NAIDOC Week 2020: 5 Ways To Celebrate 'Always Was, Always Will Be'

Despite COVID-19 there are still ways to celebrate the 65,500 years-strong culture of First Nations people.

NAIDOC Week is held in Australia each year to acknowledge and celebrate the history, diverse culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

While usually held in July, NAIDOC Week has been pushed back this year due to COVID-19, and will run from November 8 to 15.

Despite the pandemic, there are still ways to be involved and celebrate First Nations people, whether it be attending a workshop, watching a film or changing your email signature.

What Is NAIDOC Week?

NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’, a committee once responsible for organising NAIDOC Week activities.

The name has remained for the week-long celebrations, and each year a theme is chosen to reflect the important issues and events of the week.

The theme for 2020 is Always Was, Always Will Be, recognising Australia’s First People who have occupied the continent and its adjacent islands for over 65,000 years.

The theme for 2020 is Always Was, Always Will Be, recognising Australia’s First People who have occupied the continent and its adjacent islands for over 65,000 years.  Pictured is the 2020 National NAIDOC logo with artwork by Tyrone 
The theme for 2020 is Always Was, Always Will Be, recognising Australia’s First People who have occupied the continent and its adjacent islands for over 65,000 years.  Pictured is the 2020 National NAIDOC logo with artwork by Tyrone 

According to Dr Andrew Peters, senior lecturer in Indigenous Studies and Tourism at Swinburne University, NAIDOC Week is “a way for Aboriginal people to come together and celebrate, and a wonderful opportunity for schools, community groups and organisations to connect with Aboriginal people, culture and history”.

“Although it’s always a busy time for many people, it’s become a great way to share our culture and history and encourage non-Aboriginal Australians to find their own connections with our country,” he told HuffPost Australia.

How To Celebrate NAIDOC Week In 2020

Peters said NAIDOC Week can be celebrated through various means, and with most events being online during the pandemic, “it’s a great chance to attend and see multiple events and see the diversity of our Indigenous cultures, especially in a local context”.

“Most local councils and groups will have some types of activities, so contacting them would be a good start,” he said.

1. Attend An Online Workshop Or Tune In To A Livestream Event

There are virtual and in-person events being held across the country during NAIDOC Week.

Wonnarua woman Saretta Fielding is hosting an online talk and workshop on Tuesday November 10 where artists will speak about the ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’ theme, before attendees participate in a hands-on art workshop that explores Aboriginal storytelling and culture.

Aboriginal Learning Facilitators from Victoria’s Royal Botanic Gardens are hosting virtual tours through the Cranbourne Botanic Gardens to explore common bushfood plants that can be grown in your backyard.

In Western Australia, there’s a flag raising ceremony and morning tea in Busselton, while in Sydney the University of New South Wales will live stream a chat with Indigenous rapper Barkaa about what NAIDOC Week means to her and her world.

Dunghutti dhariiyn duriayi (Dunghutti Figtree Dancers) during the filming of their Dance Rites submission on Dunghutti country.
Dunghutti dhariiyn duriayi (Dunghutti Figtree Dancers) during the filming of their Dance Rites submission on Dunghutti country.

The Sydney Opera House will broadcast the heats from Australia’s annual First Nations dance competition, ‘Dance Rites’ from Wednesday November 11 to Saturday November 14. This dance competition embraces vanishing cultural practices and highlights the richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.

The National Gallery of Victoria is hosting a series of events online suitable for families, including its Under Fives art workshop.

Kids will learn about the NAIDOC Week theme and hear about Wurundjeri man William Barak, who used art to record and preserve his culture for future generations. There’s then an art-making demonstration, encouraging kids to learn “more about the traditional custodians of the land where they live, learn and play”.

On Tuesday November 10, the Sydney Opera House will host ‘Sovereign Ideas’, featuring a panel of young Indigenous Australian cultural thinkers and leaders speaking about stereotypes and stigmas. The lineup includes Emily Johnson, Corey Tutt, Lille Madden, and Ryhan Clapham (aka DOBBY), and will be hosted by Rachael Hocking. This is best suited for year 9 to 12 students.

More events for adults and children can be found here.

2. Educate Yourself Through Indigenous Film And TV

Watching a movie or TV show about the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is a way to explore and appreciate core themes that you can link to the Always Was, Always Will Be theme of NAIDOC Week.

