Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people recognise and relish the beauty of our culture and the success of our people every day of the year, but there’s one week in particular that to me feels a lot like the black version of ‘Christmas in July’, and that week is NAIDOC.
On 7–14 July, Indigenous mobs from all the nations that make up this place we now call Australia will get together to celebrate everything that comes with being an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.
There’ll be community barbecues popping up left, right and centre; there’s cups of tea to be made for Aunties; Uncles’ yarns to listen to; discussions to engage in; and fairs and markets to attend. My favourite part, though, is the vital opportunity NAIDOC provides for Aboriginal voices to take centre-stage in the mainstream media and in other conversations with non-Indigenous Australia.
While annual events like Reconciliation Week focus on the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia, NAIDOC really puts the focus just on us blackfullas – on our work and our stories.
It can be an incredibly uplifting and refreshing week for our social and emotional wellbeing, our self-esteem and even our physical health. From my experience, when you get to enjoy it fully, surrounded by mob, NAIDOC is truly powerful.
Even though, first and foremost, it’s for us, that’s not to say non-Indigenous Australia shouldn’t be a part of it. We encourage the rest of Australia to celebrate NAIDOC, too! It’s the best time of the year for you guys to learn more about the state of Aboriginal Australia and to reflect on what you can be doing better to walk with us into a brighter future.
Although this time of year provides opportunities for discussion and action that covers broad areas around our history, our growth and our hopes for our future, it’s always underpinned by a particular theme that steers the conversation around it.
This year, NAIDOC’s theme is ‘Voice. Treaty. Truth.’ These three words emerged from the Uluru Statement from the Heart, a landmark 2017 document that was jointly drafted by Indigenous Australia’s most influential and important leaders and was addressed to the Australian Parliament.
So, what does ‘Voice. Treaty. Truth.’ mean?
The Indigenous voice of this country has existed for over 60,000 years. In that time, it has accumulated a wealth of knowledge, power and beauty. Unfortunately, that voice has largely been ignored since invasion. As a result, most of the decisions made in this country in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been imposed on us, rather than made by us, limiting our self-determination. This issue is addressed within the Uluru Statement from the Heart, where ‘Voice’ refers to the desire for an independent Indigenous representative body that would inform how laws that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are made.
Did you know that Australia is one of the few democracies in the world that doesn’t have a treaty of some kind with its Indigenous people? This fact is what cemented ‘Treaty’ in this year’s theme. The Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for the establishment of a First Nations Voice in the Australian Constitution. It also proposes a ‘Makarrata Commission’, which would supervise the process of ‘agreement-making’ and ‘truth-telling’ between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including in regards to the development of a treaty.
The desire for a treaty has been a central aspiration for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people since the very early days of our civil rights movement. It’s valued so highly, because a treaty is defined as an agreement that exists between two sovereign states. By enacting a treaty, the Australian Government would have to recognise that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people didn’t cede sovereignty over our land at the first point of contact, or at any point since. It was taken away from us. It was stolen. And without a treaty, it remains that.
The aims of these first two elements of the 2019 NAIDOC theme – Voice and Treaty – require a dedication to the third element: ‘Truth’. The truth of our nation's history, the truth about its missteps, the truth as told by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the truth about the hard work we have to dig in and do together for the future.
Check out this video to learn more about NAIDOC Week, the Uluru Statement from the heart and what "Voice. Treaty. Truth." means to Bianca Hunt, Angel Armstrong and Ganur Maynard.
You can also head over to the ReachOut Forums to continue the conversation about NAIDOC Week.
What can I do now?
- A great place to start is to read and share the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
- Check out what being an Aboriginal role model means to singer-songwriter Rebecca Hatch.
- Want to read some amazing stories about Aboriginal women and girls from around the country, and learn how they’re celebrating NAIDOC this year? Check out Tiddas 4 Tiddas on Instagram.