What Is NAIDOC Week and How Do I Get Involved?

National NAIDOC Week begins on the first Sunday in July each year as an opportunity to celebrate and recognise Aboriginal Elders, highlight the heritage, culture, and importance of First Nations people in Australia, and acknowledge important aspects of the oldest living culture on the planet.

If you are concerned about how to show respect for Aboriginal culture in your day-to-day life, social relationships, or workplace, engaging in NAIDOC Week activities and events is an excellent opportunity to improve your knowledge and understanding.

The observance week runs from Sunday to Sunday, with competitions, grants, awards, celebrations, and local committees encouraging all communities to attend, participate or show their support.

How to Participate in NAIDOC Week

NAIDOC (the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) encourages all Australians to get involved–the event is celebratory, observational, and inclusive.

Many Australians may want to know more about how to respect Aboriginal culture while communicating, for example, and NAIDOC presents an accessible, nationwide forum for learning and education.

Celebration Ideas for NAIDOC Week

There are many ways to take an active role in sharing information about NAIDOC Week, attend events, or even organise your own:

  • National NAIDOC posters can be shared in workplaces, community hubs, schools, colleges, or universities to raise awareness.
  • Individuals and groups can attend public events, activities, displays, performances, talks, forums, and other occasions.
  • You can research the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to inform yourself and enhance your understanding.
  • Local communities can hold events such as BBQs, ceremonies, art exhibitions, study groups or other festivities. 
  • As an individual, team or organisation you can access our NAIDOC Webinar throughout the month of July

Participation isn’t a passive activity, and the best way to engage and reflect on what NAIDOC Week means may be about making an active effort to learn, listen and communicate. For example, you may wish to invite Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders to speak, visit sites of historical or cultural significance, or engage with local artists to support a display embodying the annual theme.

It is important to reach out and communicate with different community groups to ensure any NAIDOC event you organise or participate in adheres to the wishes of local Elders, communities, and people.

The History of NAIDOC Week

The Committee behind NAIDOC Week dates back one hundred years and beyond when civil rights groups and Aboriginal communities began to boycott Australia Day, which falls annually on the 26th of January. This date has also been known as ‘Invasion Day’ within Aboriginal communities, creating a stark imbalance between a day of national pride and one of loss, commemoration, and mourning.

Little progress was made until 1938 when protestors took to the Sydney streets to advocate for the rights of First Nations people, supported by William Cooper, who wrote seeking assistance from the National Missionary Council of Australia. He proposed to recognise the date falling on the Sunday before Australia Day as a Day of Mourning for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, jarring against the perception of a day of celebration.

Thus followed several referendums, votes and consultations, which concluded with an appeal in 1984 that the previously known ‘Aborigines Day’ become a day of cultural recognition and observance, which has yet to materialise. However, NAIDOC was founded as an expansion of the original NADOC Committee, as a stepping stone to develop a week, rather than one day, of commemoration, in 1991, and continues to observe seven days of acknowledgement and appreciation.

Why Is NAIDOC Week Important?

NAIDOC Week poses an opportunity for all Australians from all backgrounds and heritages to come together, support their local communities, and bridge divides that have existed for generations. Every year, the week-long celebrations embrace a theme, ranging from ‘Heal Country!’ in 2021 to ‘Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!’ In 2022, and ‘For Our Elders’ in 2023.

This year’s theme is relevant, powerful, and important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, recognising the cultural relevance and respect due to Aboriginal Elders and their role in keeping stories, heritage, and history alive.

Participating in NAIDOC Week isn’t simply a chance to pay lip service to the traumas of the Stolen Generation or to make token gestures to recognise, respect and acknowledge local Aboriginal committees. Rather, it is a way for all Australians to play their part in listening, understanding the tragedies of the past, and learning new ways to reconcile for a brighter future.

Celebrate NAIDOC Week with Aunty Munya and Carla

Access our For Our Elders webinar on-demand

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