NITV has dedicated a slate of coverage to celebrate.

On Monday November 9 at 7:30am, the network will premiere the first all-Indigenous breakfast show, ‘Big Mob Brekky’ featuring special guests and entertainment, sport and lifestyle segments along with community callouts.

It “will provide further context, discussion and perspectives on the theme Always Was, Always Will Be” said Acting Head of NITV, Kyas Hepworth.

A selection of dramas will also air each evening, including ‘Ten Canoes’,‘Dark Age’, ‘Jedda, Tudawali’ ‘The Fringe Dwellers’ and ‘Sweet Country’.

NITV will air the first all-Indigenous breakfast show, ‘Big Mob Brekky’ hosted by Shahni Wellington and Ryan Liddle (pictured). It will feature special guests and entertainment, sport and lifestyle segments along with community callouts.
NITV will air the first all-Indigenous breakfast show, ‘Big Mob Brekky’ hosted by Shahni Wellington and Ryan Liddle (pictured). It will feature special guests and entertainment, sport and lifestyle segments along with community callouts.

3. Read Books By Indigenous Authors

There’s ways to educate and challenge ourselves to reconsider our colonial history through reading the works of Indigenous authors.

Some good reads include Bruce Pascoe’s ‘Dark Emu’, ‘Australia Day’ by Stan Grant, ‘Finding the Heart of the Nation’ by Thomas Mayor and ‘The Yield’ by Tara June Winch.

A great one to show the kids is rapper Briggs’ recently-released children’s book, ‘Our Home, Our Heartbeat’.

The book is inspired by his celebrated 2015 song ‘The Children Came Back’ featuring Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu and Deway. The tune was an homage-style follow up to Archie Roach’s 1990 song ‘They Took the Children Away’, written about Roach’s experience with one of the darkest periods in Australia’s history: the Stolen Generations.

“‘Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia’ is a brilliant anthology of First Nations stories and poems (that I may have contributed to) that gives an insight into the lived reality of mob,” Shahni Wellington, co-host of NITV’s ‘Big Mob Brekky’, told HuffPost Australia.

“Engaging on social media with Aboriginal-run informative accounts like @blakbusiness or @commongroundaustralia is also an easy way to learn and embed Aboriginal resources in everyday life.”

4. Change Your Social Media Or Email Signature

The NAIDOC Week logo is available to download from the event’s official website, and can be added to your personal social media accounts to raise awareness and show your support for this year’s theme.

You can also spread the message to your email contacts by adding a line to your signature with an acknowledgment of country, as explained below.

5. Acknowledgement Of Country At Work And Home

According to Reconciliation Australia, “incorporating welcoming and acknowledgement protocols into official meetings and events recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners of land and shows respect”.

Professor Mick Dodson spoke to the organisation about the meaning of Country for First Nations Australians, saying it’s “something beyond the dictionary definition of the word”.

“We might mean homeland, or tribal or clan area and we might mean more than just a place on the map. For us, Country is a word for all the values, places, resources, stories and cultural obligations associated with that area and its features. It describes the entirety of our ancestral domains.”

You can also hang up a handmade sign inside or outside your home that acknowledges the land you live or work on.
You can also hang up a handmade sign inside or outside your home that acknowledges the land you live or work on.

Hosting a Zoom or video meeting is the norm for many of us working from home in 2020, and asking colleagues to hold a sign acknowledging the land they are working or live on can encourage more conversation. More resources about appropriate wording can be found here and you can find the name of the Traditional Land you live or work on here.

You can also hang up a handmade sign inside or outside your home acknowledging the land you are working/live on.

CultureUp!‘s ‘Signs Of Respect’ campaign is encouraging people to do just this. Wotobaluk and Wemba Wemba man Eddie Moore said the idea of doing this is to educate yourself and others who pass by or see your creation on social media.

“Not enough Aussies know the Traditional Land their home or business sits on, which is where Signs of Respect comes in,” he told HuffPost Australia.

“Learning about the significance of connection to Country is one of the first steps to showing respect for First Nations people. Learning about the land we live on enables us to become more connected to our true history, encourages recognition of the First Nations people and shows respect through action. To learn is to empathise and understand.”

With additional reporting by Carly Williams.

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