NAIDOC Week 2023 Winner – Hope Kuchel

My name is Hope Kuchel, I am a proud Barkindji woman who grew up in Mildura on Latji Latji Country.

My artwork is focused on honouring our Elders. Elders play a vital role in our communities as custodians of knowledge, culture, and wisdom. They are our source of strength and resilience when we face adversity. This year’s NAIDOC theme highlights the importance of recognising, respecting, and valuing the immense contributions that our Elders make to community.

Elders are the keepers of cultural traditions, passing down stories, language, and values to the younger generations. They hold a profound understanding of Australia’s true history, our culture and the intricate relationships between land, people, sky, waterways, and community. Symbolically, the inclusion of kangaroo tracks represents our connection to the land, while the presence of turtles and their offspring signifies our deep bond with waterways. Furthermore, the representation of wedge-tailed eagles embodies our respect for the sky and our profound care for all aspects of Country. Our knowledge runs deep, unifying and connecting us all. It guides our movements through different places, defines our relationships with one another, and underpins our commitment to caring for Country.

The path and yarning circles highlight the intergenerational learning and collaboration, emphasising the role of Elders in mentoring and shaping the next generation of Aboriginal leaders, advocates, and activists. It shows how our mob create spaces where Elders can share their knowledge, stories, and teachings, fostering a sense of pride, belonging, and cultural identity among our younger generations.

First Nations people are the oldest and continuous culture. Even though the colony has tried so hard to eradicate and assimilate us, our Ancestors and our Elders have fought hard against this. Their contributions do not go unnoticed, and it serves as a reminder of the resilience and strength shown by Elders who have overcome significant hardship and continue to play a crucial role in reviving and strengthening our culture and people. As depicted by the wedge-tailed eagles, our Elders are our beautiful, strong, and resilient caretakers who watch over us.

By honouring and celebrating our Elders, we acknowledge their wisdom, leadership, and enduring strength. Their guidance and support provide our younger generations with a strong foundation rooted in culture, love, respect, values, and knowledge.