NAIDOC Week celebrates the rich cultural heritage, history, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Image: For Our Elders, National NAIDOC Week Poster for 2023 by Bobbi Lockyer, a proud Ngarluma, Kariyarra, Nyulnyul and Yawuru artist.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this story contains images and references to people who have passed. We have included them to acknowledge, honour and pay respect to them.
NAIDOC Week is a significant annual event in Australia that honours the rich cultural heritage, history, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This week-long celebration is an opportunity to reflect upon and pay tribute to the diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures that have shaped the nation. With each passing year, NAIDOC Week takes on a new theme, and in 2023, it centres around a powerful sentiment: "For Our Elders."
Let us embark on a journey through time, exploring the history and evolution of NAIDOC Week.
Themes Reflecting Identity
Since its inception, NAIDOC Week has featured diverse themes, capturing the experiences, aspirations, and struggles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. These themes have highlighted issues such as land rights, cultural revival, self-determination, and the importance of language preservation. In 2023, the theme "For Our Elders" acknowledges the pivotal role played by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders as custodians of knowledge, culture, and community strength.
The 2023 Theme: "For Our Elders"
"For Our Elders" represents a profound recognition of the invaluable contributions made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders. It honours their wisdom, resilience, and ongoing guidance in preserving cultural heritage. The theme serves as a reminder for all Australians to listen, learn, and support the Elders who carry the weight of history and ensure the continuity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditions.
During the week-long celebration - held from 2 – 9 July in 2023 - communities come together to engage in various activities, including cultural performances, art exhibitions, storytelling sessions, traditional ceremonies, and educational workshops. These events provide opportunities for intergenerational knowledge sharing, fostering greater understanding and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
Image: The late Uncle Jack Charles and Dr Lois Peeler were the 2022 NAIDOC Elders of the Year. Credit: National NAIDOC Committee
Importance of Elders
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders hold a wealth of knowledge acquired through a lifetime of experiences, often passed down through generations. They possess an intimate understanding of land, language, spirituality, and traditional practices. Their guidance and leadership are vital in promoting cultural continuity, healing historical wounds, and shaping the future of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
The 2023 NAIDOC Week celebrations not only pay tribute to the Elders but also emphasise the importance of intergenerational connections. It encourages younger generations to engage with their Elders, learn from their stories, and inherit their cultural responsibilities.
The roots of NAIDOC Week can be traced back to the 1920s when Aboriginal rights activist William Cooper initiated the idea of an Aboriginal Day of Mourning. In 1938, marking the 150th anniversary of British colonisation in Australia, the Day of Mourning was held on January 26th, drawing attention to the dispossession and discrimination faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Over time, this event evolved into an annual protest and commemoration.
In 1956, a significant turning point occurred when the National Aborigines Day Observance Committee (NADOC) was established. NADOC aimed to raise awareness about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues, advocate for rights, and promote reconciliation.
Initially celebrated on the first Sunday in July, the event expanded into a full week in 1974, becoming known as NAIDOC Week. This change allowed for greater engagement and participation across Australia.
Over the years, NAIDOC Week has grown from humble beginnings into a nationally recognised celebration that fosters pride, understanding, and unity among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
You can read more about the history of NAIDOC Week here.
The 2023 theme, "For Our Elders," serves as a powerful reminder of the wisdom and resilience embodied by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders. As communities gather to honour and learn from these custodians of culture, NAIDOC Week continues to play a crucial role in promoting Reconciliation and Self Determination, acknowledging historical injustices, and celebrating the vibrant contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Through collective efforts, Australia moves closer to a future where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are respected, celebrated, and cherished by all.
One of the ways we can support this is the Yes Campaign for the upcoming referendum on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to be enshrined in the Australian Constitution.
The 2023 Poster
The winner of the 2023 National NAIDOC Week Poster Competition is Bobbi Lockyer, a proud Ngarluma, Kariyarra, Nyulnyul and Yawuru artist, born and based on Kariyarra Country in Port Hedland.
Image: Bobbi Lockyer sits on the ground with colourful art canvases behind her. She is wearing pale yellow overalls and has bright pink hair.
“Where there is knowledge there are our Elders. Our Elders paved the pathways for us, taught us our knowledge, our history, they passed down their art, stories and wisdom." Said Bobbi Lockyer.
"Our Elders are the foundation of our communities and role models for our children."
"With this poster, I wanted to showcase how important our Elders are in passing down traditions and culture to our children and future.” Said Bobbi Lockyer.
Ways you can support NAIDOC Week:
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