Indigenous Identity

Indigenous Identity

To truly relate to another person, it’s useful to understand a bit about their culture. This means that for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians to come together for a better future, it’s important for all Australians to learn about Indigenous culture, as well as becoming more aware of our own.

Learning about Indigenous culture and valuing and celebrating it in our mainstream society is one way we can begin to address the challenges we see today. As we learn about Indigenous culture, we can begin to relate to each other better, recognise the cultural history of this land and value the ongoing, rich cultural legacy of this place we call home. As a nation, our identity and character can be strengthened by a respectful appreciation of the various expressions of Indigenous culture. As we celebrate, value and take pride in Indigenous culture, we’ll be supporting and strengthening Indigenous peoples’ sense of value in the process.

Genuinely seeking to understand Indigenous culture can help dispel stereotypes and myths about Indigenous people that result from a misunderstanding which serves to perpetuate disadvantage and discrimination.

NAIDOC Week is one of the best opportunities to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island culture, talent and resilience.

NAIDOC week, which is celebrated annually in the full first week of July, stands for ‘National Aboriginal and Islanders Day of Observance Committee’. The week began in the 1957 when Aboriginal organisations, state and federal governments and a number of church groups came together to support its formation However, its roots can be traced back to the 1920s and the 1938 Day of Mourning march and conference.

NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

When it comes to brave women fighting for their rights, Rosa Parks, the suffragettes and Helen Keller might all spring to mind. But you might not know these amazing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, who used empowerment and activism to change Australia for the better;

Shirley Smith was a prominent Wiradjuri woman, social worker and humanitarian. Her remarkable work included helping to set up services like the Aboriginal Legal Service, Medical Service, Housing Company, the Tent Embassy and the Aboriginal Children’s Service. 

Gladys Elphick A descendant of the Kaurna and Ngadjuri people, Gladys was known to the community simply as Auntie Gladys. She was a women’s rights advocate in South Australia who began active committee work with the South Australian Aborigines Advancement League in the 1960s. In 1964 Gladys became the founding president of the South Australian Council of Aboriginal Women, which actively campaigned for the 1967 referendum. Gladys was also involved in setting up the Aboriginal Community Centre and the College of Aboriginal Education in Adelaide. To put the cherry on the cake, she also co-founded the South Australian Aboriginal Medical Service.

Last, but not least is Cobble Cobble woman, Megan Davis. Megan is an Indigenous rights activist and human rights lawyer. As a Professor of Law, Megan directs the Indigenous Law Centre at the University of New South Wales. She sat on the Expert Panel on the Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Constitution and became the first Aboriginal woman to be elected into a United Nations body, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

More recently, Megan sat on the Referendum Council. She was one of their principle designers for the constitutional dialogues and National Constitutional Convention. This process culminated in the creation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and the “Voice. Treaty. Truth.” movement, which will also be the NAIDOC theme for 2019.

As individuals, there's much we can learn from Indigenous culture. If we open ourselves to humbly learning about a different worldview, we can grow in our understanding of ourselves and be enriched by another way of thinking about the world.