Being involved with Australian culture means being
involved in one way or another with First Nations arts, culture and
languages – it’s such a central and dynamic part of the cultural
landscape. First Nations culture has significance for First Nations
communities, but it also has powerful implications for Australian
culture generally. NAIDOC Week is a central and continuing part of that cultural
This year NAIDOC week coincides with the first week of DESIGN Canberra, so two of my major interests come together at the same time. NAIDOC Week is an annual series of events that celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The name originally derives from the National Aborigines Day Observance Committee that organised the earliest celebrations, with ‘Islander’ added in the early 1990s to encompass Torres Strait Islanders. The NAIDOC theme this year is ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’, to recognise that First Nations people have occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years.
Today is the focus of many overlapping anniversaries – NAIDOC Week, DESIGN Canberra and the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. It was a time when humanity stood at the eleventh hour, a moment that recognises a bright but vain hope at the end of World War I that the world might have seen the war to end all wars. It is especially significant in NAIDOC Week because so many First Nations volunteers joined the armed forces. It's a good moment to look back and take stock of where Australia has managed to come in its relatively short history as a global nation and to think forward to what we might be able to become.
Musician and songwriter, Jessie Lloyd, lights up the room with Mission Songs, at the National Folk Festival in 2017.
All of us immigrants, both new and older arrivals, and their descendants are still only part way through making our home here. We haven’t yet figured out how to navigate this land properly. When I was at school we learned about so many doomed explorers misinterpreting the country, unable to find their way. Burke and Wills were the perfect example, undone because they were incapable of learning simple lessons offered by the local people on how to make edible the vast supplies of food surrounding them. They starved to death in a field of plenty. Is this our future, too?