InterContinental Hayman Island Resort

To mark NAIDOC Week 2024, running from July 7-14, HM is shining the spotlight on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within the hotel industry. Here, IHG Hotels and Resorts’ InterContinental Hayman Island Resort Head of Workplace Health, Safety and Environment, Dr Matthew Mansell, CMP, JP, shares his thoughts on the meaning of NAIDOC Week in a HM exclusive.

Matthew Mansell, InterContinental Hayman Island Resort

What does NAIDOC Week mean to me?

As I put down my phone after speaking to my sister Joanne (Joey), I think to myself how different our lives are.

My sister Joey is a proud Darag (or Dharug) Nation woman raised in Medowie. Joey is a carer, a foster mum, a loving mother of seven – and, along with her brother, I did not know existed until we were all in our late twenties.

I was raised by a loving family in rural NSW as part of the 1960-70s closed adoption program. After 25 years in manufacturing and mining, I moved to the hospitality industry in 2022 as the InterContinental Hayman Island, Head of Workplace Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) – call it a Covid career change.

The role presented a unique opportunity to return to first principal strategic and tactical HSE development (plus a few other areas). Working directly with all facets of the organization, has allowed a more personal tailored approach when compared to other industries and this is reflected in a significantly improved performance over a short time period.

Returning to our conversation, Joey has spent the day at Medowie Public School presenting a NAIDOC artifact and traditional mapping exhibition; and showing our families indigenous artifacts both historical and modern (nulla-nulla, coolamon, didgeridoo, and assorted emu eggs).

I listen engrossed in the fervent replay of her presentation accompanied by a series of photos she sent through previous. I then switch gears talking to her gaggle of children about their upcoming excursions with the Clontarf Foundation during NAIDOC week. The excitement crackles through the phone and even Yamma (Grandma) pops over to expound some tall tale about our family history that I had no idea about.

And that is what NAIDOC week means to me – NAIDOC, to me, is learning about family and traditions.

I will probably never feel the same level of excitement or attachment as my extended family (which is neither good nor bad – it just is), but I get to experience NAIDOC week and other similar events through them. And after I put down the phone after speaking to my sister Joey, I appreciate how different our lives are and welcome how similar they have become.