• A young girl at a NAIDOC Week event in Naarm (Melbourne), 2018. (Darrian Traynor/Getty Images.)Source: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images.
One of the major events on the nation's calendar. Kicking off on the first Sunday in July — here's everything you need to know about NAIDOC week, its themes, and its history.
By
Luke Pearson, Alexis Moran

Source:
NITV
7 Nov 2020 - 12:02 PM  UPDATED 1 Jul 2022 - 11:07 AM

NAIDOC stands for the National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee. It is a significant week in the Australian calendar, and an especially important one for many Indigenous communities around the country.

It is a week to celebrate Indigenous culture and heritage, commemorate our history, unify our communities, and share that with the rest of the nation.

When does it take place?

NAIDOC Week happens each year between the first and second Sundays in July.

There are special NAIDOC events held all around the country and often involve music performances, art showcases, cultural workshops, talks, and activities for children.

Like other major cultural festivities, the event is amplified in the national conversation with TV broadcast specials, stunts and publicity announcements and city streets are often donned with flags and iconography. 

NAIDOC themes

Each year a different theme is selected by the NAIDOC Committee which provides the focus for NAIDOC Week.

These themes have previously ranged from political, social and cultural issues, including Treaty, Sacred Sites, Cultural revival is Survival, the Tent Embassy, Bringing Them Home, the Yirrkala Bark Petitions, Families, White Australia has a Black history, Respect, and Self-determination among others. 

The posters for each year’s theme are selected through a national competition. 1972 saw the very first poster was created for what was then known as 'Aborigines Day'. The national competition began in the 1990s.

This year's theme is: "Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!", recognising the historic resistance of First Peoples and encouraging communities to continue the fight for justice and rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  

The 2022 poster competition winner is proud Gudanji/Wakaja woman, Ryhia Dank.

 

NAIDOC Ball and the NAIDOC Awards

Although it is a national event, NAIDOC Week has a host city each year where the official NAIDOC Ball is held and the NAIDOC Awards are presented. This year the host city is Naarm (Melbourne).

There are ten categories for the NAIDOC awards, awarded to those who have empowered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, promoted First Nations issues in the wider community or show excellence in their field. 

  • Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Person of the Year
  • Female Elder of the Year
  • Male Elder of the Year
  • Caring for Country Award
  • Youth of the Year
  • Artist of the Year
  • Scholar of the Year
  • Apprentice of the Year

Over time, the awards have varied; some have been removed, added and changed. For example, 'Aboriginal of the Year' is now known as Person of the Year, there is no longer a national Miss NAIDOC, nor are there Torres Strait-specific awards. 

Some notable past winners include Ernie Dingo (Person of the Year, 1994), Pat & Mick Dodson (joint Person of the Year, 1998), Deborah Mailman (Person of the Year, 2002), Adam Goodes (Sportsperson of the Year. 2004), Leah Purcell (Artist of the Year, 2007), Dr G. Yunupingu (Artist of the Year, 2016) — the list goes on! 

States and territories, and city councils, will also host their own NAIDOC Awards, awarding members of their community.  

NAIDOC Week: SBS and NITV's epic 2022 line-up
NITV and SBS are celebrating NAIDOC Week 2022 across the network with coverage across its platforms, exploring this year's theme of, Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!
 

The history of NAIDOC week

The origin of NAIDOC Week is often regarded as beginning in the 1950s, but the influence of the 1938 Day of Mourning is acknowledged by many as creating the catalyst, and widespread support, for such an annual event.

Between 1940 and 1954 the Day of Mourning was held on the Sunday prior to Australia Day and commonly became known as 'Aborigines Day'.

EXPLAINER: Day of Mourning, the birth of modern First Nations protest
150 years of resistance led to the first Day of Mourning in 1938. It was a momentous occasion, and it formed the basis for First Nations political movements that still exist today.

In 1955 however, it was shifted to the first Sunday in July to disparage the idea of protest and instead promote it as a day of celebration; that the 26th of January is still regarded by many as the Day of Mourning, as well as Invasion Day or Survival Day, gives us some indication that not everyone agreed with this shift.

The following year, in 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.

NADOC, the National Aborigines Day Observance Committee, was made up of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members until 1974, the first year that the committee was entirely Aboriginal run.

This was also the first year that it was decided that the event should last for a full week, and it was commonly referred to as National Aborigines Week from this point forward until 1989, when the term NAIDOC Week was formally introduced.

Today, the word 'Aborigine' is deeply rooted in colonial language and is now generally considered inappropriate and out of touch. Today, we just say 'Aboriginal' and refer to people by their Nation.

Despite its decades-old history, NAIDOC Week is still a point of contention for some, with stories about certain local councils or other government agencies refusing to fly the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander flags or perform Acknowledgements of Country being a common news story in recent years. 

There have been many calls over the past few decades for NAIDOC Week to be recognised as a national holiday but this is still yet to occur. 

 

This year's NAIDOC theme is Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! Recognising the fight and resilience Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue in pursuit of First Nations' rights. 

NAIDOC Week is a national celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, history and culture, and runs from 3-10 July. SBS & NITV are the official national NAIDOC media partner.

Join the conversation #NAIDOC2022

 

Related Readings

The Borroloola artist behind the bold 2022 NAIDOC poster
Capturing the essence of 'Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!' the Gudanji/Wakaja woman's artwork pulls powerful messages into focus.

All the speeches from the National NAIDOC 2021 Award Winners
Acknowledgements, thank yous and powerful sentiments from First Nations people excelling in their field.