National NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia in the first week of July each year (Sunday to Sunday) to celebrate and recognise the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC Week is an opportunity for all Australians to learn about First Nations cultures and histories and participate in celebrations.
The definition of culture is:
(a) the arts, beliefs, customs, institutions, and other products of human work and thought considered as a unit, especially about a particular time or social group,
(b) these arts, beliefs and other products considered with respect to a particular subject or mode of expression and
(c) the set of predominating attitudes and behaviour that characterise a group or organisation.
Many communities in Australia and New Zealand hold celebrations of their culture every year. For such groups, these events are a showcase of food, fun, family, and togetherness. From Passover to Diwali, these moments hold special cultural significance. Some are religious, others national, whereas still others are cultural. As an example, whether you’re into AFL, Rugby League or Union, football is another culture of Australia which is celebrated weekly.
NAIDOC is an acronym for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. What is now called NAIDOC began to develop in the 1920s, yet January 26, 1938 is often thought of as the beginning of the NAIDOC story. While others celebrated Australia Day, a group of Indigenous men and women gathered at Australia Hall in Sydney to observe a National Day of Mourning. The day was a protest and appeal to the Australian government, to right the wrongs made against Indigenous people since the landing of Captain Phillip 150 years prior to 1938. By 1957, with support from both federal and state governments, the National Aborigines Day Observance Committee was formed.
NAIDOC Week includes many community activities, from church services to cultural shows and activities, with the aim to bring families together. The celebrations highlight the successes of artists past and present—music, dance, painting, drawing as well as those successful in education, sport, employment and many other ventures. These celebrations are across the generations— from young to old, school children, elders and everyone in between.
It is a week of learning and teaching, hearing and understanding. Some might ask: “Does it change anything?” To which I reply, “Yes”.
As young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples get to see the successes of their role models, they learn of the growing expertise in their culture. Those who have graduated from distinguished studies, those who have graduated from trades and those who have gained success in sports, law and entrepreneurship break down preconceived ideas of what is and isn’t possible for young Indigenous people.
To me, NAIDOC is about recognising the successes of the past and present, sharing in those successes, promoting those successes, spending time with friends and family and remembering the journey that was taken to help us reach where we are today.
Enjoy your NAIDOC Week, wherever you are. Take an opportunity to attend a celebration or two.
Where can you learn more about NAIDOC?
Julie Nagle is a Bundjalung woman from far north NSW, living on Yuin country on the far south coast of NSW