Explainer: What is NAIDOC Week?

NAIDOC Week – What is it?
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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 our culture and heritage, commemorate our history, unify our communities, and to share with the rest of the nation. NAIDOC Week happens each year between the first and second Sundays in July. 

Due to Covid-19, The NAIDOC Council has also announced a new date for the annual celebration to protect the health and safety of communities and their elders from the potential risk of Covid-19. 

November 8th-15th will be the official 2020 celebration week. 

NAIDOC Week events are held all around the country and often involve music performances, art showcases, cultural workshops, talks, and activities for children. Click here to find any NAIDOC events happening near you.

 

NAIDOC Themes
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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. This year's is: "Always Was, Always Will Be".

This year’s poster competition winner is proud Noongar and Saibai island man, Tyrown Waigana.

2020 NAIDOC poster winner and new dates for celebration announced
The winner of the 2020 NAIDOC Poster of The Year has been announced alongside a new date for this year's celebrations.

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NAIDOC Ball and the NAIDOC Awards
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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 presented. This year the host city is Alice Springs, and the NAIDOC Ball is being held in November.

There are ten categories for the NAIDOC awards:

  • 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

You can find a list of previous award winners here.

Watch: Wurray #SonglinesOnScreen
Wurray is a Dreamtime character. He is one of our "makers". He's a traveller with an open mind and an open heart to the land.
Catch up on Black Tracks: NAIDOC Week Music Special
An hour and a half of Indigenous music featuring artists such as Jessica Mauboy, Christine Anu and Yung Warriors.

NAIDOC History
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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. 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, 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.

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. 

 

Women and children were at the heart of the protest that birthed NAIDOC
OPINION: The origins of NAIDOC Week sprang from the Aboriginal activism of the 1930s. The women and children present would later become the keepers of this rich history.
Timeline: From the beginning of NAIDOC Week till now
As many know, NAIDOC Week has been unfortunately postponed due to the #COVID19 pandemic - however we still want to take a moment to look at the steps taken to get us where we are today.