This week, The Point marked NAIDOC Week - normally observed in July but postponed to November. Coronavirus has hit everything, but celebration and recognition continue.
The program and its guests - Sydney Festival director Wesley Enoch, NAIDOC veteran Kirstie Parker, and Professor Jakelin Troy - explored the history of the NAIDOC celebration and reflected on where they might have been this week had the pandemic not interrupted.
In its original incarnation, the NAIDOC observance dates to 1938, when leaders gathered in Sydney on January 26 for a day of mourning.
“It was one of the first major civil rights gatherings in the world, but its origins go back further still,” The Point reported.
It was powerful history, recalling the words of Joe Anderson in 1933: “All the [Aboriginal people] want is representation in the federal parliament … we demand more than the white man’s charity.”
Letters were written to King George at the time. The Australian parliament didn’t send them.
What would have been happening
Professor Troy noted that this week would normally be a time of community gatherings, reflection and communication. This year, NAIDOC has both been delayed and become an online gathering until the end of the year.
“It’s a week for community, it’s a week for being with everybody and actually out and about,” she said. “Not feeling like you’ve got to stay closeted inside and contacting people by Facebook or online.
"Intrinsically as Aboriginal people we like to be with other people so normally I’d just be at events or with family."
“It’s a week for community, it’s a week for being with everybody and actually out and about,” she said.
Wesley Enoch described his typical experience of the celebration.
“This is a week where you’d go to schools, and talk to school kids…this idea of celebrating with your family and big events that you’d go off to…you would just be sharing a moment of reflection and take the time out to go, ‘Actually, what’s the year been like?’. It’s almost like our New Year’s Day celebrations, what’s it been like the year before.
“We’re feeling it at the moment. Not just Black Lives Matter, but how do we become together?”
Kirstie Parker reflected on how NAIDOC had developed over the decades.
“That’s a proud history of 65 years of people coming together…we know that the week has its origins in protest but that has morphed into a dual purpose, so it’s about marking history and understanding where we’ve come from.... We have always demanded that our dignity be recognised and that’s really important.”
Deaths in custody
The Point also explored the recent protests over deaths in custody and the recognition that the BLM movement has become a global phenomenon with wide relevance and support.
Paul Silva, a rally organiser in NSW and the nephew of David Dungay Junior, told The Point: ”I look around and see so many different nationalities today and that doesn’t just show support - it shows not just First Nations people have had enough of injustice against First Nations people, it shows other nationalities have too.
“We definitely want to keep the fight happening… until there is systematic change so our people can literally live a better life on our own land.”