NAIDOC Week is held in the first full week of July. It is a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements and is an opportunity to recognise the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our country and our society.
The 2017 theme – Our Languages Matter – aims to emphasise and celebrate the unique and essential role that Indigenous languages play in cultural identity, linking people to their land and water and in the transmission of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites, through story and song. Some 250 distinct Indigenous language groups covered the continent at first (significant) European contact in the late eighteenth century. Most of these languages would have had several dialects, so that the total number of named varieties would have run to many hundreds. Today only around 120 of those languages are still spoken and many are at risk of being lost as Elders pass on.
NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. Its origins can be traced to the emergence of Aboriginal groups in the 1920′s which sought to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians. Click here for more information about the celebrations and activities that take place across the nation during NAIDOC Week.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait languages are not just a means of communication, they express knowledge about everything: law, geography, history, family and human relationships, philosophy, religion, anatomy, childcare, health, caring for country, astronomy, biology and food. Each language is associated with an area of land and has a deep spiritual significance and it is through their own languages, that Indigenous nations maintain their connection with their ancestors, land and law,” National NAIDOC Committee Co-Chair Anne Martin
The national Census results, released last week, showed that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population has grown 18% in the past 5 years, with nearly 48,000 living in Victoria (not far short of the 58,000 living in the NT).
The potential for Aboriginal culture and knowledge to become intrinsic to our identity and practice was on display last week with the first legislation ever to go before the Victorian parliament with a dual Indigenous language title (Yarra river protection (Wilip-gin Birrarung murron) bill 2017), and the first to include an Indigenous language preamble. In a moving and historic moment Wurundjeri Elders addressed the Legislative Assembly in both English and Woi-wurrung language to explain their connection to the Birrarung (Yarra River) and the importance of protecting the river for generations to come.
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