NAIDOC Week: Listen, learn and celebrate!

Every year, the week beginning the first Sunday of July is NAIDOC Week. It’s all about celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, achievements and history. It’s also a time for all Australians to learn more about the rich history and culture of First Nations peoples, and to appreciate the deep connection they have with this land and the care they have given it over many generations.

Hear from First Nations women Shannay, Marlee and Bianca on why NAIDOC Week is such a great event, and how to get involved.

This can help if:

  • you’d like to better understand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures

  • you’ve heard of NAIDOC Week but don’t know what it celebrates

  • you want to be part of a national celebration of different cultures.

Man with necklace sitting down

Who can celebrate NAIDOC Week?

Everyone! This time of the year is when all Australians can get together as one to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, history and achievements.

NAIDOC isn’t just a celebration for First Nations people, says Shannay, a Dharawal and Darug woman. ‘When I was little, I used to think that NAIDOC Week was only for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and that only they were allowed to celebrate it. I’ve since learnt that this isn’t the case.

‘In my community, on the first day of NAIDOC Week, everyone marches together through the main street in celebration. People from different cultures, religions and ethnic backgrounds, and from different walks of life, walk with us, hold the hands of our Elders and wave the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags.

‘The most amazing thing is that everyone joins in to celebrate our differences as well as our similarities, and to just have fun together.’

What happens during NAIDOC Week?

There is always plenty happening during NAIDOC Week out in the community, in schools and workplaces, and online.

Gamilaroi and Dunghutti woman Marlee says that, to her, NAIDOC feels like the ‘black version of Christmas in July’. ‘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.’

If you’re unsure how to celebrate NAIDOC Week, start by searching for local events that are happening in your community. Support First Nations businesses and creatives by shopping at a NAIDOC market, or attend a talk given by an Elder or community leader to learn from First Nations people first-hand.

If you can’t get to an event, there’s still plenty of ways to get involved:

  • Follow and engage with First Nations creators online.

  • Attend online events.

  • Put up NAIDOC Week posters at your school, TAFE or university, or in your workplace.

  • Watch movies and shows that feature First Nations stories.

  • Learn the traditional names of the land you live on and its owners.

  • Have respectful conversations with the First Nations people in your life about their culture.

NAIDOC Week themes

Each year, NAIDOC Week is built around a new theme, which encourages people across the country to connect with a unique part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experience. Hear from Bianca Hunt on what the 2018 theme, 'Because of Her, We Can!', meant to her.

Growing up, it was always about having a strong and powerful mother. She never allowed other people to make her feel bad ... If I didn't see that growing up, I don't think I'd be able to be as strong in who I am.

Listen and learn

While NAIDOC Week is a celebration, it’s important not to lose sight of why we support First Nations peoples in Australia. Engaging with the experience of First Nations peoples also means listening when they speak about the challenges and issues they still face today.

‘There is still a lot of stigma around being Indigenous,’ says Shannay. ‘Events such as Sorry Day, Mabo Day and NAIDOC Week help to shed light on some of the issues/successes experienced by Australia’s First People, and encourage all Australians to engage in conversation about them.’

Marlee agrees that even though NAIDOC Week is, first and foremost, for First Nations people, the rest of Australia is encouraged to come together with them and celebrate, 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.’

What can I do now?

  • Hear from Sancia about what reconciliation means to her.

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