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A First Nations dancer in traditional dress and makeup dances with gum leaves
Photograph: Supplied/Sydney Opera House

NAIDOC Week in Sydney

Even the madness of 2020 couldn't stop Sydneysiders coming together to honour the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

By Stephen A Russell and Time Out editors
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NAIDOC Week is all about celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements, and recognising the resilience that ensures First Nations Australians are custodians of the world's oldest living culture. Something to be immensely proud of. 

Lockdown may have delayed things a little this year, with NAIDOC Week shifting from its usual spot in July to November 9-15, but there's no stopping this vital part of the city's cultural life. This year's theme, fittingly, is 'Always Was, Always Will Be', and there's a great mix of events both online and in-person, plus the first-ever Indigenous-led brekky TV show. 

NAIDOC stands for 'National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee'. In the 1920s, Aboriginal groups sought to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians. Today, all Australians and visitors are invited to join in the celebrations – many of which are free to attend and open to all ages. 

RECOMMENDED: 10 Darug words and their meanings.

How to celebrate NAIDOC Week in Sydney

Large colourful artwork hanging in shopping centre
Photograph: Supplied

1. Broadway's huge art installations

News Art

In commemoration of NAIDOC Week this year, Broadway Shopping Centre will transform into a huge, artwork-decked space representing First Nations artists from around the country. Swing by and check out bespoke art installations, including those created by Barkindji artist Maddison Gibbs and Gamilaraay/Wonnarua artist Debra Beale.  If you're there on Sunday, a free weaving workshop will be held by Wiradjuri artist Peta-Joy Williams of Boomalli Arts, so you can fashion your own crafted piece to take home (sessions are at 10am and 2pm). 

Two women at the Blak Markets at Barangaroo Reserve
Photograph: James Horan

2. Blak Markets in the Rocks

Things to do Markets

Sydney’s Blak Markets creates a space to browse stalls spruiking a range of locally made arts, crafts and food from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stallholders. From native plants to award-winning jewellery, silk scarves, and ethically sourced bush foods, there’s an eclectic mix to peruse, and all profits go back in to Indigenous communities. You can find the Markets on the lawn of the MCA in Circular Quay during NAIDOC Week, with a special edition on the weekend of November 14 and 15, between 10am and 5pm. 

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Ryan Liddle and Shahni Wellington of Big Mob Brekky sit in the dressing room
Photograph: Supplied

3. Big Mob Brekky

News Film

It’s fair to SBS presenter Ryan Liddle is looking forward to loosening his collar a little when he swaps the nightly news for the other end of the day during NAIDOC week for daily dispatches from Big Mob Brekky. The country’s first all-Indigenous breakfast show, he and long-time friend and colleague Shahni Wellington will totally transform the until-now conspicuously white space and bring a new outlook to the am. “Particularly in this day and age, what with lockdown, I think for a lot of people, their appetite for heavy, dreary news, they’ve probably had quite a bit of it filled. If we can somehow deliver that message in more of a light-hearted way, and a different format to what me and Shahni are used to which I guess it is comparatively dry, then we want to get into that place. It’s not that we will shy away from those harder issues, but we'll just look at a different way of telling them.” They're looking forward to unveiling an all-star guest line-up, taking in everything from cooking segments to community call outs across the nation, comedy spots to live music, and some as-yet top secret location shoots around Sydney.

Judith Inkamala 'Thepa Mapa' 2018
Photograph: Felicity Jenkins

4. Joy

Art Galleries Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney

We all need a bit more joy in our lives this year. Thankfully the Art Gallery of NSW has you covered this NAIDOC Week with, literlaly, Joy. It gathers fun art from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creatives from across the Central Desert. Collecting everything from Queenie Kemarre’s cute bird statues carved in wood and painted in brilliant pink hues, to Judith Inkamala terracotta magpie adorned pots, and films too, it’s a celebration of the brighter side of life. Although it’s important to tell the stories of history and people that are uncomfortable, in need of critical dialogue or deeply embedded in culture and its practices, sharing joy is just as necessary, and we often forget to make space for that in our appraisal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.

Indigenous walks and tours in Sydney

Celebrate our culture all year round

Lin Onus 1991 Fruit Bats install photo Yiribana Gallery at Art Gallery of New South Wales 2013 August image courtesy AGNSW
Photography: Art Gallery of NSW

Where to see Aboriginal art in Sydney

Art

Whether you're visiting from overseas or a curious local looking to get beyond the basics (Dot paintings? Bark paintings? Just the tip of the iceberg), these are the places to see the best of Australia's diverse Indigenous art practice.

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