NAIDOC Week: A time to listen and learn

THIS week is an opportunity for all of us to take part in NAIDOC Week activities. It's a time to celebrate the history, achievements and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people.

The theme for this year - Voice. Treaty. Truth. Let's work together for a shared future - reminds us of the importance of language. It reflects 2019 being the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages.

It is also a reminder for us all to think about the importance of language, to listen to and learn from others.

NAIDOC Week has its origins in the 1930s when protesters marched through Sydney and held a congress attended by more than 1000 people, on Australia Day 1938. It was known as the Day of Mourning and became a regular event.

The Day of Mourning was held annually on the Sunday before Australia Day from 1940 until it was shifted to the first Sunday in July in 1955. It also became a celebration of Aboriginal culture, not just a protest day.

The National Aborigines Day Observance Committee was later formed, and in 1974 it was decided that the annual event should cover a week - from the first to second Sunday in July.

This NAIDOC Week is a fitting time for us to think about the significant gaps that still remain between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found that this disadvantage starts from birth and continues throughout life.

The estimated three per cent of Indigenous children aged younger than 14 who live in the same household as a Stolen Generation family member are more affected by the health and welfare gap. AIHW research found that compared to other Indigenous children, they are much more likely to have been treated unfairly at school for being Indigenous. They are also more likely to have experienced stress, live in a household with cash-flow problems and have poor self-assessed health.

By talking to each other and listening, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and history.

NAIDOC Week is reminder of the importance of listening and learning, not just during this week, but throughout the year.

It is also a time for Aboriginal people to celebrate their people, culture, achievements, history and language, not only among themselves but also with non-Indigenous people.