Monday 27th July saw the start of celebrations for NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) Week across the ANU campus. Various events looked to acknowledge and raise awareness of the rich history of Australia’s Indigenous cultures. This marked the first time that a whole week of planned events has been celebrated across the ANU campus.

Held annually each July around Australia, the week is celebrated not just within the Indigenous communities, but also in increasing numbers of government agencies, schools, local councils and workplaces.

Anne Martin, who serves as both director of the Tjabal Indigenous Higher Education Learning Centre at the ANU, and co-chairperson of the National NAIDOC Committee, signalled the importance of the week.

“NAIDOC Week is incredibly important to Indigenous Australians as it allows us to celebrate the rich history, culture and achievements of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Ms Martin said.

“It is inspiring to see that a celebration that was born from a rights movement is not only celebrated in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life.”

The Indigenous Learning Community (ILC) organised several events over the week of 27th to 31st July, with the goal of increasing cultural awareness around campus. This included a traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dance performance, and participation in an Australians for Native Title & Reconciliation (ANTaR) campaign, Sea of Hands. Thunderstone heritage walk, where participants were asked to view their surroundings through “unfamiliar eyes”, also took place around Black Mountain. The walks were guided by Ngnunnawal descendants, a tribal grouping whose traditional lands encompass much of the modern Canberra area, and had familiar Canberra landmarks described in a very different, more historic light.

The ILC Ambassador, Linnea Burdon-Smith, explained that the Thunderstone cultural walks reflected this year’s Australia-wide NAIDOC theme – “We all Stand on Sacred Ground: Learn, Respect and Celebrate”.

“The cultural walks gave students an opportunity to gain an insight into the land we all live on. Many ANU Students don’t realise that Canberra has a vibrant Indigenous community, so these walks aimed to expand student’s perceptions,” Burdon-Smith said.

Each year, the National NAIDOC Committee picks a theme for the week, with this year’s theme highlighting the strong spiritual and cultural connection that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples hold to the land and sea. Ms Martin said that this theme “allowed us to honour those who work tirelessly to preserve land, sea and culture, and to share with the nation the many sites of significance that we are intrinsically linked with”.

Acting ANUSA Indigenous Officer, Simon O’Toole, stated that he was very pleased with how the week went.

“This year, the students took it upon themselves to ensure NAIDOC week was celebrated at ANU. As such, we kept this year’s celebrations small in scope. We hope to build stronger partnerships with ANU colleges and executives to ensure the sustainability, success and growth of ANU NAIDOC week celebrations into the future.”