NAIDOC stands for the ‘National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee’ and is a week-long annual event that is celebrated all over Australia. Normally it happens between the first and second Sundays in July, but due to COVID, this year NAIDOC Week is happening from Nov 8-15.
NAIDOC Week is a hugely significant marker in the Australian calendar and an especially important one for Indigenous communities around the country.
It’s a week to celebrate Indigenous culture and heritage, commemorate 65,000 years of history, unify communities, and educate and share stories with all of the nation.
When and why did NAIDOC week begin?
On Australia Day, 1938, protestors marched through the streets of Sydney, followed by a congress attended by over a thousand people.
As one of the first major civil rights gatherings in the world, it was known as the Day of Mourning.
NAIDOC Week is often regarded as beginning in the 1950s, but the influence of the Day of Mourning is recognised by many as creating the catalyst for the annual event.
From 1940 until 1955, the Day of Mourning was held annually on the Sunday before Australia Day and was known as Aborigines Day.
In 1955 Aborigines Day was shifted to the first Sunday in July after it was decided the day should become not simply a protest day but also a celebration of Aboriginal culture.
With growing awareness of the distinct cultural histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, NADOC was then expanded to recognise Torres Strait Islander people and culture.
The following year, 1956, the second Sunday in July become a day of remembrance for Aboriginal peoples and this provided the key dates for NAIDOC Week (then NADOC) that remain today.
What happens during NAIDOC week?
All around Australia, NAIDOC Week events are held and often involve music performances, art showcases, cultural workshops, talks, and activities for children.
This year’s theme is “Always Was, Always Will Be”, with the poster design for the week chosen from a competition held earlier in the year.
This year’s poster design competition winner is Noongar and Saibai island man, Tyrown Waigana who lives in Perth. His poster design is called ‘Shape of Land’.
“The Rainbow Serpent is represented by the snake and it forms the shape of Australia, which symbolises how it created our lands. The colour from the Rainbow Serpent is reflected on to the figure to display our connection to the Rainbow Serpent, thus our connection to country. The overlapping colours on the outside are the Dreamtime.”
These include a wide variety of award-winning TV shows, movies, documentaries, and exciting new and live content including NITV’s Big Mob Brekky and SBS/NITV’s Stand Up and Be Counted NAIDOC Concert Special.
Although it is a national event, NAIDOC Week has a host city each year where the NAIDOC Ball is held and the NAIDOC Awards are normally presented.
This year the host city is Alice Springs where the NAIDOC ball and awards should have stood as a platform to celebrate excellence, build towards a better future and remind us all of this nation’s 65,000-year-old history.
Sadly, there will be no national awards announced in 2020 and they will not be replaced with an online or virtual Awards event, because as NAIDC says “An important part of recognising our community achievers is to celebrate the Awards in style, by showcasing the winners together and televising the event in partnership with SBS/NITV.”
How can you get involved in NAIDOC Week?
Easy – Act! Do anything, no matter how big that sends a positive message to help unify the nation and share a better understanding of how we can close the gap of difference.
It could be simply reading and sharing a story or a social post, going to an event, spruiking or going on an aboriginal tour, or simply exchanging a story or a moment with a fellow Australian of Indigenous heritage.
Anything, is better than nothing.
If the Black Lives Matter movement has taught us anything as a nation, it should be that fostering unity and understanding begins with respectful curiosity and asking questions.
In so many ways, it feels like this year, we need to foster more human and community connection than ever.
For those of us that love to travel, it’s what makes the journey of life so enriching and life-changing.
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