different communities are holding onto their culture, but I believe that is a struggle nowadays as the kids do not listen to the Elders.

“I am very proud of my heritage and where I come from, but it does not sit too well with me, how society has become. I’m very afraid that culture will be lost.

“NAIDOC Week is an important yearly event to bring Aboriginal culture – our languages, practices and ceremonies, and reverence and respect for land and oral traditions – into focus but these messages should be ongoing and should help close the gap between white Australians and what our cultural history as a nation is all about.

“When people are disconnected from culture, this has a deep impact on their sense of identity and belonging, which gives meaning and purpose to people’s lives.

“We have a lot of issues at the moment and keeping the kids’ interested in their culture is the only way to keep traditions alive and make them part of a proud race again,“ he said.

Colin said some of his most treasured memories with his musically minded father was the pair sitting under a coconut tree singing traditional Indigenous songs together. 

“My favourite thing after coming home from school would be sitting down and learning the guitar with dad under a tree,” he remembers. 

“When I lived and worked in north-east Arnhem Land, by that stage of my life, you rarely saw kids sitting with Elders, learning to make spears and play the didgeridoo anymore.

“These NAIDOC days and activities are a way of replicating that, and a part of trying to keep our culture alive, because it’s a real concern that the culture is dying with the older generations. 

“It is important kids understand our history, and that we do it while there are still people here who can share it with us.”

Colin said the perception about how the Indigenous live was that they “receive plenty of money and they don’t have to work, come into town and drink and humbug everyone” but that is not their culture.

“I believe NAIDOC is one way of getting everyone involved and to say to Aboriginals, ‘Look at what we have, let’s not lose it’. Getting back to family is most important I think because if your family is not strong, you lose the respect, and the kids grow up without it.”

Along with his work in the community, Colin also uses his experiences as an Indigenous man to raise cultural awareness and understanding of the Indigenous culture within the driver and employee ranks of Buslink NT. 

“Growing up, I was fortunate to have such great role models in my parents to guide me,” he said.

“I just try to offer a bit more understanding and insight into why Indigenous people behave the way they do and explain some parts of their culture that others don’t understand and to not just assume,” he said. 

ComfortDelGro Corporation Australia (CDC), owner of Buslink NT, is participating in NAIDOC Week with cultural activities and events across the country, CDC’s Regional Australia Division CEO Tony Hopkins said.

“Colin leads a significant Indigenous community and schools’ program for us in the Territory, where we kicked off NAIDOC Week early, to enable us to involve students and school bus drivers before the end of term.

Clontarf Academy pre-NAIDOC Week celebrations, Sunset Park, Darwin, 23 June 2021

“We work closely with Larrakia Nation in the planning of activities.  We joined several Clontarf Academy schools and supporters for a pre-NAIDOC Week celebration in Darwin’s Sunset Park on 23 June and held an event for all employees at our Berrimah Depot on 25 June.

“Our team got to hear important cultural messages from a Larrakia Nation elder and healer and enjoyed didgeridoo musical performances and a traditional smoking ceremony,” he said.

Buslink is participating as a sponsor at two key events to take place in the deferred NAIDOC Week celebrations in Darwin – the Deadly Cup Rugby League Carnival (18 July) and Jack Ah Kit NAIDOC Golf Day (21 July).

An initiative of Deadly Enterprises, the Deadly Cup Carnival celebrates NAIDOC, promotes health and wellbeing, and raises awareness and support for the organisation’s Deadly Vision Centre. The organisation is working to close the gap in eye health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by providing access to culturally safe eye health and vision services.

This year’s Deadly Cup Carnival aims to build on the inaugural event’s success in 2020, which attracted over 2000 spectators, 17 exhibitors, 28 sponsors and 240 youth and senior players. The event showcases Larrakia people’s culture and pays tribute to the land on which they call home.

The Jack Ah Kit NAIDOC Golf Day is named after the late fierce leader and advocate for First Nations people, who was one of the event’s founders and its patron and was renowned for lighting up rooms with his cheeky humour (Jack passed away in July 2020). To add to the colour of the sold-out golf day, players will also compete for the prize of ‘best dressed Indigenous-themed team’. 

Mr Hopkins said the 2021 theme was “Heal Country”, and the organisation was proud to be involved building an understanding and appreciation of the importance of recognising, protecting, and maintaining all aspects of Indigenous people’s culture and heritage.

“It is a year-round focus for Buslink across the NT. We are always learning, and there is always a great deal more to do,” he said.

Traditional Smoking Ceremony performed at Buslink’s pre-NAIDOC celebration, Berrimah Depot, 25 June 2021.

A Deadly NAIDOC Warm Up

On Sunday 20 June, Buslink joined Deadly Enterprises and sponsors for the Deadly Cup Rugby League Carnival welcome day in Darwin, meeting around 100 young players, coaches, and their families in the lead up to the carnival (now being held on 18 July 2021). Bundirrik Cultural Services and the Larrakia and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Educators were on hand to get the crowd involved in traditional activities such as didgeridoo, fire making and the art of grass/reed weaving.

Buslink Community Engagement Manager, Colin Majid and Operations Manager, Ross Robertson (pictured below) show their skills with the tongs, manning Buslink’s beaut ute barbie on the day!

Photos by Deadly Cup volunteer, Lara Castro