Joe Williams guest speaker at NAIDOC Ball

Pictured with Aunty Sony Piper at the commemorative corroboree held on the weekend, Joe Williams is the guest speaker at the 2022 NAIDOC Ball on July 9.

After the success of the Yarri and Jacky Jacky commemorative corroboree held on the Gundagai common last weekend, proud Wiradjuri-Wolgalu First Nations Aboriginal man Joe Williams is looking forward to returning to Gundagai on July 9 as guest speaker at this year’s NAIDOC Ball.

Dance and culture group Dinawan’s Connection brought the corroboree to Gundagai on Saturday, with men, women and children sharing First Nations culture and story through dance and song.

Dinawan’s Connection held a successful corroboree in Wagga Wagga at the Marrambidya Wetlands in 2019. Along with Steven Taylor from Dinawan’s Connection, Joe had been holding corroboree workshops prior to the Gundagai event. He was then approached by Gundagai community elders to share an evening of culture and unity.

“Corroboree is a gathering, usually to share; sharing story, song, dance, but also building relationships and times of celebration,” Joe said.

“The (Gundagai) event was a gathering of hundreds of people from all backgrounds and was a beautiful night of sharing and learning.

“I’m now looking forward to the NAIDOC Ball, especially after corroboree being such a successful evening.”

The NAIDOC Ball, to be held at the District Services Club on July 9, will celebrate Gundagai’s proud Wiradjuri culture through a night of entertainment, awards and dinner, with this year’s NAIDOC theme being: Get up! Stand Up! Show Up!

Joe enjoyed a successful career in the NRL, playing for South Sydney Rabbitohs, Penrith Panthers and Canterbury Bulldogs before switching to professional boxing in 2009. As a boxer, he was a two-time WBF World Junior Welterweight champion and won the WBC Asia Continental Title.

Although forging a successful professional sporting career, Joe battled the majority of his life with suicidal ideation and bipolar disorder. After a suicide attempt in 2012, he felt his purpose was to help people who struggle with mental health and wellbeing.

Joe was awarded the Wagga Wagga Citizen of the Year in 2015 for his committed work within the community mental health and suicide prevention sectors and was named a finalist in the National Indigenous Human Rights Awards in 2017. In 2018 he was awarded the Suicide Prevention Australia Life Award for his work in communities across the country.

In 2019 Joe was awarded Australia’s highest honour in the mental health field, announced as a co-winner of the National Mental Health Prize presented by the Australian Prime Minister.

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