NAIDOC Week: What it is and How You Can Get Involved

Djirri Djirri Dance Group at Birrarung Marr, Melbourne

NAIDOC Week is a celebration held around the country to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Usually occurring each July, NAIDOC week was pushed to 8-15 November in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If this is your first NAIDOC Week celebration, or you haven’t gotten involved with this event before, now is the perfect time to learn more about the rich history of our First Nations people and enjoy some of the incredible NAIDOC Week events happening around the country.

(Note: Throughout the year, there’s also a range of ways you can support and celebrate First Nations cultures in Australia.)

What is NAIDOC Week?

As expressed on the NAIDOC Week website:

NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 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.”

As an international student living in Australia, this welcome to the celebrations includes you, too!

Each year, a different theme is picked for NAIDOC Week. In 2020, the theme is Always Was, Always Will Be. This recognises that First Nations people have occupied and cared for the Australian continent for over 65,000 years. 

Awards are also given at the annual National NAIDOC Awards Ceremony, which is dedicated to “recognising the outstanding contributions that Indigenous Australians make to improve the lives of Indigenous people in their communities and beyond, to promote Indigenous issues in the wider community, or the excellence they’ve shown in their chosen field” (source: NAIDOC Week website).

The awards include Person of the Year Award and the Caring for Country Award. The 2020 National NAIDOC Awards were unfortunately cancelled, but the 2021 ceremony will be held in Mparntwe (Alice Springs), the focus city for the 2021 National NAIDOC Week. 

How can I get involved?

NAIDOC Week is celebrated across the country through local community events. Just visit the dedicated events page and type in your postcode, and all the events nearest to you will show up. In 2020, there are also several virtual events, so you can involve yourself without having to leave home. Some of the bigger events and exhibitions will also extend past NAIDOC Week, so you have more time to enjoy them.

To get you started, some options in each state and territory include:

NSWNAIDOC Week at the Art Gallery of NSW

8-15 November

Head to the Art Gallery of New South Wales for a special program of events including virtual talks and in-person tours. There’s also the free NAIDOC Week Art After Hours Online, which is live-streamed from the Gallery’s Facebook and YouTube channels.

VIC – A guided meditation with Uncle Jack Charles (Online)

9-14 November

Join Aboriginal Elder and actor Uncle Jack Charles as he narrates a guided meditation, perfect to start your day with. 

QLD – Tucka-Time Online Cooking Classes (Online)

9-13 November

Joined by the wonderful chef, Sharon, learn how to cook with native ingredients and make simple family classics with recipes shared by community Elders. 

SA – Women’s Work

6 November – 6 December

Held at the South Australian Museum, Women’s Work is a photographic exhibition celebrating the diverse leadership of Aboriginal women in the community.

WA – NAIDOC Library Challenge

1-30 November

The City of Perth Library is challenging you to learn more about the nations, language, stories and knowledge of Aboriginal Australians. You’re encouraged to read, listen to, or watch a work by an Aboriginal artist and share a review to help start the conversation. Win badges along the way and complete the Challenge for a chance to win prizes. 

ACT – NAIDOC Week illuminations

8-16 November

For only the second time in 50 years, the National Carillon will be illuminated with colour, with projections featuring artworks and designs from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists participating in the AIATSIS online Indigenous Art Market. The illuminations will be visible from the shores of Lake Burley Griffin and on Aspen Island.

NT – 2020 Darwin Basketball Association Indigenous Round

9-14 November

A week-long celebration and acknowledgement of basketball players, past and present, culminating in League games on 12 and 13 November.

TAS – Always Was, Always Will Be (Online)

10-29 November

Organised by Art Mob – Aboriginal Fine Art, this online exhibition showcases a selection of artworks by Aboriginal artists from Tasmania.