Despite COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s NAIDOC Week to celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, is as vibrant than ever before.

NAIDOC stands for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’ and this year’s theme is: “Always Was, Always Will Be”. This statement recognises that First Nations people have occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years and were the first explorers, navigators, engineers, farmers, botanists, scientists, diplomats, astronomers and artists.

NAIDOC has grown from one day to a full week of celebrations (from the 8-15 of November) and is not just for our Indigenous communities but a celebration for all Australians. 

This year’s theme celebrates Indigenous tradition and spiritual connection to the land whilst facing catastrophic droughts and rising sea levels by the enduring threat of climate change, demonstrating that knowledge of Country, is more important than ever before.

Young Indigenous children proudly celebrating their cultural heritage while wearing masks. Source: Getty Images.

Leanne Miller, the North East Member from First People’s Assembly (FPA) explained that this year, she is very proud to say that the Indigenous community across Victoria have seen zero transmission of the COVID-19 virus. This is due to the proactive efforts of Indigenous communities to educate communities and manage health care services.

“This year has been particularly difficult, (due to impacts of COVID-19), but I believe you have to get uncomfortable before you can get comfortable. I think, my people have an important role to play in designing and redesigning nation-building, on our terms” expressed Ms Miller. 

Leanne Miller is a descendant of the Dhulanyagen Ulupna clan, Yorta Yorta people, as an elected member to the FPA. Her role is to ensure that her local Aboriginal communities are aware of the various discussion stages for the Treaty Negotiation Framework. With a watchful eye and ear to the voices of her area, she has an interest in ensuring a strong Aboriginal woman and girls voices are reflected in the treaty process. 

Caption: Leanne Miller, North East Member for the First Peoples Assembly shares her highlights of NAIDOC Week. Source: Facebook.

She is amongst 21 elected members of the First People’s Assembly which is developing inputs in readiness for Treaty Discussions with the State Government. The elected members with support from their communities will design a Treaty Negotiation Framework which is an important phase of the Victorian Governments relationship with their First Nations people.  

Indeed, our Indigenous people have an important role to play in sustainably managing our land for future generations. Recent bushfires have sparked an interest in Indigenous land and vegetation management. 

“Coming off the back of supporting communities affected by Victoria’s devastating bushfires, our community has come together during COVID-19 and this just demonstrates – resilience, of a different kind,” said Ms Miller.

The Sydney Opera House’s First Nations annual dance competition. Source: Anna Kucera

Victoria is the first state in Australia to lead a treaty discussion with Aboriginal Victorians. Being part of the development process, Leanne says, Victorians have a lot to be proud of. 

“In FPA’s first 12 months, there has been a couple of foundational accomplishments – well supported by both parties – a Stolen Generations redress scheme and Truth-Telling,” said Ms Miller.

NAIDOC Week also is an opportunity for young children to take pride in their identity, watching and raising of our Indigenous flag and for elders to share, reconnect and guide the rest of the community. It is also precious moments cherished with song and dance performances to reaffirm history and culture.

John Paul Janke, Co-Chair of the NAIDOC Committee explained that the week is all about “proudly celebrating our cultural survival”. He hopes that non-Indigenous people may be able to recognise the true length of Australia’s history. 

Caption: John Paul Janke, Co-Chair of the NAIDOC Committee at NAIDOC Week celebrations. Source: NAIDOC

“It’s got to be about non-Indigenous Australians saying “Yes… Australia is 50,000 plus years old…not just 245 years old!’”, said Mr Janke. 

NAIDOC 2020 invites all Australians to embrace the true history of this country, before Western influence. 

NAIDOC is a moment to value our oldest continuing cultures on the planet and recognise that Indigenous sovereignty was never ceded.

Emphasising that it does not have to be Australia day or NAIDOC Week for non-indigenous people to reach out, Leanne encourages people to be curious and engage in constructive conversations. 

“It’s really important that people ask questions, even if they feel it is naive. Because we want to share our culture. We want to share how proud and resilient we are,” expressed Ms Miller. 

A few suggestions about how you can celebrate NAIDOC can be found on this website.

Please note that permission is not required to fly either the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander flag.  You should ensure you can identify the traditional owners of your region. 

However, if you want to reproduce either flag (for example, on a flyer or poster), you will need to seek permission. More information about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags including contact details to gain permissions is available on this site.