NAIDOC Week is almost upon us again, with many activities and events to be held across Australia. Beginning on July 2nd, this year's theme will be “Our Languages Matter”. The important awards ceremony will be held in this year’s host city, Cairns, however you can get involved all over the country.
The aim of this year’s theme is to promote, celebrate and emphasise the essential role of Indigenous languages for cultural identity, knowledge and history. More than 250 distinct Indigenous language groups covered the Australian continent prior to European arrival in the late eighteenth century. Counting the number of dialects and varieties, the total number of named Indigenous languages would have been in the many hundreds.
Indigenous languages are vital for linking people to their land and water, and maintaining and transmitting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality, rites and cultural practices, particularly through story and song.
As emphasised by National NAIDOC Committee Co-Chair Anne Martin, “Aboriginal and Torres Strait languages are not just a means of communication, they express knowledge about everything: law, geography, history, family and human relationships, philosophy, religion, anatomy, childcare, health, caring for country, astronomy, biology and food.”
The idea behind NAIDOC Week, for an observance of the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, goes back to the work of prominent Yorta Yorta man William Cooper.
In 1938, William Cooper, founder of the Australian Aborigines League, in conjunction with the Australian Aborigines Progressive Association, organised the Day of Mourning protest which sparked national conversation about the treatment of Australia’s First Peoples and the need for an annual national observance to remember, recognise and celebrate the history and culture of Indigenous Australians.
NAIDOC Week as we now know it was established in 1991 as the National Aborigines Day Observance Committee (NADOC) expanded to the National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) and a whole week of recognition and celebration was observed, instead of just one day. Each year, a theme for NAIDOC Week is chosen to reflect important issues and events.
As always, NAIDOC Week 2017 promises to be a week full of activities and events across Victoria and Australia. As NAIDOC Weeks grows closer, you’ll be able to find a wide range of local and state events advertised on ANTaR Victoria’s website under the events page.
More information on NAIDOC Week, its history and the 2017 theme is available on the website