NAIDOC: From Little Things, Big Things Grew


It’s amazing to think that something that started as a protest movement in the early 1900s to highlight the treatment of Aboriginal people has turned into one of the busiest and most cherished weeks for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

NAIDOC, as it’s now known, stands for National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee. It has grown from a political movement connected to the Day of Mourning Protest and Conference on 26 January 1938, to highlight the unequal status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, to the national week of celebration that it is today.

The Committee itself has been in operation since 1957.

Today, NAIDOC is a national cultural festival which is a week long celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures and communities (always held in the first full week of July), but it is still firmly entrenched in the plight for justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

NAIDOC brings our people and the wider community together in the spirit of reconciliation, and positively promotes our history, culture and people.

It is an amazing accomplishment and sign of the progress made in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights that NAIDOC has grown from an act of protest, to a range of Australia-wide events.

This includes flag raising ceremonies, family days, balls, awards, art and film exhibitions, music gigs, sporting carnivals, book launches and fashion parades.

My own involvement and love of NAIDOC week extends beyond my professional role as the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Manager at Amnesty International Australia to my personal interest and pride in my own heritage as a proud Nyikina woman from Derby in the Kimberley of Western Australia.

I am the Convenor and currently the Executive Assistant for NAIDOC Perth and until December last year I was a member of the National NAIDOC Committee. In Perth, we do NAIDOC in a big way, as one glance at the long list of NAIDOC Perth Program of Events will demonstrate.

Since the disbandment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) in 2005, NAIDOC has really blossomed as a community-led festival, with support from local, state and federal government, corporates, NGOs and of course the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community itself, who work tirelessly to keep it going.

Although the National NAIDOC Committee still sets the theme, poster competition and runs the Ball and Awards ceremony in a different city each year, in each town and city there is so much more happening which is not controlled or funded by government.

I’m looking forward to attending my local NAIDOC Perth Opening Ceremony (Sunday 6 July at Wellington Square in East Perth) and the NAIDOC Perth Ball (Friday 11 July at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre) with family and friends.

Eventually, alongside this growing list of national events, I’d like to see NAIDOC given the recognition it deserves and a national public holiday announced to mark the increased mainstream acknowledgement and awareness of it as a significant cultural activity for all Australians.

For more information on NAIDOC events in your area, head to the NAIDOC website.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.