Celebrating Indigenous culture – NAIDOC Week


Art is an important aspect of indigenous culture that continues to grow in popularity.

NAIDOC Week is an annual event that focuses attention on the richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and the valuable contributions that indigenous people make to this country. It provides a chance for all of us to recognise, acknowledge and celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Australia’s First People. It also provides an opportunity to reflect upon our shared history.

Creating a hand print.

Today’s descendants of the original inhabitants of this country are part of the oldest continuously living culture on earth. This connection stretches back 60,000+ years, to the ancestors of the past and it also provides a living link to the future. At this point in time, indigenous and non-indigenous Australians are being called upon to walk a path of healing together, towards greater reconciliation, and to enter into discussions about the prospect of a long overdue Treaty with this nation’s First People. It is all about walking that road together.

Indigenous artist, Darryl Black, shows 11 year old Jamie van Wensveen how to create a contemporary hand print – not unlike the ones originally painted on cave walls using ochre pigments. 

NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’ – an acronym for the group responsible for organising NAIDOC activities and events – and the national week for celebrating indigenous culture has retained this name. Held in the first full week of July, the origins of NAIDOC Week can be traced back to the 1920s and the emergence of Aboriginal groups which sought to increase awareness in the wider community about the status and treatment of indigenous Australians.

NAIDOC Week provides an opportunity to learn about indigenous culture.

In the early 1900s, fledgling Aboriginal rights groups had started to boycott ‘Australia Day’ (26 January) in protest against the treatment of Indigenous Australians. On Australia Day in 1938, protestors marched through the streets of Sydney, followed by a congress attended by over a thousand people. Known as the ‘Day of Mourning’, this was one of the first major civil rights gatherings in the world. There was a growing feeling that this day of demonstration should become a regular event. 

From 1940 until 1955, the Day of Mourning was held annually on the Sunday before Australia Day and it became known as ‘Aborigines Day’. In 1955 Aborigines Day was shifted to the first Sunday in July after it was decided that the day should become not simply a day of protest but also a celebration of Aboriginal culture.

naidoc week poster

This year, the national theme for NAIDOC Week (3-10 July) is Songlines – The living narrative of our nation. As for previous years, a national poster competition was held, inviting artists to submit entries represening their interpretation of the chosen theme. This year’s winner of the prestigious National NAIDOC Poster Competition is Lani Balzan, a proud Wiradjuri Aboriginal woman from Illawara, NSW.

Ms Balzan received a $5,000 cash prize and her artwork, titled: Songlines Tie All Aboriginal People Together, is featured on the National NAIDOC Poster, distributed across the country to promote NAIDOC Week 2016. Ms Balzan’s artwork represents all of the Songlines coming together to create our nation. You can see how they criss-cross the land as they run East, West, North, South and diagonally across the country to track the journeys of the ancestors.  

Artist, Darryl Black, who is also an indigenous cultural guide on eco-tours in Queensland, works on series of paintings inspired by the native wildlife that he encounters up north. 

As part of NAIDOC Week, diverse celebrations and activities are being held across Australia – from remote and regional communities to urban and metropolitan centres. If you have the chance to take part, the opportunity to learn more about indigenous culture, music, stories and artwork, and to connect with local indigenous people is well worthwhile.

Dot work and detail on a painting of a cassowary. 
‘Australians United’ – an artwork by Darryl Black, showing interconnecting Songlines.

Further Information:

NAIDOC Week 3-10 July 2016. 
To find out more about events and celebrations in recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements, visit the NAIDOC website or Facebook page. As part of an open invitation to take part, all Australians are welcome and encouraged to learn, share and participate together. NAIDOC week provides an opportunity for Australians of all ages to discover more about the oldest living continuing culture on the planet.
Like many organisations, the network of local and national ABC Television and Radio stations is also supporting NAIDOC Week, presenting a broad range of features on indigenous Australians during the week-long celebrations.
SBS Television and its NITV (National Indigenous Television) channel will also be broadcasting a series of NAIDOC related stories. NITV, being a channel made by, for and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, has the ongoing role of sharing indigenous stories 365 days a year!


  1. What s wonderful insight into a slice of our Austrslian history.


  2. Yes, I think it is quite timely for Australians to be learning more about indigenous culture and history and also, social justice. Time for greater recognition and healing.


  3. Darryl Black is a wonderful advocate for indigenous people as well as being a very engaging artist and storyteller. I look forward to following his work with great interest.


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