Written by Kerrie Alexander
NAIDOC Week is held to celebrate the diversity, culture, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.
It is a time to celebrate the oldest living and continuous culture in the world and this year’s theme – Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! – will be honoured at several poignant events around the Fraser Coast from Sunday, July 3 to Sunday, July 11.
Hervey Bay’s Les Raveneau has been co-chair on the NAIDOC Committee in the past and now plays an integral part in bringing the annual Golf Day to fruition, which will this year see 140 players take to the greens of the Hervey Bay Golf Club on Friday, July 8.
This event and others – including flag raising ceremonies in both Hervey Bay and Maryborough, a youth disco, a family fun day in Scarness Park and the glitz and glamour of the annual ball at the Beach House Hotel – all celebrate the many indigenous who have driven and led change in local communities over generations and those who continue their work by being champions of change.
The annual Award’s Ceremony recognises these outstanding contributions to improve the lives of people in their communities and beyond, and to promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues in the wider community.
The Awards Ceremony also seeks to recognise and celebrate those who have demonstrated excellence in their chosen field.
For Les, the week is about honouring his heritage and the traditions of his people.
“I’m a proud indigenous man and am proud of my culture and my heritage,” Les said.
“We get to do this once a year and that’s why we go all out.”
It’s also about reconciliation, Les added.
“You can support and get to know your local Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities at these events.
“We always encourage non-indigenous people to come out and enjoy the week too.
“On the golf day we have lots of people coming from other towns to play, just come along and enjoy the day.
“Everyone is nice and friendly, and we do the Welcome to Country and the smoking ceremony and it’s a great day. There’s a lot of respect there.
“I see that a lot now when we as a committee doing the NAIDOC events now.
“It’s great that everyone comes together and that’s why we call it reconciliation.
“You’re always going to get the community to come along and have a good time.”
With the events running in the school holidays, Les said indigenous youth also get a chance to take part in the celebrations as well. The traditions of their culture and the elders with indigenous traditional dance and significant ceremonies.
“It’s a blessing that we have this in the school holidays because it gives the young ones a chance to come along to our events.”
Les is also a talented artist and recently curated the Land, Sea and Sky Exhibition that is currently on display at the Fraser Coast Regional Gallery.
While it’s not being held specifically during of NAIDOC Week celebrations, Les said residents have until August 21 to check it out.
He said Land, Sea and Sky is a survey of works by Aboriginal artists connected to the Fraser Coast region. The exhibition’s title refers to the country that belongs to the Butchulla people, the traditional owners of the land of this region.
The artists’ works celebrates contemporary expressions of culture, stories, and identity through creative practice. The gallery is open from Tuesday to Friday, 10am to 4pm and Saturday and Sunday, from 10am to 2pm. Closed Monday.
Entry is free.
For a full list of NAIDOC Week events, head to The Fraser Coast Naidoc Week Endorsed Events Page on Facebook.
Before NAIDOC Week …
Before the 1920s, Aboriginal rights groups boycotted Australia Day on January 26 in protest against the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians.
However, as the years went on, they were increasingly aware that the broader Australian public were largely ignorant of the boycotts.
If the movement were to make progress, it would need to be active.
On Australia Day, 1938, protestors marched through the streets of Sydney, followed by a congress attended by over a thousand people.
This was one of the first major civil rights gatherings in the world known as the Day of Mourning.
From 1940 until 1955, the Day of Mourning was held annually on the Sunday before Australia Day and was known as Aborigines Day.
In 1955 Aborigines Day was shifted to the first Sunday in July after it was decided the day should become not simply a protest day but also a celebration of Aboriginal culture.
Major Aboriginal organisations, state and federal governments, and several church groups all supported the formation of the National Aborigines Day Observance Committee (NADOC).
At the same time, the second Sunday in July became a day of remembrance for Aboriginal people and their heritage.
In 1972, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs was formed, as a major outcome of the 1967 referendum.
In 1974, the NADOC committee was composed entirely of Aboriginal members for the first time.
The following year, it was decided that the event should cover a week, from the first to second Sunday in July.
With a growing awareness of the distinct cultural histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, NADOC was expanded to recognise Torres Strait Islander people and culture.
The committee then became known as the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC).
This new name has become the title for the whole week, not just the day.
Each year, a theme is chosen to reflect the important issues and events for NAIDOC Week and this year it’s Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!
“We always encourage non-indigenous people to come out and enjoy the week too.”