The Junction Neighbourhood Centre understands that it is situated in an historically significant place when it comes to race relations between Indigenous Australians and White Australia. In 1770, when James Cook sailed through the heads of Botany Bay, and landed at what now is Kamay National Park (on the southern side of the bay) there was a melee, with shots fired against the traditional custodians of the land and the ‘white ghosts’. This first clash of totally two very distinct cultures was the first of many that occurred and continue to occur to this day.
NAIDOC Week is an opportunity for Indigenous Australians to show how strongly they have maintained their culture and connection to the land, even though there has been a constant barrage of attempts to isolate Indigenous culture, segregate it and assimilate it into mainstream Anglo-centric culture. This has failed to a degree, as the culture still lives and breathes today through the resilience and strength of Indigenous Australians.
This year’s NAIDOC Week theme, ‘Because of Her, We Can’, is an important one as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have always been at the heart of the kinship structure. They were the ones who passed down stories of kinship structures and moieties, they were the ones who kept families going when children were being taken away, they were the ones who managed breathed life back into a culture that was on the brink of destruction.
NAIDOC Week origins
The idea behind NAIDOC goes back to a letter written by William Cooper that was aimed at Aboriginal communities and at churches. It was written on behalf of the Australian Aborigines Progressive Association, an umbrella group for a number of Aboriginal justice movements. The association gathered together a wide circle of Indigenous leaders, including Douglas Nicholls, William Ferguson, Jack Patten and Margaret Tucker. In 1937 they were preparing for what would become the famous Day of Mourning in 1938. It not only sparked a very effective one-off protest, it also stimulated a national observance that was at first championed by churches, and is now a national celebration:
- Cooper Hon. Sec., AAL, 43 Mackay Street, Yarraville, 27 December 1937.
Australia Day 1938 Aborigines’ Day of Mourning
The Australian Aborigines’ Progressive Association of New South Wales has called on all aborigines in the advanced stages of civilisation and culture to observe a DAY OF MOURNING concurrently with the white man’s DAY OF REJOICING to celebrate the 150th year of the coming of the white man to Australia. The aborigines, by this means, hope to call the attention to the present deplorable condition of all aborigines, of whatever stage of culture, after 150 years of British rule. It is expected that such action will create such sympathy on the part of the whites that full justice and recompense will follow.
The “DAY OF MOURNING” has been endorsed by the Australian Aborigines’ League, the Victorian body, which also looks after Federal matters, and it is expected that meetings will be held at a number of places and suitable resolutions passed. This League now asks the Christian community to help us in another way.
We know that sympathy with the aborigines is widespread and growing and, because the aboriginal knows that the goodwill of the whiteman is essential to success they seek to justify the continuance of this sympathy. We now ask all Christian denominations to observe Sunday, 3rd January as ABORIGINES’ DAY. We request that sermons be preached on this day dealing with the aboriginal people and their need of the gospel and response to it and we ask that special prayer be invoked for all missionary and other effort for the uplift of the dark people.
We regret the unavoidable delay in submitting our request, which was not avoidable in all the circumstances, but we feel that a suitable notice from you in your church press will give that wide publicity that is so essential.
Very sincerely yours,