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NAIDOC Week in Sydney

Celebrate Indigenous languages this NAIDOC Week with these festivals, markets and performances

Photograph: Ken Leanfore

NAIDOC Week is held in the first full week of July, celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements. Events take place from July 2-9 honouring the theme ‘Our Languages Matter’. This year's theme celebrates the role Indigenous languages play in cultural identity and connecting us to place through storytelling. Read our interview with language expert Joel Davison who shared 10 Darug words and their meanings.

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. 

NAIDOC Week events in Sydney


Klub Koori


Klub Koori takes place on the Thursday night during NAIDOC Week, which this year celebrates First Nation languages as well as the importance, resilience and richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. Klub Koori is a regular event produced by Sydney’s only Aboriginal community radio station, Koori Radio 93.7FM. Australian Idol winner Casey Donovan is this year’s headliner, with support from Sydney-based artist Jess Beck of indie-pop band Pirra (who we featured in our Deadly Sydney issue in May), 16-year-old singer Mi-Kaisha Masella (who has featured on The Voice Kids and The Sapphires) plus electronic-folk singer-songwriter-producer Thaylia. 

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Carriageworks , Eveleigh Thursday July 6 2017

Songlines: Our Languages Matter

Celebrate Darug language and culture at Rouse Hill House & Farm on the second Sunday of NAIDOC Week. Sydney Living Museums is working with Muru Mittigar Aboriginal and Cultural Education Centre to create a free community day filled with storytelling through dance, art, flora and fauna. Following this year’s NAIDOC Week theme ‘Our Languages Matter’, there will be free Darug language workshops on the day, where visitors can hear and learn some words Darug. There’ll also be the chance to practice those boomerang skills with the Muru Mittigar cultural team, who’ll share the history of the ancient tool and its significance to Indigenous Australians.

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Rouse Hill House and Farm , Western Sydney Sunday July 9 2017

MCA NAIDOC Week Free Film Program


Pop into the MCA during NAIDOC Week to catch a free movie made by Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander filmmakers. Kids will enjoy the animated short Wadu Matyidi, screening on the Monday; it tells the story of a mischievous group of pre-contact Adnyamathanha kids who get more than they bargained for while exploring. On Tuesday, Tony Krawotz's 2011 film Tall Man tells the gripping story of police violence and the courtroom aftermath. Wednesday's flick is Buckskin, a 57-minute movie about a man on a mission to teach the Kaurna language of his ancestors. On Thursday, see Rachel Perkins' film Black Panther Woman (2014) and the 30-minute BabaKiueria. And on Friday, skip lunch for Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr's Ten Canoes – a story within a story of love, marriage and betrayal. 

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Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) , The Rocks Monday July 3 2017 - Friday July 7 2017

Burramatta NAIDOC

The afternoon festival features music performances by Vic Simms, Benny Walker, Kristva Pav and the Social Fabric, plus saltwater sound group the Green Hand Band. Visitors can watch traditional and contemporary dance by Wagana Aboriginal Dancers, Torres Strait Islander group Aunty Cindy’s Mob, the Hand/Simms family and roaming Bowerbird performers from the Treasures crew. The Blak Markets return with stalls selling Indigenous arts, crafts, skincare products and bush foods, including a free barbecue by Kalico Catering. For kids, there is a Gunya storytime tent, native flower arranging, weaving, jewellery and tool making workshops. Plus, all ages can join a guided sun-spot or star-gazing tour or enter the Darug language ‘sound baths’, where you can soak in the sounds of one of the first dialects in Sydney. Stick around for a fireworks display along the foreshore. 

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Parramatta Park , Parramatta Saturday July 8 2017

NAIDOC Blak Markets at Barangaroo Reserve


On the first Sunday of NAIDOC Week, the Blak Markets will set up 30 stalls at Barangaroo selling artworks, sculptures, textiles and accessories made by Aboriginal artists from 11 remote Australian arts centres. The special art market will be a celebration of Indigenous Australian culture, which will include a family-friendly program of Tjanpi weaving workshops, demonstrations of Rarrk painting and pandanus weaving, bush tucker cooking demonstrations by Indigiearth, live music by Jessie Lloyd and Emma Donovan, Jarjum, and Freshwater, plus dance performances and cultural tours of Barangaroo Reserve and Goat Island. 

