Meet Nunga Oog, the long-awaited safety symbol for Aboriginal children and young people in care. We are so incredibly proud to finally have a symbol from our office that reflects the many Aboriginal children and young people living in care and acknowledges their history and culture.
As we celebrate Reconciliation Week, what better way to pay our respects to the world’s oldest civilisation and contribute towards the unfinished business of reconciliation, than to introduce Nunga Oog to the OGCYP family.
Nunga Oog was the vision of Advocate, Conrad Morris, who believed that Aboriginal children and young people needed their own safety symbol, much like the well-loved Oog.
“While having the privilege to serve in my previous role as Advocate, Aboriginal Children, I often asked myself why we don’t have a safety symbol for Aboriginal children and young people, something they could call their own and be reminded they have a right to feel culturally safe and empowered,” Conrad said.
“Due to this internal question I began to have a yarn with several Aboriginal children and young people about this idea and to gain their thoughts. They all embraced this idea and felt it was needed and something they could relate to. They would often come up with several different names they could call it and many more ideas as to what it could look like.
“One young person suggested it could be called ‘Nunga Warrior’ because a warrior looks after their own and it could have a spear and a shield to show it protects us. Another young person said it needed to have the Aboriginal flag on it and needed to look strong. Many more yarns like this occurred over a period of 12 months and it was always met with enthusiasm,” he said.
From this enthusiasm, Conrad set about creating a working group that would assist in bringing this dream to life. Over the last two years we have been traversing the state, working with nearly 30 children and young people, alongside local Aboriginal artists, who shared their wonderfully creative ideas and voices on three large canvases during our art workshops. This artwork would later be used to create the final design of Nunga Oog.
Artist David Booth who worked extensively with us throughout the project said the Nunga Oog project was a fun and exciting experience to be able to share culture and story though art.
“Aboriginal symbols and art are a way of teaching and communicating and have been used for thousands of years. It was awesome to hear the younger generation’s stories and how they see and feel their connection to culture and country,” David said.
“I believe projects like this build stronger cultural connections and educate our young people about the oldest surviving culture in the world. It also gives them a sense of pride for who they are. I really enjoyed working with our young Indigenous kids on this project.”
Guardian Penny Wright said Conrad’s vision for creating a safety symbol that represents Aboriginal children and young people was a vitally important way to connect this young cohort with their culture, especially when so many are living away from family and Country.
“With more than a third of young people in care who identify themselves as Aboriginal, having a safety symbol that reflects their heritage, reminds them of their cultural identity and helps connect them with their Country and community is a great step in ensuring they feel respected and that they can feel proud and strong about who they are,” Penny said.
Advocate, Aboriginal Children, Leila Plush said watching Nunga Oog come to life through the stories of the young people has been an absolute highlight. “Getting to work with so many young people and such talented artists has been incredible,” she said.
In reflecting on this project, Conrad said it was a privilege to work with many Aboriginal children and young people across our state and in their communities.
“There has been nothing more powerful than hearing directly from children and young people about what their safety symbol should look like,” Conrad said.
We would like to thank all the children and young people who contributed to the making of Nunga Oog, the wonderful artists who ran the art workshops and helped finalise the design, and to the Department for Child Protection and Aboriginal Family Support Services for their ongoing support.
The three canvases painted in the workshops are now on display in our office – be sure to check them out when you next visit us. In the meantime, please share the exciting news about Nunga Oog to all children and young people in care and keep a look out for the Nunga Oog plush toy which is currently being created!