2023 National NAIDOC Week Poster - Facebook Cover Photo.png

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

It is an opportunity for all Australians to learn about First Nations cultures and histories, and to participate in celebrations of the oldest continuous live cultures on earth.

NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’. This committee was once responsible for organising national activities during NAIDOC Week and its acronym has since become the name of the week itself.

In Baw Baw, people can celebrate NAIDOC Week by taking part in a variety of activities and events delivered by Kurnai Nations and Baw Baw Shire Council.

NAIDOC Week Events

From basketball to basket weaving, community members are invited to celebrate NAIDOC Week in Baw Baw Shire with a deadly program of events, exhibitions and workshops delivered by and with local Elders.

Check out the events below and learn how you can get involved. 

Monday 3 July

All community members are invited to join Council in an official NAIDOC Week opening ceremony from 9.00 am to 10.30pm in the West Gippsland Arts Centre forecourt.

The event will feature a flag raising, smoking ceremony and welcome to Country with free coffee and toasties by Coffee Vibes and music by DJ Nige.

The opening ceremony will be followed by a Deadly Hoops basketball game and activities from 11am at Bellbird Park Stadium in Drouin, following the below schedule:

  • Basketball clinic from 11am - 12:30pm
  • Community basketball match from 12:50pm - 1:30pm
  • BBQ lunch and yarning from 1:30pm - 3pm

No registrations are required and all are welcome to attend.

First Nations exhibition and creative workshops at WGAC

Running daily from Thursday 6 July through Sunday 9 July at West Gippsland Arts Centre, there will be basket weaving, possum skin burning, dillybag making, wood burning, clapping sticks, and sketching and painting sessions – all run by local Kurnai Nation elders. 

Bookings are capped at 15 people per session, so secure your place to avoid missing out.

Our Kurnai Elders, the keepers of one of the world's oldest cultures, will lead these workshops, passing on their knowledge and traditions to the next generation. The workshops are a testament to the importance of our Elders in the cultural sustainability of the Kurnai community.

This "Visions of Kurnai Culture: Cultural Art Workshops" series is an opportunity to honour our Elders and their commitment to preserving our culture. By participating, you're not only learning new skills, but also engaging in the preservation and celebration of our rich and resilient Kurnai culture.

Thursday 6 July

9am-12pm: Basket Weaving Workshop

Led by a Kurnai Elder, this workshop invites participants to connect with the tradition of basket weaving. Basket weaving is a practice cherished and passed down by our Elders.

By engaging in the art of weaving baskets using natural materials, participants will gain a deeper understanding of this cherished tradition and its significance in Kurnai culture.

This is a unique opportunity to learn directly from our respected Elders, embracing the wisdom they bring.

12:30pm-3pm: Sand Painting Workshop

Guided by a Kurnai Elder, this workshop will immerse participants in the powerful visual storytelling medium of sand painting.

Sand painting is a tradition our Elders have preserved and passed down through generations. Participants will explore the history and cultural importance of sand painting, and will have the opportunity to create their own sand art pieces.

This workshop is a celebration of the knowledge our Elders hold and their willingness to share it.

Friday 7 July

9am-12pm: Wood Burning Workshop

Wood burning, or pyrography, is a practice our Kurnai Elders have kept alive.

This workshop, led by a Kurnai Elder, provides participants an intimate connection with this art form. Participants will gain an understanding of wood burning techniques and their cultural significance.

By creating their own burned wood pieces, participants honour the traditions that our Elders have preserved.

12:30pm-3pm: Clapping Stick Making Workshop

Clapping sticks are traditional musical instruments that hold a special place in the Kurnai culture, and this workshop, led by a Kurnai Elder, is a tribute to the sounds of our ancestors.

Participants will learn about the cultural significance of clapping sticks, how they're traditionally made, and will have the opportunity to create their own, echoing the rhythms that our Elders have carried forward.

Saturday 8 July

9am-12pm: Possum Skin Work Workshop

The creation of possum skin cloaks is a significant tradition among our Kurnai Elders.

