Monday, July 2, 2012


I did a radio interview today about NAIDOC Week and the theme this year: "The Spirit of the Tent Embassy: 40 years on"; during the interview I was asked about whether NAIDOC Week is a week of celebration or a week of mourning, or both.

I answered both, and still much more... and it got me thinking.

I think this perceived contradiction confuses many Australians, even though we already do the same thing with days like ANZAC Day where we commemorate the tragic loss of life, but also celebrate the spirit of those who fought. I think many will overlook that comparison and become confused about the purpose of NAIDOC Week because many often don't have enough depth of understanding on Indigenous issues to handle it when we have conflicting views or themes, or multiple perspectives.

We prefer our Indigenous issues to be (excuse the pun) in black and white.

I think the issue of perceived contradiction is probably more poignant this year due to the 2012 NAIDOC theme: "The Spirit of the Tent Embassy: 40 Years On" which has always been a contentious issue in Australia, and even more so this year in light of the media fiasco that occurred on Survival Day/Australia Day.

The question of whether NAIDOC Week is a week of protest, a week of celebration, a week of remembrance etc has been made even more confusing thanks to the Stronger Futures legislation stealthily sneaking through parliament in the dead of night last week. You probably didn't hear about that unless you were on Twitter, as most mainstream media entities didn't seem to think it was a particularly newsworthy issue. 

These issues have created a question in the mind of many about what we need to do: Do we need to protest? Do we have anything to celebrate? Should we commemorate our losses and acknowledge the grief felt by many?

The answer to all of these is a resounding 'YES'!

To understand the perceived contradiction of celebrating, commemorating and protesting at the same time, it might help if we understand the history and origins of NAIDOC Week.

As many people know, NAIDOC week traces its history back to the Day of Mourning on the 26th January 1938 (which actually began much earlier than that in the form of community protests against 'Australia Day'). This turned into an annual event held on the Sunday before Australia Day, known as Aborigines Day.

In 1955 the day moved to the first Sunday in July, and it was decided it "should become not simply a protest day but also a celebration of Aboriginal culture." The following year "the second Sunday in July became a day of remembrance for Aboriginal people and their heritage" creating the framework for what would eventually become known as NADOC Week in 1975.

In the 1990's NADOCchanged to NAIDOC to acknowledge Torres Strait Islander peoples as well.

So basically, we have a lot to celebrate in our histories, we have a lot to mourn, we have a lot to protest against, and a lot to commemorate. We have heroes and champions, martyrs and victims; and all of them have a place in NAIDOC Week. We should not treat our history like a smorgasbord searching for the bits we want to acknowledge.

We need to acknowledge it all.

Where we come from, where we are, and where we are going.

This is what NAIDOC Week is to me anyway... and I don't see a contradiction of any kind in that.

I celebrate successes, I commemorate those who came before me, and I protest against those who deny basic human rights and freedoms... not just this week but any week.

But especially this week.

I'm not sure if I had a point when I started this, or I'm just thinking out loud, but whatever... people who read my blog should be used to that by now.

Life is complicated and it's not my job to simplify it for you, I just want you to know about these sort of issues, discuss them and come up with your own opinions about them.

I hope you have a meaningful NAIDOC Week... whatever it means to you.


  1. A Day of Mourning Declared following Stronger Futures leading in to NAIDOC Week

    "I wonder how you will tell your grandchildren these atrocities you did to the First Nations People". Deni Langman, (Traditional Owner of Uluru - 28th June 2012) on imminent passage of what she refered to as ‘Stolen Futures’ legislation.

    Over the past few years I have celebrated NAIDOC week and encouraged many, many others (perhaps thousands) especially my fellow Non-Indigenous friends to celebrate the A&TSI history, people and culture.

    This year however I hear Aboriginal Elders loud and clear calling for a time of Mourning. I was one of probably just a handfull that sat up through to the early hours and listened to the Stronger ["STOLEN"] Futures (SF) legislation Senate debate. Despite all the evidence and widespread opposition this legislation package of 3 bills passed with ease - as it had strong bi-partisan support of both labor and liberal parties. The Greens and the one Democratic Labor Party (DLP) senator/s argued and voted against this punitive and racist legislation. The debate showed how little the Government knew- Senator Evans repeatedly unable to answer any questions on evidence base! Insulting and embarrassing- the legislation still passed.

    Both Liberal and labor parties cannot be trusted in A&TSI Affairs.
    1. "Please LISTEN to Dr Djiniyini Gondarra on the passage of Stronger [STOLEN] Futures legislation

    His people and other nations of: The Yolgnu Nations Assembly (YNA) called for the Stronger Futures legislation to be abandoned, see their statement at

    2. Read this excellent article since titled: ‘Another Lost Opportunity for True Reconcilation’.

    3. Read what NT A&TSIs said- “NT Consultation Report 2011: By Quotations” (Feb 2011) at ‘cA’ website, this was the 3rd of three books written –so N.T.Indigenous voices could not simply be left unheard - they have been ignored!

    Many reports & 2 previous books at same site and elsewhere show Government policies are unjust, discriminatory and failing. These are easily downloaded from site.
    A day of mourning has been declared
    Stronger Futures is a "war on democracy"
    NT intervention extended for a decade - Day of mourning declared

  2. Launched as part of NAIDOC week 2012, is a new interactive web documentary called 'The Block: Stories from a Meeting Place'.

    If anyone has something to say about the Block or a vivid memory about life in Indigenous Redfern, please visit this site and contribute your story: