The New South Wales government’s transport agency has marked NAIDOC Week with the launch of new maritime safety resources and art-covered public transport.
The materials include a maritime safety animation, a downloadable colouring book featuring drawings by an Indigenous artist, and a video introducing the state’s first Aboriginal boating safety champions.
The establishment of the network of champions was a key action in the state’s Aboriginal Maritime Safety Plan, which was launched in November. Transport minister Andrew Constance noted that the new resources were the first to be produced since the plan was released.
“Waterways are important places for Aboriginal people to connect with family members and participate in cultural events, and we want everyone who heads out on the water to return home safely at the end of the day,” he said.
Shane Philips, CEO of maritime training company Tribal Warrior and an Aboriginal boating safety champion, has urged Aboriginal people to use the correct safety equipment and to follow licensing and boat registration rules when using waterways.
“Waterways have looked after our people for thousands of years when they used nawis — bark canoes — for trading,” he said.
“If you want to be a good skipper, make sure you choose a boat you know you can handle. If you’re going out to sea, you’re not going to take a tinny. If you’re going up river you need to have the right equipment to get your family back home.
“If you want to do this properly, tell your mob before you leave. But also log on and log off with Marine Rescue NSW – if you don’t come back they are going to come looking for you.
“If you’re fishing whether it’s in the Macleay or Macquarie River or Sydney Harbour, make sure you fish safely and bring your family home safely.”
Transport for NSW Aboriginal Assistant Project Officer Tullarah Simpson noted that seven out of 10 people who drown while boating in NSW were not wearing a lifejacket, and encouraged people to find out which lifejacket is suitable for them at lifejacketwearit.com.au.
Back on land, Sydney residents may spot a bus and three trams wrapped in Aboriginal artwork over the course of the next month. The vehicles have been adorned with the phrase ‘Heal Country’, in recognition of the theme of 2021 NAIDOC week, and will be operating in the city throughout July.
Constance noted that Transport for NSW has increased its proportion of Aboriginal staff from 1.2% in 2017 to 2.8%. He said the agency was ‘well on the way’ to meeting its target of 3.3% Aboriginal representation across all salary levels by 2025.
“In the last financial year, 34 Aboriginal trainees and apprentices were employed. We also welcomed 16 Aboriginal cadets and 13 Aboriginal employees into Transport’s scholar and graduate programs,” he said.
This year NAIDOC week runs from July 4 to 11.