NAIDOC Week with Gregg Dreise: 2nd-9th July
Author: Gerard Alford Date Posted:10 July 2023
NAIDOC Week is a great time to reiterate the inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture that you should be including all year round...
Yarma nginda – Hello everyone.
NAIDOC is one of my favourite weeks of the year - a time when all Australians and our visitors are invited to share in our wonderful culture.
NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) Week started in 1957 but our culture and our Dahn Gooramays (Corroborees or get togethers) have been going on for thousands of years. Here are some of my thoughts on what you can do to join in on the celebrations of our wonderful cultures.
Maps recognise what country you are gathered on. Australia has hundreds of Countries – not tribes. Show a political map of Europe – discuss the different cultures / foods / instruments / dances and languages. Highlight how it changes from Italy to Germany to France. Now study a map of the Traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Countries of Australia. Obviously everyone in Europe knows which country they are gathering in each day – Australia needs to show the same effort of understanding for Indigenous Australia. Highlight that each of the Countries and cultures here in Australia are also different. I am from both Kamilaroi and Euahlayi Countries, yet I live in Gubbi-Gubbi Country. How about you?
Some people fly the Indigenous Flags with the Australian Flag during NAIDOC Week. Yet others respect our Traditional Custodians by flying all three flags all of the time.
Invite Indigenous people to begin your get together. For thousands of years and still today, we begin our Dahn Gooramays with Elders welcoming you to Country. Example, during Bunya-Bunya time, the Gubbi-Gubbi, Waka-Waka and other Countries where bunya nuts grew would host many Countries (including mine) on their Country. There were obviously more nuts then people, so sharing resources with neighbours has always been done. This has and still is the respectful way of beginning your get together. We always start together and then break up into activities. Begin with an assembly and then branch out into activities to suit different age groups.
Invite a local artist (find them by word of mouth or social media) to create a week long exhibition in your hall. Pay them to come up on one of the days to give their insight on the meaning of the abstract art. Join them by creating your own art. (NOTE: Don’t buy cotton buds and bags of match sticks). Take your children outside and collect some sticks and rub them on a rock (or even some concrete) to get them flat. Organise some ochre rocks, get your children to rub two ochre stones together and collect the ochre powder in a bowl (wooden coolamon if you have one). Get them to mix in some water and make some paint. Paint some Australian animals – have some fun. If you are really stuck, I have put some colouring-in pages on my website www.greggdreise.com.au on the second page of Artist.
Food – ah food
You simply can’t have a Dahn Gooramay without food. Kangaroo meat is easy to get and game butchers or local hunters can get you a larger variety. Add traditional Australian nuts and fruits to boost your regular platters. Traditional sauces are becoming more popular, but indigenous chefs are the way to go. Check out social media to find one of these talented chefs within your reach!
Traditional games are a great way to celebrate. If you get in early enough, you can book professionals to come to your school. Otherwise research them online with your children. My biggest advice is to replace modern ‘Softy’ balls with a traditional ball made out of rolled up kangaroo skin tied up with plaited string that your children make themselves. If that is a bit hard to get a hold of, start planning that one for next year. Children love that traditional touch.
Traditional Dance is a great way to get active during NAIDOC Week. Once again you need to get in early to book professionals for this. Otherwise talk to locals and see if they can help. Two of my dance personal favourites to have fun with are Yulagee and Arkee. Music for both of these is available on my Music CD, “Sing. Dance. Walk Together.” One is an animal copying dance, the other is a traditional game similar to Freeze/Musical Statues. Include Indigenous songs into your school Music Program. Encourage your choir to join in the fun, even your Instrumental Music Program. If you create something wonderful, please don’t Publish it online – it is more respectful to let Indigenous People maintain ownership of the songs they publish. Perform for your school and for your in house celebrations only.
Check out online resources for film and television throughout the week. There are plenty of resources that are constantly growing to entertain with Indigenous Australian culture.
Books – Books – Books!
Ah my world. I was inspired to become an author and an illustrator by books such as ‘The Rainbow Serpent’ and ‘Tiddalik the Frog’. Obviously, NAIDOC Week is a great time to reiterate the inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture that you should be including all year round. The most beautiful touch is to invite Elders up to do some Story-Telling. What a wonderful way to show the Elders in your community that you care. This builds up relationships that were spoiled in the ‘bad old days’.
Finally the biggest and best advice I can share with people is that NAIDOC Week is officially during the school holidays; therefore, we all move the date to suit. Therefore we all move the date to suit. If you can’t get the people in that you would really like – move the date a little further. But please always remember, the best thing that you can do to build Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture into your school is to include Traditional Australian culture into the whole year curriculum. Please don’t use past tense – we are still alive today. Indigenous people recognise when it is tokenistic – or seen as ‘we did that, so tick the box and move on’. This is sadly transparent in far too many schools. Especially when it is stated that “we don’t have any Indigenous students.” Remember NAIDOC Week is for all Australians to share in our culture – especially if you have no Indigenous students.
Have some fun and get planning, even for next year. Yarloo.