November 6, 2020

NAIDOC Week: Always Was, Always Will Be

NAIDOC Week this year is being celebrated from 8 to 15 November. NAIDOC Week celebrations are traditionally held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The November dates follow the decision by the National NAIDOC Committee (NNC) to postpone NAIDOC Week from the original July dates due to the uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic.

NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’. This committee was once responsible for organising national activities during NAIDOC Week and its acronym has since become the name of the week itself. Find out more about the origins and history of NAIDOC Week.

NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

This year’s theme ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’ recognises that First Nations people have occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years.

It acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were Australia’s first explorers, first navigators, first engineers, first farmers, first botanists, first scientists, first diplomats, first astronomers and first artists.

To mark NAIDOC Week, members of our Aboriginal community at Northern Health, from our Narrun Wilip-giin (Aboriginal Support Unit) to Allied Health to the Koori Maternity Service, share their views and reflect on subjects such as ‘Caring for Country, Treaty and Sovereignty’, ‘Australia Day’, and ‘Oral Stories’, which can be found here.

They draw attention to how First Nation people read the night sky well enough to know when it will rain, when best to hunt and gather, to use it to encode stories that record history, and much more.

They also talk about the growing adoption of Indigenous farming practices such as Aboriginal fire management, here in Victoria.

NAIDOC Week is also a good time to consider some sobering facts. Facts such as Australia is the only Commonwealth nation that doesn’t have a treaty with its Indigenous people. Our writers make a claim for sovereignty on the grounds that, ‘Indigenous people never ceded sovereignty and that a treaty must acknowledge Indigenous sovereignty’.

They also explain why for many Indigenous Australians, the 26th of January isn’t a day for celebrating.

Oral stories are a recurring theme. “Storytelling is a traditional method used to teach about cultural beliefs, values, customs, rituals, history, practices, relationships, and ways of life… First Nations storytelling is a foundation for holistic learning, relationship building, and experiential learning,” we learn.

They come with a recommended reading list including Bruce Pascoe’s book, Dark Emu, which challenges prevailing views of Australian history and opens our eyes to Aboriginal farming, fishing and land management and links for readers interested in learning more.

NAIDOC Week 2020 acknowledges and celebrates that our nation’s story didn’t begin with documented European contact whether in 1770 or 1606 – with the arrival of the Dutch on the western coast of the Cape York Peninsula.

The very first footprints on this continent were those belonging to First Nations peoples.

This nation’s story began at the dawn of time.

NAIDOC 2020 invites all Australians to embrace the true history of this country – a history which dates back thousands of generations.

Join us as we celebrate the oldest continuing cultures on the planet and acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded.

Always Was, Always Will Be.

The video above was created by Yue Hu from Transcultural Language Services (TALS) and a member of the NAIDOC working group.