This week is NAIDOC Week. NAIDOC is now a week dedicated to the celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ history, culture and achievements, but it started from a very different place – here’s a brief rundown on the history of NAIDOC week!
In the 1920s many Aboriginal people boycotted the celebration of Australia Day on January 26, as many still do today, as a protest against the status and mistreatment of Indigenous Australians. As the years progressed, the momentum behind the boycotts increased until Australia Day 1938 when over a thousand people marched through the streets of Sydney on a day known as the Day of Mourning. The group proposed a national policy for Aboriginal people, who were then under the protection of state and territory governments, which was rejected by then Prime Minister Joseph Lyons on the basis that the Government did not have the constitutional authority in relation to Indigenous peoples.
The following year it was decided that the Day of Mourning should become an annual event, and so, for the next fifteen years, Aborigines Day was marked on the Sunday before Australia Day.
In 1955, Aborigines Day moved to July to be not just a protest day, but a day dedicated to the celebration of Aboriginal culture. A National Aborigines Observance Day Committee (NADOC) was formed.
In 1974, the Committee was made up entirely of Indigenous people for the first time, and the following year it was decided that Aborigines Day should be extended to include a full week, from the first to the second Sunday in July.
In 1984 NADOC proposed that Aborigines Day be made a public holiday, a call that has been made many times since, but which has been rejected each time.
In the early 90s, with increased recognition of the distinct cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, NADOC changed to NAIDOC, the National Aborigines and Islander Day Observance Committee.
Around this time, theAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) began coordinating NAIDOC week, until it was disbanded in 2004-05. Since then, the coordination has been by a NAIDOC Committee, with representatives from most Australian states and territories. Each year NAIDOC week has a theme, and host city.
That more or less brings us up to today! This year’s theme is Songlines: The Living Narratives of Our Nation – there is a great breakdown on the ABC here.