What is NAIDOC week?
NAIDOC week is a big celebration for Indigenous people and a highlight on the Blak calendar – it is our Blak Christmas.
While reconciliation week focuses on relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, NAIDOC week is purely to celebrate our culture and achievements.
It’s a time for our community to celebrate being Blak, with local events that are accessible to all, such as Burramatta NAIDOC. Or you can relax at home and enjoy the many films and TV series written or produced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander filmmakers or staring fabulous Blak talent.
A brief history of NAIDOC
Held in the first week of July, NAIDOC has a long history of activism and celebration.
NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee and it dates back to the 1920s and the fight for better living conditions and rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Over the years the event shifted to become one of celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, culture, and history, our survival and our resistance. With more than 65,000 years of history we need at least a week to celebrate our deadliness!
This year’s theme: ‘For our Elders’
This year’s NAIDOC theme is “For our Elders”. Our Elders are the trailblazers who fought tirelessly for all we currently have, and they continue to fight for the rights and freedoms of our people.
Sadly, we lose too many Elders at relatively young ages. Recently we have lost Uncle Jack Charles, Uncle Archie Roach and Yunupingu, among many others. In our communities, loss of our Elders too early is heartbreakingly commonplace.
An event that is very popular is the National NAIDOC awards which acknowledge the contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to our communities. There are a range of categories including sports, creative arts, youth, Elders and lifetime achievement.
The “male” and “female” categories unfortunately miss a valuable opportunity to celebrate our leaders who are beyond the gender binary. Introducing gender-free categories would allow trans and gender diverse mob to be equally celebrated, as they also work tirelessly to make life better for the generations to come.
The NAIDOC ball
The annual NAIDOC balls held across most states and territories are also a highlight of the week. Much attention is paid to the fabulous outfits and jewellery, as this is one of the biggest events of the year and one of few opportunities to come together and celebrate a deep sense of pride in what we have achieved.
It’s also important to consider the accessibility of the key NAIDOC events, such as the awards and balls. Indigenous peoples will be out of pocket at least A$120 for a ticket to the awards and balls, and organisations including Blak businesses are ticketed at $220, with $300 tickets for corporate allies. During a cost-of-living crisis, $120 is a big ask.
Given NAIDOC is a national celebration, more funding is needed from government and local councils to fund mob to host celebrations. It would be fabulous to see government and mainstream organisations provide funding to Indigenous owned and controlled organisations to host NAIDOC events that are community-led and accessible to everyone.
What does NAIDOC week mean for non-Indigenous people?
Unfortunately NAIDOC week often leads to unpaid labour for many Indigenous people in workplaces, as they are expected to organise NAIDOC events and celebrations.
During NAIDOC week, non-Indigenous people can show their support by not putting extra pressure on Indigenous staff and being involved in the organising of NAIDOC events. Employers could also include a day off for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff so they can participate in cultural celebrations.
Non-Indigenous people can also support Blak-controlled businesses such as caterers and florists. But this should happen throughout the year as well.
They should also listen and learn throughout the year, not just during NAIDOC. Engage with free content such as First Australians, After the Apology, First Inventors and Mabo. Read some of the wonderful books written by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
During NAIDOC we also see deadly collaborations with big corporations which is a great way to showcase Indigenous excellence. This year Indigenous artist Rubii Red collaborated with Xbox to create a hand-painted console with profits going to Aboriginal kids in out of home care.
Happy Blak Christmas you mob!
Bronwyn Carlson, Professor, Indigenous Studies and Director of The Centre for Global Indigenous Futures, Macquarie University and Tamika Worrell, Associate Lecturer in Indigenous Studies, Macquarie University