It’s that time of the year (traditionally, the first full week of July) when Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians alike celebrate the history, achievements and rich cultural diversity of our First Peoples.
NAIDOC stands for National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Day Observance Committee and has a long history leading back to the beginning of the civil rights movement in the early 20th century.
On January 26, 1938, there was a Day of Mourning protest and conference in Sydney, calling for equal rights for Aboriginal Australians. For nearly two decades afterwards, a Day of Mourning was held on the Sunday prior to Australia Day each year.
Known as ‘Aborigines Day’, it was moved to the first Sunday in July in 1955, with the emphasis placed also celebrating Aboriginal culture.
In 1974, what was a national day of celebration became a week-long event from Sunday to Sunday. Now NAIDOC Week boasts a program of events held in cities and suburbs, rural and remote areas, so that all Australians can participate, enjoy and share in what is beautiful about both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
This year, many Australian schools will have dedicated NAIDOC assemblies, students will perform and parents and community members will join in the festivities.
I think NAIDOC Week is a great bridge builder in terms of broader community engagement in a fun atmosphere.
Outside of schools there are family fun days everywhere from Musgrave Park in Brisbane to the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence in Redfern. There are concerts, church services, flag raising ceremonies, footy matches and fun runs!
I’m pleased to report that even the Melbourne Children’s Hospital has NAIDOC activities planned for the sick kiddies.
Each year there is a host city, and this year it’s Hobart.
That means on NAIDOC Day – Friday, July 6 – there will be an influx of frocked-up deadly divas, and tuxedoed fellas making their way to the traditional land of the Mouheneenner Aboriginal band. That night, the ballroom of the Grand Chancellor Hotel will host the National NAIDOC Awards designed to celebrate Indigenous culture, recognise inspiration and showcase some of our country’s best Indigenous entertainers.
But it’s not just major cities having all the fun. There’s balls and dinner dances everywhere from Inverell to Yirrkala, from Canberra to Cowra to Perth. So everyone gets to bust moves on the dance floor!
This year’s NAIDOC Week theme is Spirit of the Tent Embassy: 40 years on, and it’s a time to reflect on those who originally established the Aboriginal Tent Embassy back in 1972.
Founded on pride, the call for equality, land rights and sovereignty, the Tent Embassy remains a symbol of unity for many Indigenous Australians.
Although I often hear people comment on the ‘sight’ of the space, one shouldn’t confuse what they think something looks like with the significance of what it stands for. And with last week’s passing of the government’s appalling Stronger Futures legislation continuing the NT Intervention, the need for Aboriginal sovereignty has never been more obvious.
Finally, I do hope that you will get along to an art exhibition or film screening, or perhaps your local library has a NAIDOC event.
If in doubt, simply call your local council (most of which have events during the week) or head to the NAIDOC website.
Happy NAIDOC Week! (from the hoopla team)
*Homepage photograph of Rosemary Wanganeen, one of the faces of NAIDOC week, 2011. By Dean Martin, Adelaide Now.
*Dr Anita Heiss. “I’m Wiradjuri. I write. I publish. I perform. I travel. I eat chocolate, therefore I am.” My website www.anitaheiss.com.