2017 National NAIDOC Theme

2017 National NAIDOC Theme - Our Languages Matter

The importance, resilience and richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages will be the focus of national celebrations marking NAIDOC Week 2017.

The 2017 theme - Our Languages Matter - aims to emphasise and celebrate the unique and essential role that Indigenous languages play in cultural identity, linking people to their land and water and in the transmission of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites, through story and song.

Some 250 distinct Indigenous language groups covered the continent at first (significant) European contact in the late eighteenth century. Most of these languages would have had several dialects, so that the total number of named varieties would have run to many hundreds.

Today only around 120 of those languages are still spoken and many are at risk of being lost as Elders pass on.

National NAIDOC Committee Co-Chair Anne Martin said languages are the breath of life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the theme will raise awareness of the status and importance of Indigenous languages across the country.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait languages are not just a means of communication, they express knowledge about everything:  law, geography, history, family and human relationships, philosophy, religion, anatomy, childcare, health, caring for country, astronomy, biology and food.

“Each language is associated with an area of land and has a deep spiritual significance and it is through their own languages, that Indigenous nations maintain their connection with their ancestors, land and law,” Ms Martin said.

Committee Co-Chair Benjamin Mitchell hopes that the theme will shine a spotlight on the programs and community groups working to preserve, revitalise or record Indigenous languages, and encourage all Australians to notice the use of Indigenous languages in their community.

“There is currently a wave of activity, with people in many communities working to learn more about their language, and to ensure they are passed on to the next generation before it is too late.’ Mr Mitchell said.

“Nationally, many place names for our suburbs, rivers, mountains and parks are Indigenous language words. Noticing and paying attention to these words will generate greater appreciation and respect for the significance of language among all Australians.

"The preservation and revitalisation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages - the original languages of this nation - is the preservation of priceless treasure, not just for Indigenous peoples, but for everyone."

The host city for the 2017 National NAIDOC Awards is Cairns, Queensland.


Past National NAIDOC themes and host cities:

  • 2016 Songlines: The living narrative of our nation (Darwin)

  • 2015 We all Stand on Sacred Ground: Learn Respect & Celebrate (Adelaide)

  • 2014 Serving Country: Centenary & Beyond (Gold Coast)

  • 2013 We value the vision: Yirrkala Bark Petitions 1963 (Perth)

  • 2012 Spirit of the Tent Embassy: 40 years on (Hobart)

  • 2011 Change: the next step is ours (Sydney)

  • 2010 Unsung Heroes – Closing the Gap by Leading Their Way (Melbourne)

  • 2009 Honouring Our Elders, Nurturing Our Youth (Brisbane)

  • 2008 Advance Australia Fair? (Canberra)

  • 2007 50 Years: Looking Forward, Looking Blak (Darwin)

  • 2006 Respect the Past-Believe in the Future (Cairns)

  • 2005 Our Future Begins with Solidarity (Adelaide)

  • 2004 Self-determination-Our Community-Our Future-Our Responsibility (Perth)

  • 2003 Our Children Our Future (Hobart)

  • 2002 Recognition, Rights and Reform (Sydney)

  • 2001 Treaty-Let’s Get it Right (Melbourne)

  • 2000 Building Pride in Our Communities (Townsville)

  • 1999 Respect (Alice Springs)

  • 1998 Bringing Them Home (Broome)

  • 1997 Gurindji, Mabo, Wik-Three Strikes for Justice-Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum (Brisbane)

  • 1996 Survive-Revive-Come Alive (Adelaide)

  • 1995 Justice Not Tolerance (Perth)

  • 1994 Families Are the Basis of Our Existence-Maintain the Link (Melbourne)

  • 1993 Aboriginal Nations-Owners of the Land Since Time Began-Community is Unity (Darwin)

  • 1992 Maintain the Dreaming-Our Culture is Our Heritage (Canberra)

  • 1991 Community is Unity-Our Future Depends on Us (Sydney)

  • 1990 New Decade-Don’t Destroy, Learn and Enjoy Our Cultural Heritage (Tasmania)

  • 1989 The Party is Over-Let’s Be Together as an Aboriginal Nation (Darwin)

  • 1988 Recognise and Share the Survival of the Oldest Culture in the World (Brisbane)

  • 1987 White Australia Has a Black History (Perth)

  • 1986 Peace-Not For You-Not For Me But For All (Adelaide)

  • 1985 Understanding: It Takes the Two of Us (Melbourne)

  • 1984 Take a Journey of Discovery – To the Land My Mother (Adelaide)

  • 1983 Let’s Talk-We Have Something to Say

  • 1982 Race For Life For a Race

  • 1981 Sacred Sites Aboriginal Rights-Other Australians Have Their Rites

  • 1980 Treat Us to a Treaty on Land Rights

  • 1979 1979 International Year of the Child. What About Our Kids!

  • 1978 Cultural Revival is Survival

  • 1977 Chains or Change

  • 1976 Trucanini Last of her People Born 18?? Died 1876. Buried 1976. Received Her Land Rights at Last

  • 1975 Justice for Urban Aboriginal Children

  • 1974 Self Determination

  • 1973 It’s Time For Mutual Understanding

  • 1972 Advance Australia Where?