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Songlines: The living narrative of Australia


NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

2016 dates: July 3-10. Theme: Songlines –The living narrative of our nation

Hashtags: #NAIDOC2016,  #NAIDOCWeek

NAIDOC Week is an opportunity for all Australians to come together to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait people.

The week is celebrated not only in the Indigenous communities but also in increasing numbers of government agencies, schools, local councils and workplaces.

NAIDOC originally was an acronym for the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. The (as yet unnamed) committee was first officially formed on Australia Day 1938 in Sydney by a group of around 100 Aboriginal people who gathered for the first Day of Mourning, to protest against the treatment of Aboriginal people around Australia.

In 1957 the National Aborigines Day Observance Committee (NADOC) formed and the second Sunday in July became a day of remembrance and celebration for Aboriginal people and heritage. In 1991 NADOC became NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee), to recognize Torres Strait Islanders and to describe a whole week of recognition, rather than one day. The committee’s acronym has become the name of the week itself.

Songlines are the oldest living narrative of Australia, and will be the focus for the 2016 NAIDOC Week celebrations. Songlines are intricate maps of land, sea and country. They describe travel and trade routes, the location of waterholes and the presence of food. In many cases, Songlines on the earth are mirrored by sky Songlines, which allowed people to navigate vast distances of this nation and its waters.

The extensive network of Songlines can vary in length from a few kilometres to hundreds of kilometres, crossing through traditional Country of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language groups. For example, the Seven Sisters Songline covers more than half the width of the continent, from deep in the Central Desert out to the West Coast while others connect the Gulf of Carpentaria with the Snowy Mountains near Canberra.

Lani Balzan, a proud Wiradjuri Aboriginal woman from NSW, is this year’s winner of the prestigious National NAIDOC Poster Competition. As the winner, Ms Balzan will have her artwork, titled: Songlines Tie All Aboriginal People Together displayed on the 2016 National NAIDOC Poster and receive a $5,000 cash prize. While more than 100 outstanding entries were received, the Committee was unanimous in its selection of Ms Balzan’s artwork. Ms Balzan felt proud, shocked and incredibly honoured to find out her artwork and been selected. “I feel very humbled that I am able to share this with the Illawarra Indigenous community”

NAIDOC Week on ABC Extra is a special pop up radio station to celebrate NAIDOC week with great conversations, live music, interesting stories and interviews, the best pick of radio from the ABC archives and a great soundtrack of contemporary Indigenous music. The show kicked off at 6:00AM Sunday, July 3 and went all week till midnight Saturday, July 9.

Key Links


How is NAIDOC Week 2016 different than NAIDOC Week 2006? What would you like see for NAIDOC Week 2026?

Does the USA have an analog to NAIDOC Week? Does Mexico? Do other countries?

Travel and Tourism Q: What would Aboriginal and Indigenous Australians like visitors to know about Aboriginal and Indigenous Australia and in particular, your region?

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