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Celebrating culture: From Torres Strait to biggest NAIDOC Week event in state

Thaiwa Dance Team at the 2023 National NAIDOC Week Award Ceremony in Meeanjin (Brisbane)

The Thaiwa Dance Team has lit up centre stage with traditional song, dance and language of the Torres Strait at the 2023 National NAIDOC Week Award Ceremony in Meeanjin (Brisbane) on the weekend (Saturday 1 July).

For some members of the dance team from the remote community of Iama (Yam Island), it was also their first time travelling to South East Queensland.

The Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) funded the 14-member traditional dance group to make the 4,000km+ round trip to perform in the Queensland capital.

TSRA Chairperson Napau Pedro Stephen AM said NAIDOC Week was an important opportunity to celebrate Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal traditions and achievements.

“TSRA proudly supported the Thaiwa Dance Team’s journey from Iama to Brisbane to share their beautiful songs, harmonies and culture with the nation,” Mr Stephen said.

“It is the first time a traditional dance group from Kulkalgal Nation, the central islands of the Torres Strait, has performed at the National NAIDOC Week Award ceremony.

“It is always a proud moment to see Torres Strait Islander cultures represented, recognised and celebrated on the national stage.”

The National NAIDOC Week Award Ceremony is the premiere NAIDOC Week event.

The televised 1 July performance also coincided with Coming of the Light, an important anniversary in the Torres Strait, which commemorates the arrival of Christianity and its influence across the region.

Thaiwa Dance Team Member Nellie Lui said the team represented a small, yet culturally strong community.

“We come from the proud island of Iama, which is home to about 300 people,” Ms Lui said.

“For some of us, this was our first trip to Brisbane and performing for large audiences.

“To share our culture with hundreds of guests at the event and thousands more watching on screens across Australia is a big achievement for us.

“Our songs and dances tell the stories of our old people and history carried through the generations, we hope we made our Elders proud.”

National NAIDOC Week 2023 runs from 2 – 9 July with the theme For Our Elders.

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Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people are advised this website may contain names, images and recordings of people who have passed.