Keep the Fire Burning! Blak, Loud and Proud

Keep the Fire Burning! Blak, Loud and Proud

NAIDOC Week is an annual celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It honours those who are fighting for their Communities and celebrates the histories of First Nations peoples. 

“The theme honours the enduring strength and vitality of First Nations culture – with fire a symbol of connection to Country, to each other, and to the rich tapestry of traditions that define Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” explains the NAIDOC Committee.

Every Australian can support and celebrate NAIDOC Week and the incredible strengths and knowledges held in First Nations Communities. 

ILF CEO, Ben, believes that “This NAIDOC is about reflecting on the fact that we come from a long line of ancestors who have nurtured us and created the opportunities for us today. 

"Fire as a tool which has also been handed down to us, is a way to cleanse and protect and create the right conditions for our collective futures.

"Keeping the fire burning is about ensuring the continued custodianship and care of People, Country and Culture.” - Ben Bowen.


The NAIDOC Week Poster winner this year was Deb Belyea (Samuawgadhalgal) from the Torres Strait Islands. The artwork is titled, ‘Urapun Muy’ and means ‘One Fire’ in the Kalaw Kawaw Ya dialect. 

The 2024 NAIDOC Week Artwork by Deb Belyea

Deb is a proud member of the Samuawgadhalgal, Cassowary Clan, whose bloodlines stretch to the people of the top Western Torres Strait islands of Saibai, Dauan, and the Bamaga-Saibai Community of Cape York. 

This extraordinary artwork encapsulates both aspects of this year’s theme, involving the imagery of fire and also a depiction of being Blak, Loud and Proud. 

You can download the poster and learn about ‘Urapun Muy’ from Deb Belyea, HERE

Incorporating NAIDOC into Education

ILF Ambassador and proud Yankunytjatjara, Kokatha and Wirangu woman Shelley Ware has been a classroom, specialist reading and art teacher for 25 years.

In her in-depth NAIDOC Teacher Resource, Ware provides guidance, activities, reading, listening and watching recommendations, and much more, for children from early-childhood all the way to years 9 and 10. 

This resource is essential for Teachers hoping to meaningfully engage in NAIDOC Week and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures throughout the year. 

Learn more here: NAIDOC Teacher Resource by Shelley Ware.

What Does it mean to ILF to Keep the Fire Burning?

Did you know that the ILF works with over 400 Communities across Australia? Every Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Community is unique. However, all Communities are, in some way, keeping the fire burning.

The ILF acknowledges that despite a long history of dispossession of land, language, and culture, First Nations Communities are incredibly strong and resilient. 

Keeping the fire burning means maintaining a connection to Country, Community, and Culture. Fire is also a place to feed your family, to yarn and tell stories, and it is a symbol of resilience and activism.

Ella, ILF's Marketing & Communications Coordinator explains her connections to this year's NAIDOC theme.

“To me, fire is also a symbol of social justice. Fighting for the rights of First Nations peoples is so important to who I am as an Aboriginal woman.

"Fire is a really strong symbol of that. Keeping that flame alive to honour the work of my Old People who fought for their culture and Communities,” says Ella

Tammy, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman living with her family on the Tiwi Islands who co-owns Mamanta, connects strongly with this year’s theme. 

“We’ve always been taught to appreciate the power and energy of fire. Part of that is to do with burn off and regeneration of the lands. But also when I was younger I watched my grandmother get up in the bush and go and get her little twigs to start the fire for the family in the morning. This was just such a comfort growing up. And now I find myself as a woman, early morning finding those same twigs, walking around and then creating fire or getting the fire going so that I can cook and feed my family.

“I think the theme of Keep the Fire Burning is really apparent because when you let that fire go out, it’s hard work to get it going again. So to keep it burning makes the momentum stay with us,” Tammy explains.  


“There are also different roles at different times when you’re maintaining a fire. Sometimes you need that kindling and grass to get the spark. Sometimes you need the thicker logs to burn longer. So I think that speaks to our energies in terms of movements and reconciliation, that it is a lot better if everyone plays their role and keeps it going without it dying out. Because it’s a lot harder to get it going again if you let it die out,” says Tammy. 

ILF’s Publishing Coordinator, Nea, believes this theme speaks volumes. 

“When I think of fire I think of gathering, of telling stories, listening and of warmth. This NAIDOC I think it’s important to keep what we learn from our culture in practice in our day to day, as if they were candles we carry and also to use it to light the way for others,” says Nea.

For ILF’s Programs Manager, Zoe, “fire is the drive to keep our voices, our People, our histories and our stories in a place of value for every Australian. To be Blak in this country, is to be part of the very Land itself.

“Our histories are shared histories. And I will keep the fire burning in me, so my children and their children can grow up knowing our value.”


This year’s theme ties together the dynamic use of fire and also encourages young ones to stand up and be proud of who they are. 

“I think this year's NAIDOC Theme highlights what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have always been and still are - Blak, Loud and Proud!” says ILF Publishing Projects Editor, Cindy.  

“We have always been loud and proud of the stories, languages and songlines that have been passed down to us, proud of our skin colour, proud of our families while paving the way for the next generations, when we are still walking in the paths of our ancestors' footprints. There is so much to be proud of!”


“We must also remember that the fire has always been used for us to cook our meals and keep us warm, but it also reminds us that we have always been a very strong and proud mob and we need to keep that fire burning in our hearts to continue creating change for the future, no matter how many setbacks we take,” says Cindy. 

To learn more about NAIDOC Week, head to

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Written by Ella Schofield

  • Posted 07 July, 2024

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