Coming together for NAIDOC Week celebrations

From the art room to the sports oval, the kitchen to the library, there's plenty happening in schools to mark NAIDOC Week 2017 as communities come together to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

NAIDOC Week runs nationally from 2-9 July, but some schools have been holding their celebrations early due to the end of term holidays. The theme of NAIDOC Week 2017 is Our Languages Matter.

On the far north New South Wales coast Cabbage Tree Island Public School is hosting a full day of activities today for all the community, including screen printing library bags with a greeting in the local Bundjalung language. Principal Chick Edwards tells Teacher: ‘We're going to screen print the library bags with Jingee Wala – which means hello welcome in Bundjalung.

The K-6 school, with a 100 per cent Indigenous enrolment, has 29 students. It has invited two more small schools – Fernleigh PS and Wyrallah PS – to take part in the celebrations, which also include goanna and rainbow serpent activities, an introduction to Bundjalung language words, pebble painting, a sensory table featuring local flora, and a barbecue. Community health organisation Solid Mob are running Aboriginal games and a marquee to raise awareness of the dangers of smoking.

‘At the beginning we have our flag raising and cutting of the cake, then our students here will be doing a performance,' Edwards says. ‘We're involved in the [Heart Foundation's] Jump Rope for Heart, so we've been practising some tricks for that and we'll be demonstrating those.'

Across in Western Australia, Baldivis Primary School held its celebrations earlier this week. Classroom teacher Jo Kelly created a separate timetable for the day. ‘The teachers in each year level are rotating with one another … doing different activities based on Aboriginal culture – from the history to the art, through to Aboriginal Australians [and their achievements] ...'

The Wadumbah Dance Group gave two performances on the day and Indigenous students ran a special assembly, which featured a whole school rendition of Wanjoo by Gina Williams. The song title means ‘welcome' in Noongar language.

Parents and community members helped out with a range of activities, including Dreamtime storytelling, face painting sessions and cooking. Baldivis Primary School runs a Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program. Students offered lunchtime taste testers of traditional fare, cooking up hundreds of portions of kangaroo stew and damper.

Up on the Queensland/New South Wales border, staff at Mungindi Central School have worked with the Aboriginal Education Consultation Group on four days of celebrations. Principal Wendy Blaker, who joined the P-12 school at the start of the term, says there's something for everyone.

‘On the Monday we've got the opening ceremony, Tuesday we've got workshops, Wednesday we've got the Indigenous games (one of the members of our community used to play NRL in Sydney so he's got a range of different games he'll be leading the kids through), and Thursday we've got various things culminating with the curry and quiz night.'

Blaker adds the emphasis is on tradition and community. ‘To me it wasn't about us [school staff] standing up and reading from books and trying to teach their culture. … It all comes down to the community, to me this is about the community coming in and teaching us.'

To acknowledge the Gamilaraay language, starting with this year's NAIDOC celebrations and from now on, students at the school will sing the first verse of the national anthem in Gamilaraay, then in English. ‘It was just a coincidence that [the NAIDOC Week theme] was about language this year. We can certainly sing the anthem respectfully … so that's what we're doing, that's the focus.'

For more information about NAIDOC Week 2017, and links to resources and events in your area, visit

From 2 July, the ABC will televise Little J & Big Cuz on ABC ME (channel 23). Back-to-back episodes will be screened week days at 9.30am [AEST]. Episodes of Little J & Big Cuz in Aboriginal languages will also be televised during NAIDOC Week, at 4.00pm weekdays on NITV (channel 34).