ELDERS, artists and everyday Aboriginal families living in Lake Macquarie are the focus of a new exhibition which aims to break down barriers and stereotypes.
The Awaba: Know Our Stories exhibition of photographs and stories on display at SEEN@Swansea recognises the contribution of Aboriginal people past and present to Lake Macquarie.
The displays profile Aboriginal people living in Lake Macquarie, from youths full of hope and promise to seniors who grew up in a time when racism and segregation were entrenched in Australian society.
Among those featured in the exhibition is Aboriginal educator, activist and artist Uncle Noel Simon.
Mr Simon, who teaches youths about Aboriginal culture and traditions, said it was important to learn from the past to ensure mistakes are not made again.
"As long as I'm teaching somebody, I'm happy because I know my words are getting passed along," he said.
"You need to know stuff that's been in your past, even all the bad, bad stuff.
"You need to know that and build on that and prevent that from happening to your kids."
More than four per cent of Lake Macquarie residents identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander - a higher proportion than the national and NSW average.
Aboriginal elder, activist and retired health worker Auntie Zelma Moran said things had changed since she moved to Lake Macquarie from Armidale in 1972.
"We broke the racism down here," she said.
"We talk up, and that's why it is a good place to live in now."
Community worker and mother-of-three Lyn Milson said the exhibition would help strengthen the local Aboriginal community and provide visitors with an insight into Aboriginal culture within Lake Macquarie.
"I want my kids to know who they are and where they're from," she said.
Lake Macquarie mayor Kay Fraser said the exhibition aimed to "break down barriers and stereotypes with images and stories of Indigenous people in Lake Macquarie".
"These are people who contribute so much to the fabric of our community," she said.
Awaba: Know Our Stories is on exhibition at SEEN@Swansea until Sunday, October 25.
The Lake Macquarie City Council venue is open 10am to 2pm, Monday to Sunday.
Entry to the exhibition is free.