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Celebrating Indigenous Christian Culture and History During NAIDOC Week

by | Wed, Jul 10 2024

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Each year, from the first Sunday to Sunday in July, Australians come together to celebrate NAIDOC Week. Celebrations will be held from 7 to 14 July 2024 across Australia. NAIDOC Week honours the rich culture, history, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, while also promoting reconciliation and respect across all communities.

The acronym NAIDOC stands for National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee, which was established to increase awareness and understanding of Indigenous issues. NAIDOC Week is a time for all Australians to learn about and appreciate the diversity of Indigenous cultures, languages, and traditions.

There will be events, activities, art exhibitions, music performances, sports competitions, storytelling, traditional dance, and community feasts held across Australia.

One of the key themes of NAIDOC Week is recognition. This includes recognising the contributions that Indigenous Australians have made to the country’s history and society, as well as acknowledging the ongoing struggles and challenges faced by Indigenous communities.

From a Christian perspective, we recognise major events, such as the launch of the Forgiveness Cross on Memory Mountain at Haasts Bluff, where in 1923, four Indigenous evangelists brought the message of the Gospel to the Inkuntji community. Not only was the cross built to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus, but to create tourism employment opportunities for the Inkuntji community. They welcome every one of every nationality to visit their community and experience their way of life.

While there are many influential Australian Aboriginal Christians, here are a few that have made an impact on the Indigenous people and communities of Australia:

Neville Bonner, the first indigenous Australian politician, was elected in his own right in 1972, 1974, 1975 and 1980, and was a dedicated Christian and passionate about helping his people, the Aboriginal community.

James Japanma ‘Jibanyama’ was an aboriginal leader and evangelist. Born in 1902, he was baptised on 11 May 1913 at the Roper River Mission, now known as Ngukurr. Japanma became the first recognised Aboriginal evangelist at the Mission, highly valued by the European Missionaries as their translator.

Shirley Coleen Smith, (1921-1998), affectionately known as Mum Shirl, was a social worker and humanitarian activist. She was a Wiradjuri woman and founding member of the Aboriginal Legal Service, the Aboriginal Medical Service, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, the Aboriginal Children’s Service and the Aboriginal Housing Company in Redfern. She was committed to justice and looking after the welfare of Aboriginal Australians.

Indigenous Elder and Pastor James Dargin, who, after surviving an abusive childhood, preaches forgiveness and encourages building a united future between Australians.