Led by a Kurnai Elder, this workshop invites participants to experience this tradition hands-on. Participants will learn about the traditional methods used to create these cloaks, their cultural significance, and the practical skills needed to work with possum skin.

This workshop is a testament to the resourcefulness and wisdom of our Elders.

12:30pm-3pm: Dillybag Making Workshop

Dillybags are symbols of our Elders' resourcefulness.

This workshop, guided by a Kurnai Elder, will educate participants about the cultural significance and traditional methods of making dillybags. Participants will get hands-on experience in creating one, thus carrying forward the practical knowledge our Elders have preserved.

Sunday 9 July

9am-12pm: Cultural Sustainability Workshop

This workshop, led by a Kurnai Elder, is a dialogue about the importance of cultural sustainability.

It's a celebration of our Elders, who have been the custodians of our traditions. Topics may include traditional knowledge preservation, intergenerational transfer of cultural practices, and the balance between cultural traditions and modern life.

This is an opportunity to pay homage to our Elders and the legacy they hold.

12:30pm-3pm: Plant Identification Workshop

The Kurnai community has a rich knowledge of local plants, many of which have traditional uses that our Elders have preserved.

In this workshop, led by a Kurnai Elder, participants will explore the natural world through the lens of Kurnai culture, learning to identify local plants by their Ganai names, and understanding their traditional uses.

This workshop is a celebration of our deep connection to the land and the wisdom our Elders carry about it.

This year there are many other NAIDOC week events happening across Australia.

Click here for a full listing of NAIDOC Week events, or to list yours. 

History of NAIDOC Week

1920 - 1930 

On Australia Day, 1938, protestors marched through the streets of Sydney, followed by a congress attended by over a thousand people. One of the first major civil rights gatherings in the world, it was known as the Day of Mourning.

Following the congress, a deputation led by William Cooper presented Prime Minister Joseph Lyons with a proposed national policy for Aboriginal people. This was again rejected because the Government did not hold constitutional powers in relation to Aboriginal people.

After the Day of Mourning, there was a growing feeling that it should be a regular event. In 1939 William Cooper wrote to the National Missionary Council of Australia to seek their assistance in supporting and promoting an annual event.

More information about the Day of Mourning can be found at the AIATSIS website.

1940 – 1955

From 1940 until 1955, the Day of Mourning was held annually on the Sunday before Australia Day and was known as Aborigines Day. In 1955 Aborigines Day was shifted to the first Sunday in July after it was decided the day should become not simply a protest day but also a celebration of Aboriginal culture.

1956 – 1990

Major Aboriginal organisations, state and federal governments, and a number of church groups all supported the formation of, the National Aborigines Day Observance Committee (NADOC). At the same time, the second Sunday in July became a day of remembrance for Aboriginal people and their heritage.

In 1972, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs was formed, as a major outcome of the 1967 referendum.

In 1974, the NADOC committee was composed entirely of Aboriginal members for the first time. The following year, it was decided that the event should cover a week, from the first to second Sunday in July.

In 1984, NADOC asked that National Aborigines Day be made a national public holiday, to help celebrate and recognise the rich cultural history that makes Australia unique. While this has not happened, other groups have echoed the call.

1991 – Present

With a growing awareness of the distinct cultural histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, NADOC was expanded to recognise Torres Strait Islander people and culture. The committee then became known as the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC). This new name has become the title for the whole week, not just the day. Each year, a theme is chosen to reflect the important issues and events for NAIDOC Week.

During the mid-1990s, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) took over the management of NAIDOC until ATSIC was disbanded on 15 April 2004.

Over the period from 2004 to 2005 there were interim arrangements, with former Senator Aden Ridgeway chairing the Committee until 2008.

Anne Martin and Ben Mitchell served as co-chairs of the National NAIDOC Committee from 2008 to 2018, when Patricia Thompson and John Paul Janke were elected the Co-Chairs.

The National NAIDOC Committee has made key decisions on national celebrations each year and has representatives from most Australian states and territories.

For more information about NAIDOC Week, please visit