As the calendar turns to July, Australia brims with anticipation and reverence. Creative Native Aboriginal art gallery is excited to announce it’s almost time for NAIDOC Week, a time-honoured tradition of celebrating the history, culture, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
From Sunday the 2nd of July to Sunday the 9th of July, the entire nation unites in recognising the profound contributions these cultures have made to the Australian identity. But NAIDOC Week is more than a week-long celebration; it's a catalyst for change, a platform for action, and a beacon of hope for Australia's Indigenous peoples.
What is NAIDOC Week?
The acronym NAIDOC stands for 'National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee.' Its origins trace back to the 1920s when Aboriginal groups sought to raise awareness of the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians. Over the decades, what started as a day of observance has grown into a full week of festivities and remembrance.
Today, NAIDOC Week signifies a week packed with activities including cultural performances, art exhibitions, public talks, and workshops. These events, organised in both urban and rural areas, aim to immerse participants in the richly diverse cultures, languages, and histories of Australia's First Nations people, promoting mutual understanding and respect.
Significance of NAIDOC Week
The significance of NAIDOC Week extends beyond its historical roots. It represents a commitment to Australia's Indigenous people, embodying a promise to honour their rich heritage and acknowledge their enduring connection to the land. It's a pivotal time to remember the hardships faced, recognise the resilience shown, and pay tribute to the ancient wisdom and spiritual depth of these communities.
NAIDOC Week helps to bridge cultural gaps and dispel common misconceptions. By offering a platform to share and celebrate Indigenous cultures, it plays a crucial role in fostering unity, improving cross-cultural understanding, and promoting reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Each year, NAIDOC Week is guided by a unique theme selected by the NAIDOC Committee. These themes touch upon vital aspects of Indigenous culture and history, urging Australians to appreciate, and contribute to these areas. Each theme provides a call-to-action for prevailing issues affecting Indigenous communities.
Previous years’ themes
NAIDOC Week themes offer an annual focus to celebrate and reflect on different elements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, history, and society. Here are some of the themes from the past years:
- 2022: “Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!”: A powerful call to action that urged communities to unite and advocate for institutional, structural, collaborative, and cooperative transformations.
- 2021: "Heal Country!": A call for stronger measures to recognise, protect, and maintain all aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage.
- 2020: "Always Was, Always Will Be.": Recognising that Indigenous people have occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years. This year saw the theme carried over from 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- 2019: "Voice. Treaty. Truth. Let's work together for a shared future": The theme was a call for Australians to work together for a shared future, underscoring the importance of truth-telling about Australia's history and the necessity of formal agreements, like treaties, to bring about substantive institutional reform.
- 2018: "Because of Her, We Can!": A celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their essential role in communities, families, and as keepers of culture.
- 2017: "Our Languages Matter": Highlighting the importance, richness, and resilience of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.
- 2016: "Songlines: The living narrative of our nation": Paying homage to the ancestral routes that crisscross Australia and trace the journeys of Indigenous ancestors.
- 2015: "We all Stand on Sacred Ground”: Learn, Respect and Celebrate": Inviting people to respect and celebrate local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and cultures.
- 2014: "Serving Country: Centenary & Beyond": Marking the contribution of Indigenous servicemen and women in defence of Australia.
The theme for 2023
The National NAIDOC Committee is thrilled to announce that the 2023 National NAIDOC Week theme has been unveiled as "For Our Elders". This year, we're paying tribute to the powerful role our Elders have played, and continue to play, across every generation within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Our Elders are the repositories of our culture. They are trailblazers, nurturers, advocates, educators, survivors, leaders, diligent workers, and most importantly, they are our beloved family.
They are there for us in times of joy and sorrow, uplifting us when we stumble, and sharing in our moments of triumph. With their home-cooked meals, they nourish our bodies and souls, while their wisdom helps us maintain balance and guides us when we lose our way.
Our Elders are not just part of our past but also our present and future. They have shaped our communities, paving the way for our generation to journey on paths we tread today. Their guidance spans far beyond mere advocacy and activism; they teach us how to navigate life and position ourselves in the world.
Their wisdom and experience fortify us. They educate us on everything from land management and cultural practices to justice and human rights. Whether it's health, education, the arts, politics, or anything in between, their invaluable insights have charted the courses we now follow.
The battles our Elders have faced propel us forward. The equality we strive for is rooted in their struggles. It is their tenacity and strength that have ensured the survival of our people. The influence of our Elders is profound. Their teachings underscore the importance of inclusivity in future decision-making for our people.
In honouring this year's NAIDOC Week theme, we pay our respects to the Elders we have lost and express gratitude for those who persist in their fight for us across all our Nations. We celebrate and honour them, their resilience, and their enduring contribution to our communities. This week, and every week, we stand "For Our Elders".
What happens during NAIDOC Week?
NAIDOC Week involves a plethora of events that cater to a broad audience, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. Music and dance performances showcase traditional and contemporary styles, art exhibitions feature work from established and emerging Indigenous artists, and sporting contests celebrate Indigenous athletes' achievements.
Educational workshops provide insights into Indigenous histories and cultures, while traditional food tastings offer a culinary exploration of ancient practices. Storytelling sessions bring to life tales passed down through generations, and spiritual ceremonies reflect the deep spiritual connection these cultures share with the land and sea.
The National NAIDOC Week Awards Ceremony
The National NAIDOC Week Awards Ceremony is an integral part of the NAIDOC Week celebrations. It's a prestigious event that recognises the outstanding contributions that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have made to improve the lives of Indigenous people in their communities and beyond, to promote Indigenous issues in the wider community or the excellence they've shown in their chosen field.
The awards are given in various categories, each acknowledging the contributions and talents of individuals at different stages of life and in different areas of achievement. These categories typically include the Lifetime Achievement Award, Person of the Year, Female and Male Elder of the Year, Youth of the Year, and more.
The ceremony provides a platform to appreciate and highlight the accomplishments of awardees, inspiring others and strengthening ties within and between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. The event is an important opportunity to celebrate the strength, resilience, and richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
Given the diversity and importance of these awards, they are often presented at a special ceremony during NAIDOC Week, usually hosted by a different Australian city each year. The award ceremony itself is a highly anticipated event featuring cultural performances, speeches from prominent figures, and of course, the awards presentation.
2023’s award ceremony
The winners of the National NAIDOC Week Awards will be unveiled at the grand Awards Ceremony, scheduled for Saturday, 1st July 2023, in the historical city of Meanjin (Brisbane).
Beyond celebration: a week of action
However, NAIDOC Week isn't just about celebration; it's also about action. It encourages all Australians to acknowledge and address the disparities and challenges faced by Indigenous communities. This could take many forms—from supporting policies that promote Indigenous rights, creating culturally safe spaces, or even educating oneself and others about the Indigenous heritage and its continuous contributions to Australian society.
As we embark on this year's NAIDOC Week, it's essential to remember the interconnectedness of celebration, education, and action. While we commemorate the vibrant cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, let's also educate ourselves about their histories, struggles, and dreams.
Most importantly, let's translate our newfound knowledge into meaningful actions that improve Indigenous Australians' well-being and prosperity. Every step we take, however small, contributes to a larger journey towards a future marked by mutual respect, unity, and equity.
From Creative Native Aboriginal art gallery, here's wishing everyone a joyful, enlightening, and inspiring NAIDOC Week. Let's ensure it's not just a week-long event, but a continuous journey of understanding, appreciation, and positive action. Creative Native is an indigenous art Perth gallery that prides itself on promoting the work of genuine Aboriginal artists that are paid fairly for their work. Browse our gallery here.