“Always was, always will be” — it’s a phrase that makes Gabrielle Hansen feel proud of who she is. The Katanning elder spoke at her home town’s NAIDOC Week ceremony at Lions Park on Thursday, when more than 50 people gathered for a cultural celebration. This year’s NAIDOC theme, Always Was, Always Will Be, recognises that First Nations people have occupied and cared for Australia for more than 65,000 years. “Always was, always will be reminds me of who I am,” Ms Hansen said. “I always was a Noongar, and I always will be a Noongar. For years, we’ve been made to feel that is not OK.” Ms Hansen said she wanted to spread the message to Indigenous people to be proud of their past. “As a Noongar person, that slogan makes me feel like it’s OK to be who I am, and to be proud of that,” she said. “People are allowing us now to stand up for our rights, where before we weren’t allowed to.” She said NAIDOC Week was an important reminder of the need for unity between Indigenous Australians and the wider community. “Sure, we’ve had some hard times, but we can make it easier if we all work together as a nation and work together for good change in our community,” she said. “It won’t come easy and we can’t do it on our own. We need the wider community to work with us.” Katanning’s NAIDOC Week ceremony was hosted by Southern Aboriginal Corporation and Palmerston.