From 5 to 12 July, join in the NAIDOC celebrations, which highlight the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country.
NAIDOC Week was established in response to the boycott of Australia Day by Aboriginal rights groups, which began as far back as the 1920s. The protesters became aware that the broader Australian public was largely ignorant of their demonstrations. In 1938, thousands of supporters marched through Sydney – and this became one of the first major civil gatherings in the world, known as the Day of Mourning.
In 1955, the Day of Mourning was deemed to represent not only a protest, but a celebration of Aboriginal culture. Around this time, major Aboriginal organisations, State and Federal governments and church groups formed the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC). Eventually, the one-day event came to cover a week, from the first to the second Sunday in July.
Each year a theme is chosen to reflect the important issues and events for NAIDOC. This year, the theme is:
We all Stand on Sacred Ground: Learn, Respect and Celebrate
It aims to emphasise the strong spiritual and cultural connection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the land and sea. It invites everyone to pay respect to country and honour those who work to preserve the natural and sacred places around Australia. This year also marks a special anniversary of the “Handback” of Uluru to its traditional owners 30 years ago.
NAIDOC artwork Night Skies
As part of the celebrations, artist Suzy Evans from the Kamilaroi people of Moree in New South Wales, is creating a special artwork. Night Skies was inspired by a story told to Evans by Aunty Rose Fernando from Lightning Ridge, a town in north-western New South Wales on the border of Queensland. Evans met Aunty Rose Fernando through a close friend years ago and since then the two women have connected a number of times in Collarenebri and Lightening Ridge.
The story goes that the stars in the night sky, known as ‘twinkling stars’ to non-Aboriginal people, are known as ‘Laughing Stars’ by Aboriginal people. The sky is as sacred to Aboriginal people as being on country.
All of Evans’ work is drawn from her mother’s country west of Moree. In addition to her practice as an artist, Evans also has a small business, “modernmurri – new Aboriginal products”, selling lino cut greeting cards and a range of paper, fabric and wooden products.
Evans also recommends checking out the following local Moree artists: George See, Chris Roberts, Sandra Fernando, Penny Evans and Caroline Oakley.
The National Aboriginal Design Agency (NADA) was approached by the City of Sydney to provide a hero artwork for NAIDOC Week. Night Skies was one of three artworks presented by NADA and finally chosen by a small panel to be used as the hero design for this year’s NAIDOC.
As the commercial arm of the Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance, NADA provides culturally appropriate design services in interiors, fashion, graphic and product design through collaboration with Aboriginal Artists and Designers. Funds received are channelled back into cultural programs run by the Alliance.
How to get involved in NAIDOC Week
Here are some ways you can participate in NAIDOC Week this year:
- Invite elders or others to talk about local sacred sites;
- Learn the traditional names and stories for places, mountains, rivers in your area;
- Discover what language groups had names for places and sites in your area;
- Find out about how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are working to protect these places.
NAIDOC Week is on 5 – 12 July. Find out more at naidoc.org.au. Find out about events in Sydney.