Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers should be aware that this article about NAIDOC Week contains names of deceased people.
When is NAIDOC Week?
NAIDOC Week is predominantly held in the first full week of July and is a time to celebrate Aboriginal history, culture and achievements. NAIDOC stands for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’. But pretty much everybody uses the acronym. It’s a week all about seeing, hearing and learning the First Nations’ 65,000+ year history of this country – which is Australian history. All Australians are encouraged to recognise that sovereignty was never ceded and to celebrate the oldest continuing cultures on the planet.
First Day of NAIDOC Week Observances in the past and future:
- 2016 – 3rd of July
- 2017 – 2nd of July
- 2018 – 8th of July
- 2019 – 7th of July
- 2020 – 5th of July
- 2021 – 4th of July
- 2022 – 3rd of July
- 2023 – 2nd of July
- 2024 – 7th of July
- 2025 – 6th of July
- 2026 – 5th of July
Please note: The first day of NAIDOC Week is not a public holiday. It falls on Sunday, 4 July 2021 and most businesses follow regular Sunday opening hours in Australia.
While we diligently research and update our dates, some of the information in the table above may be subject to change. If you find an error, please let us know.
NAIDOC Week This Year
NAIDOC Week is from 4 – 11 July 2021.
In 2021, the theme is Heal Country! Healing Country means finally resolving many of the outstanding injustices which impact on the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people. This moving theme highlights the connection, rights and responsibilities of First Nations people to this country. It challenges all Australians to respect and protect indigenous knowledge. It encourages everyone to reflect on where we stand on issues of control over lands, waters and sacred sites. ‘Healing’ is the key word here, which of course means ‘to make something healthy again’.
Gagudju man Bill Niedje puts it this way:
I die and put may bones in cave or earth
Soon my bones become earth…
All the same
My spirit has gone back to my country…
“our story is in the land…
It is written in those sacred places.”
Here are some more poems on land and healing written by Bill Niedje, who was the last surviving speaker of the Gaagudju language from northern Kakadu:
They grow and grow.
Every night they grow.
No matter it burn.
When it drink.
It grow again.
When you cut tree,
It pump life away,
All the same as blood in my arm.”
They can’t listen for us.
They just listen for money…
“Law never change…
It aways stay same.
Maybe it hard,
But proper one for all people.
Not like white European law…
If you don’t like it,
You can change.
Aboriginal law never change.
Old people tell us,
‘You got to keep it.’
It always stays.”
Country is more than a place. It’s inherent to Aboriginal identity. It sustains lives in every aspect – spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially, and culturally. Country is a word that holds different meanings for First Nations peoples, especially given the diversity of First Nations. There are however certain concepts and ideas about Country that many First Nations people share. For example: Country is alive. Country is timeless. Country is sick. Listen to Country. Country needs time to heal. And Country is us.
“Healing Country is healing us. We are Country and Country is us. We are all one.”– Worimi Elder Uncle Steve Brereton.
Why Do We Celebrate NAIDOC Week?
Looking at significant events for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, you’ll notice a history of sadness, loss and denial. Importantly, you’ll also notice the ongoing fight for rights, land and recognition. While there is a long way to go to heal, and for returned rights and reconciliation, within that fight there’s much to reflect on, honour and celebrate.
The History of NAIDOC Week
It has a lot to do with a very controversial date: January 26th. The “Australia Day” celebrations have been boycotted by Aboriginal rights groups for over 100 years. For many Indigenous people, the anniversary of the arrival of the first fleet on 26th of January, 1788, is day of deep sadness, not celebration. For generations, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have wanted the true history of massacres, dispossession and racism recognised by all Australians.
“Our land, our pride and our future has been taken away from us and our people buried in unmarked graves. We wander through Australian society as beggars. We live off the crumbs of the white Australian table and are told to be grateful. This is what Australia Day means to Aboriginal Australians. We celebrate with you but there is much sadness in our joy. It is like dancing on your mother’s grave.”– Dr Charles Perkins
On January 26th 1938, protesters marched through Sydney in which organisers called the Day of Mourning. Similar protests were held on the Sunday before Australia day up until 1955. The day became known as Aborigines Day. The date eventually shifted to the first Sunday of July after it was decided the day should be a celebration of Aboriginal culture rather than a protest. Some believe this was to remove the protest from January 26th so celebrations could continue.
In 1975, it was decided that the event should cover a week. Back then, it was called NADOC but with growing awareness was expanded to also recognise Torres Strait Islander people and culture. In 1991 the committee became known as the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC).
What Can I Do For NAIDOC Week?
Organisers of NAIDOC Week want all Australians to acknowledge and celebrate that Australia didn’t begin with documented European history but that the very first people on this continent were First Nations peoples. They call for all Australians to continue to seek greater protection from exploitation and destruction of land, water, sacred sites and cultural heritage.
Local community celebrations during NAIDOC Week are encouraged and often organised by communities, government agencies, local councils, schools and workplaces. People celebrate NAIDOC Week in diverse ways including cultural events, art exhibitions, movie screenings, seminars, webinars and festivals.
The Committee makes decisions on national NAIDOC activities including the host city, the theme and the National NAIDOC Poster Competition winner.
At the end of every NAIDOC Week, the National NAIDOC Awards are announced at a ceremony held in the host city.
To find out more about NAIDOC Week events and to discover what’s on in your local area click here.
For individuals, it’s an extra special week to immerse yourself in indigenous culture and history through the arts: a movie, some music, or reading. You could Visit local Aboriginal sites of significance or interest. You could also learn the meanings of local or national Aboriginal place names and words. On our site we’ve listed dates that honour the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples which is a great starting point for further research!
Here are a few suggestions for activities to celebrate at school or at the workplace:
- Together, you could listen to Aboriginal musicians or watch a movie about Aboriginal history.
- Research the traditional Aboriginal owners of your area.
- Study Aboriginal arts and crafts.
- Host a community BBQ or luncheon.
- Invite Aboriginal dancers to perform.
- Display the NAIDOC Poster or other Aboriginal posters around your classroom or workplace.
- Start your own hall of fame featuring Aboriginal role models.
- Create your own Aboriginal art.
- Run an art competition for your school or community.
- Research Aboriginal history online or visit you library to find books about Aboriginal peoples.
- Make your own Aboriginal trivia quiz.
- Study a famous Aboriginal Australian.
- Visit local Aboriginal sites of significance or interest together.
- Invite an Aboriginal sports person or artist to visit you.
- Hold a flag raising ceremony.
- Organise a smoking ceremony.
- Learn the meanings of local or national Aboriginal place names and words.
- Invite local Aboriginal Elders to speak or give a Welcome to Country at your school or workplace.
The learning resources available through the NAIDOC website are extremely useful for teachers and students. The resources are also used for research in foundational knowledge concerning National Aboriginal Week, the history of themes since 1972, as well as the host cities for the NAIDOC Awards ceremonies.
And SBS has also created a NAIDOC Week Teaching Resource for Foundation through to Year 10. The Teaching Resource contains concepts applicable to a broad range of learners and topics, and will provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in classrooms beyond the dates of NAIDOC Week 2021. It’s available on the SBS Learn NAIDOC Week page.
To help honour NAIDOC, we’ve also created a list of dates to honour the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
Feel free to use our FREE Social Media Marketing Planner to plant these dates into your marketing plan to grow some compelling, relevant, inclusive content. We get a whole lot of content creators visiting our site looking for specific dates of the year. So, we thought we’d provide you with a free marketing planner template to input these inclusive dates.
Have we missed something here? Let us know on Instagram! We’re looking forward to hearing from you.