A MINUTE'S silence was held after the Australian, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island flags were raised as part of NAIDOC Week opening celebrations at Ballina yesterday.
The large gathering was asked to remember the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have fallen over the years.
It was reminiscent of other commemoration services for Australians who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of their country.
However, Monica Kapeen, who spoke at the ceremony, said the treatment of indigenous service men and women when they arrived home from war service was poor.
"They were treated like nothing," she said.
"They had no equal rights, no equal pay."
The theme for this year's NAIDOC Week is "Serving Country: Centenary and beyond", honouring the service made by indigenous people.
Ms Kapeen asked the gathering to remember all those who have fallen, "but especially the Aboriginal ones".
Ballina's mayor, Cr David Wright echoed her comments.
"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island soldiers were glorified on the battlefield, but neglected when they returned home," he said.
He encouraged those gathered to see the current exhibition at the Northern Rivers Community Gallery in Ballina where local indigenous people who have served are honoured.
Bundjalung Elder Aunty Bertha Kapeen said this year's annual celebration walk along River St had the biggest attendance she had seen.
Meanwhile, Cr Wright announced that Ballina Shire Council had been successful in obtaining a heritage grant of $69,000 to go towards the $140,000 Bundjalung Cultural Ways Interpretive Project which will see interpretive signage installed along the Coastal Recreational Pathway from Ballina to Lennox Head.
NAIDOC Day Events:
Today, 10am-1pm: NAIDOC sports day, Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina. AFL, NRL, hockey, Oz Tag. Lunch provided
Today, 4pm: Exhibition and award ceremony at the Byron Community Centre, Jonson St, Byron Bay. Phone 6626 7226
Today, 6.30pm: Film screening presented by Flickerfest, iQ and Arakwal Corporation, Byron Cultural and Community Centre. Visit http://www.iQ.org.au or phone 6685 9999
Today and tomorrow: Sporting activities at Windsor Park, Coraki
Tomorrow: 10am-2pm: Children and family celebration day at the Ballina Aboriginal Child and Family Centre in Hayman St, West Ballina. Kids awards from 11am, art, craft, face painting, sausage sizzle
Tomorrow, 11am-2pm: Family fun day, Mullumbimby Neighbourhood Centre, Dalley St. Children's activities, craft, music
Thursday, 11am-2pm: Bundjalung Music and Cultural Festival, Ballina skate park. Hip hop, Deadly Vibes, elders tent
Thursday, 5pm: Young NAIDOC Parade, Lismore Shopping Square
Thursday, 10am: Arakwal Celebration Day, with activities and entertainment until 2pm
Friday, 6-10pm: YAC Rock Cafe, showcase of young indigenous musicians.