NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee, and the NAIDOC Week celebrations, from July 2-9th, allow a focus to increase awareness about the treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. NAIDOC Week allows everyone to come together to celebrate the culture and history of our First Nations people. This year’s theme is ‘For Our Elders‘.
The History of NAIDOC Week (Formally NADOC)
Prior to the 1920s, several Aboriginal rights groups took action to boycott Australia Day against the treatment of our First Nations people. In 1938, there was a protest of over 1000 people held on Australia Day through the streets of Sydney. This was known as the Day of Mourning and was then annually held from 1940-1955 on the Sunday before Australia Day. In 1955, it was decided that this day should not just be a protest of Australia Day, but a celebration of the Aboriginal culture, so was moved to the first Sunday in July, to allow it to sufficiently get the attention and awareness it needed.
In 1972, as a result of the 1967 referendum, the Department of Aboriginal Culture was formed and has had significant impacts ever since. Some of these include:
- the NADOC committee made entirely of Aboriginal members for the first time in 1974
- the question to have National Aborigines Day be made a public holiday (while this has not been formally made, many echo the call)
- NADOC was expanded to NAIDOC to include Torres Strait Islanders
- the shift from a single day to a week of celebrations was made
- the acknowledgment of the term ‘Aborigines’ being inaccurate, and now defunct, and the name change from the National Aborigines and Islander Day Observance Committee to the National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee (although the original name is still used in the NAIDOC Week title as a result of the historic use from the First Nation’s Elders)
Theme for 2023
This year’s theme For Our Elders pays respect to all elders of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. The statement below explaining the meaning behind the theme can be on the naidoc.org.au website.
‘Across every generation, our Elders have played, and continue to play, and important role and hold a prominent place in our communities and families. They are cultural knowledge holders, trailblazers, nurturers, advocates, teachers, survivors, leaders, hard workers and our loved ones. Our loved ones who pick us up in our low moments and celebrate us in our high ones. Who cook us a feed to comfort us and pull us into line, when we need them too.
They guide our generations and pave the way for us to take the paths we can take today. Guidance, not only through activism, but in everyday life and how to place ourselves in the world. We draw strength from their knowledge and experience, in everything from land management, cultural knowledge to justice and human rights. Across multiple sectors like health, education, the arts, politics and everything in between, they have set the many courses we follow.
The struggles of our Elders help to move us forward today. The equality we continue to fight for is found in their fight. Their tendency and strength has carried the survival of our people. It is their influence and through their learnings that we must ensure that when it comes to future decision making for our people, there is nothing about us – without us. We pay our respects to the Elders we’ve lost and to those who continue fighting for us across all our Nations and we pay homage to them.’