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Barangaroo Reserve , Barangaroo Sunday July 2 2017

NAIDOC Aboriginal Bush Food Experience


There’s been a rise in the use of traditional bush foods in Sydney restaurants and many people are incorporating native ingredients in their home cooking, too. So how do you know what native Australian foods to eat and how to prepare them? During NAIDOC Week you can join an Aboriginal guide at the Royal Botanic Gardens to understand more about gathering seasonal fruits, seeds, vegetables and other plants. The two-hour tour will include learning about traditional food prep, such as using a coolamon (a shallow vessel) to collect foods, and you’ll get to taste dishes prepared with native ingredients, such as finger limes, lemon myrtle, wattleseed and Warringal greens. 

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Royal Botanic Gardens , Sydney Saturday July 8 2017 - Saturday July 22 2017

NAIDOC in the City

Before colonisation, there were more than 250 Indigenous language groups in the continent. Now, only around 120 languages are still spoken and many are at risk of being lost from generation to generation, which is why this year’s NAIDOC Week theme ‘Our Languages Matter’ is so important. Everyone in Sydney is invited to celebrate language and show respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures in this free festival in Hyde Park. It takes place on a Monday, so head along at lunchtime or before work to experience dance performances, workshops, a traditional arts and crafts marketplace, food cooked in an earth oven and children’s activities like storytelling and sports workshops. 

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Hyde Park , Sydney Monday July 3 2017

Lost Tales Live


This year’s NAIDOC Week theme is ‘Our Languages Matter’ and what better way to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait languages than to listen to a woven tapestry of folklore by Gamilaroi man Travis De Vries. In this special Saturday afternoon event, visitors can take a seat in the Australian Museum and hear stories and music from the undocumented side of our shared history – from spirits and creatures to the hidden stories of objects from the museum’s Indigenous cultural collections. Lost Tales Live includes music from a cellist and specially commissioned animations that draw from the sacred myths and legends of Australia and its first peoples. There’ll be a chance for a Q&A, plus an opportunity view the collection.

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Australian Museum , Darlinghurst Saturday July 1 2017

The Living Traditions of Aboriginal Astronomy and Navigation

For thousands of years Australia’s Indigenous people have looked to the stars. Indigenous people used the night sky as a navigational tool and calendar, as well as to try to make sense of the world and their place in it. Learn all about astronomy from an Indigenous perspective as elders recount their ancient history of the stars through songs and stories at Penrith Observatory. The night will include a presentation, 3D movie, tour of the observatory dome and telescope viewings of the night sky.

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Penrith Observatory , Western Sydney Saturday July 15 2017

Ngarunga Gurubadu: Stories of River & Water

Discover the importance rivers and waterways have in Indigenous culture at Ngarunga Gurubadu: Stories of River & Water. The contemporary art exhibition will feature works from artists such as Judy Watson, Leanne Tobin, Yvonne Koolmatrie, Dianne Ussher, Steve Barton, Susan Grant Murphy, Victoria Woods and Glen Cunningham, as well as work by the Guntawang Aboriginal Women’s Group. Ngarunga Gurubadu will showcase the waterways important to the Dharug nation. Throughout the exhibition, visitors can also attend artist talks, workshops and cycle tours.

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Fairfield City Museum & Gallery , Smithfield Friday June 30 2017


The key work in Bangarra's 2017 season tells the story of Aboriginal leader Bennelong, and unpacks his legacy of activism across the 228 years since he made contact with the British colonists. 

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Sydney Opera House , Sydney Friday June 30 2017 - Saturday July 22 2017

Blacktown NAIDOC Family Day

Blacktown City Council is running a free family day to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, including a free barbecue, kids’ activities and live music from Roger Knox, the Green Hand Band, Sharon Carpenter, Dr Greenthumb, Mount Druitt Indigenous Choir, and Raymond Hand-Simms. It kicks off from 11am with a Welcome to Country and there’ll be dancers from Gumada Bubuwal Dangura and Minning Minni Kaiwarrine who’ll perform throughout the day. It’s a drug, alcohol and smoke free event.

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Blacktown Showground , Blacktown Tuesday July 4 2017

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