2016 National NAIDOC theme announced

Songlines: The living narrative of our nation

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the Dreamtime describes a time when the earth, people and animals were created by our ancestral spiritual beings. They created the rivers, lakes, plants, land formations and living creatures.

Dreaming tracks crisscross Australia and trace the journeys of our ancestral spirits as they created the land, animals and lores. These dreaming tracks are sometimes called ‘Songlines’ as they record the travels of these ancestral spirits who 'sung' the land into life.

These Songlines are recorded in traditional songs, stories, dance and art. They carry significant spiritual and cultural connection to knowledge, customs, ceremony and Lore of many Aboriginal nations and Torres Strait Islander language groups.

Songlines are intricate maps of land, sea and country. They describe travel and trade routes, the location of waterholes and the presence of food. In many cases, Songlines on the earth are mirrored by sky Songlines, which allowed people to navigate vast distances of this nation and its waters.

The extensive network of Songlines can vary in length from a few kilometres to hundreds of kilometres, crossing through traditional Country of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language groups. For example, the Seven Sisters Songline covers more than half the width of the continent, from deep in the Central Desert out to the West Coast while others connect the Gulf of Carpentaria with the Snowy Mountains near Canberra.

Aboriginal language groups are connected through the sharing of Songlines with each language group responsible for parts of a Songline.

Through songs, art, dance and ceremony, Torres Strait Islanders also maintain creation stories which celebrate their connection to land and sea.  

Songlines have been passed down for thousands of years and are central to the existence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They are imperative to the preservation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural practices.

We invite all Australians to learn more about Songlines and explore those which have created the Country in your region. Learn how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are today using digital technologies and modern mediums to record and celebrate these ancient Songlines or dreaming stories.

Through learning more about Songlines and how they connect people to Country and the Country to people – we celebrate the rich history and diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures - the oldest continuing cultures on the planet.