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Change is the theme for this year’s NAIDOC Week and Pat Caruso is leading the way

This year, NAIDOC Week is focusing on systemic change and local man Pat Caruso is leading the conversation and action in the community.

The first week of July marks a special occasion on the Australian events calendar. NAIDOC Week serves as a time to celebrate and recognise our First Nations people, their achievements and the rich culture they hold.

As one of the oldest civilisations in the world, Australia’s Indigenous community have tens of thousands of years worth of knowledge and tradition to share and NAIDOC week is an opportunity for the wider community to learn more about the background and stories behind our First Nations people.

This year’s theme of Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! encourages us to fight for systemic change and invites a genuine commitment by all of us to support reforms across the board. This could look like putting protections in place for cultural and environmental means, calling out racism or working towards treaties.

And one man leading the way for change is proud Eastern Arrernte man, Pat Caruso. After leaving a successful career in high-end advertising behind, Pat now not only owns his own agency, he also uses his background in communications to help Adelaide’s Indigenous community better connect with the corporate world while also helping educate businesses on how to support First Nations people.

Through his pro bono work, Pat and his team have facilitated over half a million dollars for aboriginal trades helping them in all areas of running a business such as contract writing, communication upskilling and offering necessary resources.

Pat works daily on incorporating a change in thinking on a large scale after spending much of his life being treated differently due to his heritage and seeing others experience the same.

“I want to be an advocate for our culture. It’s taken me a long time to get to a place where I felt comfortable in who I am but I now see the importance and I’ve grown to admire where I came from and who I am,” he says.

“Growing up, society had taught me my heritage was something to be ashamed of and that I was a lesser human and, to be honest, I still carry that today but I feel it necessary now to stand up and be proud.”

This year’s NAIDOC week theme asks us to move to the next stage of change. To move beyond the good intentions and implement real action and also celebrate those, like Pat, who are at the forefront of that.

And celebrating his achievements is exactly what AFL star and CEO of the Indigenous Defence & Infrastructure Consortium, Adam Goodes, did. Recognising Pat’s incredible work, Adam reached out and eventually the pair partnered to work closely to develop sustainable indigenous businesses.

“The best way to support the indigenous community is to engage with indigenous businesses,” says Pat.

“Trust that we’re capable to provide the services you need and in doing so you will create a ripple effect of support to First Nations people.”

Pat’s connection to AFL doesn’t stop there. With a background in design and his incredible work within the indigenous community, Pat was approached by members of the Adelaide Football Club to design this year’s indigenous round guernsey – an honour he humbly accepted. Pat spent 12 months designing the guernsey, feeling every inch of pressure to make sure it was right.

“It has to connect and resonate with other First Nations people and I have to represent them to the best of my ability because I want them to be proud when they see it and to see how proud I am to have given this honour.”

A range of events are happening around South Australia this week to coincide with NAIDOC week including art exhibitions, film screenings, food tastings and art workshops. These events are a great way to educate yourself and start to create the pattern of change.

“There has definitely been a shift in society of late but there’s still a long way to go,” says Pat.

“It’s great to see businesses being more aware and I have seen a true connection, particularly at a government level but it’s less within other sectors.

“If you want to be a better ally, ask questions. Ask how you can help, and forge proper relationships with Indigenous businesses and help increase their capability. Become an advocate through your relationships.”

For more information on NAIDOC Week and for a full run down of events happening in SA, visit the website.

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