NAIDOC Welcomes EveryoneJuly 08, 2014

On January 26, 1938, a group of Aboriginal Australians took the streets of Sydney and protested the callous treatment of aborigines. The National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week was born.

The march coincided with the Australian Day celebration by (European) settlers. Some called it the world's first civil right movement protest, others believed it was the moment when anger couldn't be contained anymore. It was the day when the group wanted the world to know that aborigines won't be treated as invisible citizens in Australia anymore. No Steinbeckian aspect to this side of Australian history.

Aboriginal communities were established when the first settlers arrived. They have been around for centuries, but it was a period when the kingdoms in Europe were in a mad scramble to explore and claim any faraway land they could find. (This was an outcome of successive events that changed the political and social structure in the continent.) A war between the aborigines and settlers happened, and with their firearms and such, the latter prevailed. Assimilation followed, the result not desired by everyone.

The Day of Mourning continued for years, until NAIDOC was formed in 1957, supported by aboriginal organisations, state and federal governments and church groups. In 1972, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs came about, a major outcome of the 1967 referendum. In 1974, the National Aborigines Day Observance Committee (NADOC) was composed entirely of Aboriginal members for the first time. This was followed by NADOC asking to make National Aborigines Day a national public holiday. It didn't happen, but groups echoing the call are optimistic that the day will come. NAIDOC Week commences on the first Sunday of July and ends the following Sunday.

The celebration of NAIDOC Week became less political as the years went by. Boundaring became blurred, as the event turned into a recognition of the rich cultural history that made Australia unique. Last year's included live music, jumping castles, and horse rides. Attendees with children were offered free flu vaccinations. Greg and Lorraine Oldham ran the Red Ochre Workshop, and were happy about the outcome.

"It's an opportunity to get together and you can see everyone's getting involved," he said.

"You can see just looking around that everyone has a smile on their face and there's an acceptance of everyone."

"It's a meeting place and a place to pay respects."

Some believe that total acceptance isn't attained yet, as some members of the aboriginal community look at themselves as outsiders. Rhoda Roberts, head of indigenous programming at the Sydney Opera House, sees some wounds still need to be mended. She hopes Sydney's young indigenous community embraces the program.

"A lot of our young people are completely invisible," she said. "They're not in our magazines, on our televisions - you don't see other indigenous young people walking around the city."

"One of the beauties of the Opera House is that they're committed to making this a House for everyone. We want everyone to feel welcome."

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