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Vicar's Musings for Ordinary Sunday 14

9 July, 2017

NADOC week each year is observed from the first to the second Sunday of July. Here is a brief history of the origins of this national observance (see www.naidoc.org.au).

Before the 1920s, Aboriginal rights groups boycotted Australia Day (26th January) in protest against the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians. Several organisations emerged from these protests, in particular the Australian Aborigines Progressive Association (AAPA) that formed in 1924, and the Australian Aborigines League (AAL) in 1932. 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, founder of the AAL, presented Prime Minister Joseph Lyons with a proposed national policy for Aboriginal people. This was rejected on the grounds that 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.

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. 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, as it does to this day, from the first to second Sunday in July.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster



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