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What started as a day of activism in the 1920s, NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee), has now expanded into a week-long celebration held in the month of July, where Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can come together and celebrate Indigenous culture, history and achievements.
This year’s NAIDOC theme, ‘For Our Elders,’ honours the contributions of our Elders, past and present, who have tirelessly fought for the rights and freedoms of our people.
Elders such as Yunupingu, who recently passed away in April this year and dedicated his life to the land rights movement, drafted the Yirrkala Bark petitions and considered the founding documents of the Aboriginal land rights movement. Yunupingu’s influential work within the Northern Land Council contributed to the passage of the 1976 Northern Territory Land Rights Act, a historic moment as the first legal recognition of Aboriginal land ownership by the Australian government. He spoke for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people when they were voiceless, working with leaders from throughout the country to return Indigenous people to their rightful place.
This year, we celebrate Elders like Yunupingu and countless others whose unwavering commitment and resilience have reshaped societal perceptions of Indigenous people and our culture.
As a proud Indigenous woman from the Yuin nation, and a descendant of Elder King Tunungeranbrun of the Yuin people, NAIDOC week is an especially important week for me, especially with this year’s theme. Unfortunately, like many Indigenous communities, my country and people have suffered the loss of our language, culture, and traditions, largely due to the enduring impact of the stolen generation. I also know for a fact, speaking from experience myself, that people will question you if you are of lighter skin colour because “you don’t look Indigenous” or they will question “why don’t you know anything about your culture if you are Indigenous”. It is a sad reality that many Indigenous people experience in day-to-day life because of the effects of colonisation, stolen generation and the racism and stereotypes that are still portrayed by some individuals today.
That is why NAIDOC week is an important reminder of how proud Indigenous people should be of our culture, history, and achievements, and in particular, this year, how thankful we should be to our elders before us, that experienced some of the worst parts of Australian history and were still able to push through and strive for a better future. It can also be an opportunity for non-Indigenous people to learn more about our beautiful culture and our history, in particular the history our elders and ancestors would have had to experience. It’s a great opportunity to have insightful discussions with Indigenous friends about their culture and personal experiences.
Happy NAIDOC week and Walawaani Njindiwan (safe journeys everyone).