NAIDOC Week is borne from a day of protest, a movement towards justice, equality, and freedom and human rights. It's a week that celebrates and acknowledges our past, our present and looks with hope towards the future.
It showcases and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their rich and valuable histories, achievements, ingenuity, resilience and contribution to over 65,000 years of continuous culture.
To understand NAIDOC week, you need to understand how it all began. In June 1937, Wiradjuri man William "Bill" Ferguson launched the Aboriginal Progressive Association, which is viewed by many as the turning point in the Australian Aboriginal civil rights movement.
On Australia Day 1938, the 150th anniversary of governor Arthur Phillip's landing, Yorta Yorta men William Cooper, founder of the Australian Aboriginal League, and John Patten, a forceful organiser and journalist, led the movement to protest against the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians.
The organisers were denied permission to hold the Day of Mourning in Sydney Town Hall, but were able to rent the Australia Hall, 150-152 Elizabeth Street. The use of Australia Hall was granted on condition that the delegates watched the sesquicentennial parade from the Town Hall steps and then marched behind the parade to the Australia Hall.
The day was also attended by prominent Aboriginal leaders of the time such as Pearl Gibbs, Margaret Tucker and Doug Nicholls.
The day became known as the Day of Mourning. When they met with prime minister Joseph Lyons to present their request for justice, decency and fair play for Australia's Aboriginal peoples, it was rejected.
Bill Ferguson continued his work, successfully campaigning for two Aboriginal representatives to be elected to the Aborigines Welfare Board. In the late 1950s, changes in other countries toward equality and civil rights focused public attention on the injustices faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia.
In 1955, the movement leaders decided the annual event day should not just be a protest, but should also celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.
Bill's dream was finally realised in 1967 when the federal referendum secured the highest "Yes" vote ever recorded. Over 90 per cent of Australians agreed for Aboriginal people to be recognised as citizens and to be counted in the national census, and for the Commonwealth to make laws on their behalf.
In 1975 the annual event evolved from one day to a week-long event supported by an independent committee - the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. NAIDOC has grown to include a poster competition and awards honouring the outstanding contribution Indigenous Australians make to their communities.
This year we also celebrate both the 50th anniversary of the Aboriginal Embassy established on the lawns of the then-parliament house in 1972 as well as the 30th anniversary of the Mabo decision.
We are honoured to hold the positions of co-chair of the National NAIDOC alongside the eight other committee members. Together we make the decisions around the annual theme and award winners that recognise both individuals and organisations who, through their service, diligence, strength and empathy have shown not only our people, but all Australians, what is required to take that first step to move forward and make things better in the face of adversity.
One of our roles is to assign a theme to shed light on important issues and events within First Nations communities. The NAIDOC Week theme for 2022 builds on our proud history, and continues the work of Bill, William, Pearl, Margaret, Doug and John which is echoed in this year's theme of Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!
We must keep rallying around our mob, our Elders, our communities. Whether it's seeking proper environmental, cultural and heritage protections, constitutional change, a comprehensive process of truth-telling, working towards treaties, or calling out racism - we must do it together.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.