Significant dates for cultural events for 2023

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Published in the HealthBulletin Journal
Posted on:
28 March, 2023
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The list below contains dates and information for these events. For COVID-19 disruptions please check directly with the event organiser for the latest updates on face-to-face events.

Anniversary of the National Apology Day to Stolen Generations, Monday 13 February 2023

This event marks the anniversary of the motion of Apology to Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the House of Representatives chamber at Parliament House in Canberra, ACT, at 9:00am on 13 February 2008 by the former Prime Minister, the Hon. Kevin Rudd. The Apology related to past laws, policies and practices that have impacted on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, particularly members of the Stolen Generations. The motion was supported by the Opposition and passed through both houses of Parliament. Brendan Nelson AO (former federal Leader of the Opposition) gave a formal response. Members of the Stolen Generations were invited to hear the National Apology first-hand in the gallery of the chamber and thousands more filled the Great Hall of Parliament House and flowed out onto the lawns to watch on big screens. The Apology was broadcast across Australia. For more information – see the fact sheet here.

View information: Australian Government

National Close the Gap Day, Thursday 16 March 2023

National Close the Gap Day is celebrated on the third Thursday in March each year. The Close the Gap campaign is the result of the Australian public’s overwhelming support for improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Close the Gap campaign for Indigenous Health Equality is a highly regarded movement that has shaped government policy. It is led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and supported by mainstream health and advocacy organisations from around the country. See the 2022 campaign report here.

Every year people are encouraged to hold their own event on National Close the Gap Day to bring people together, to share information – and most importantly – to take meaningful action in support of achieving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality by 2030.

In July of 2020, a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap was announced between the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations, and all Australian Governments (the Federal, State and Territory governments and the Australian Local Government Association).  Read more about the National Agreement on Closing the Gap including the four Priority Reform Areas, and the 16 new targets.

View information: Coalition of Peaks

Harmony Week, Wednesday 15 to Tuesday 21 March 2023

Harmony Week is a week of cultural respect for everyone who calls Australia home – from the Traditional Owners to those who have come from many countries around the world. By participating in Harmony Week activities, people can learn and understand how all Australians from diverse backgrounds, equally belong to this nation and enrich it. Orange is the colour chosen to represent Harmony Week, which signifies social communication and meaningful conversations, and relates to the freedom of ideas and encouragement of mutual respect. Harmony Week promotional and educational resources are also available.

View information: Harmony Week

National Sorry Day, Friday 26 May 2023

National Sorry Day is a significant day for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and particularly for Stolen Generations Survivors and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. National Sorry Day is a day to acknowledge the strength of Stolen Generation Survivors and reflect and play a part in the healing process as people and a nation. Sorry Day asks us to acknowledge the Stolen Generations, and in doing so, reminds us that historical injustice is still an ongoing source of intergenerational trauma for Aboriginal and Torres Islander families, communities, and peoples.

A National Sorry Day, ‘to be celebrated each year to commemorate the history of forcible removals and its effects’, was first mentioned as one of the 54 recommendations of the Bringing them home report which was tabled in Federal Parliament on 26 May 1997. The report was the result of a two-year National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, conducted by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (now called the Australian Human Rights Commission).

The first National Sorry Day was held on 26 May 1998, one year after the Bringing them home report was tabled in Parliament.  It is now commemorated across Australia, with many thousands of people participating in memorials and commemorative events, in honour of the Stolen Generations. The Healing Foundation is a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation that partners with communities to address the ongoing trauma caused by actions like the forced removal of children from their families.

View information: Reconciliation Australia

National Reconciliation Week, Saturday 27 May to Saturday 3 June 2023

National Reconciliation Week is held annually from 27 May to 3 June and is a time to celebrate and build on the respectful relationships shared by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians. This year’s theme is Be brave. Make change. Preceded by National Sorry Day on 26 May, National Reconciliation Week is framed by two key events in Australia’s history, which provide strong symbols for reconciliation:

  • 27 May 1967 – the Referendum, which saw more than 90% of Australians vote to amend the constitution to give the Australian Government power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the census.
  • 3 June 1992 – the Australian High Court delivered the Mabo decision, the culmination of Eddie Koiki Mabo’s challenge (Mabo Case) to the legal fiction of ‘terra nullius’ (land belonging to no one) and leading to the legal recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of lands. This decision paved the way for Native TitleMabo Day is held annually on 3 June to celebrate the life of Eddie Koiki Mabo.

National Reconciliation Week is a time for everyone to join the reconciliation conversation and reflect on shared histories, cultures and achievements, and to explore how everyone can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.  Reconciliation urges the reconciliation movement towards braver and more impactful action. These actions, guided by the five dimensions of reconciliation, are recommended in the State of reconciliation in Australia 2021 report. 2022 also marks twenty-one years of Reconciliation Australia and almost three decades of Australia’s formal reconciliation process.

View information: National Reconciliation Week

Coming of the Light, Saturday 1 July 2023
This is a particular day of significance for Torres Strait Islander Australians, as it marks the day the London Missionary Society landed at Erub Island in the Torres Strait in 1871. It recognises the adoption of Christianity through island communities during the late nineteenth century. In 2021, the 150th Anniversary of Coming of the Light was celebrated.  Activities include church services and a re-enactment of the landing at Kemus on Erub Island. hymn singing, feasting and Ailan dans  to strengthen community and family ties.

View information: Queensland Museum

National NAIDOC WeekSunday 2 to Sunday 9 July 2023
This year’s theme is For our Elders who have played, and continue to play, and important role and hold a prominent place in communities and families. It also celebrates those who have driven and led change in communities over generations. National NAIDOC Week is usually held in the 1st week of July each year. Its origins can be traced to the emergence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups in the 1920s which sought to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Each year a NAIDOC Week Art Competition is held for artists to design the NAIDOC poster.

Events will be held around Australia during the week to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and will culminate in the 2023 National NAIDOC Awards Ceremony. The National NAIDOC Awards recognise the outstanding contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

View information: NAIDOC Week

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day, Friday 4 August 2023

Children’s Day is a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s strength and culture and is held annually on 4 August. It is an opportunity to show support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, as well as learn about the crucial impact that culture, family and community play in the life of every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child.

Children’s Day was first observed by the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) – National Voice for our Children in 1988. Each year SNAICC produces and distributes Children’s Day Bags and other resources to purchase or download for pre-school aged children, to help celebrations for Children’s Day.

View information: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day

International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, Wednesday 9 August 2023
The International Day of the World’s Indigenous People was first proclaimed by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly by resolution A/RES/49/214 of 23 December 1994 and is observed on 9 August each year. The date marks the day of the first meeting held in 1982 of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

View information: United Nations

Indigenous Literacy Day, Thursday 7 September 2023
Indigenous Literacy Day aims to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories and language. It also is an opportunity to fundraise and advocate for remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to have equal access to culturally appropriate literacy resources. The event enlightens and engages primary and early learners in song, stories and language. The Indigenous Literacy Foundation provides books in language, publishes community stories and works to empower remote communities to lead their own literacy journey. Resources are available for promotional purposes, as well as workshops and other events.

View information: Indigenous Literacy Foundation

Anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Wednesday 13 September 2023
The Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) (A/RES/61/295) was adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly during its 61st session at the UN Headquarters in New York City on 13 September 2007. The UNDRIP is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of Indigenous peoples. It establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the Indigenous peoples of the world and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to the specific situation of Indigenous peoples.

View information: United Nations

Contact details:

Michelle Elwell
Senior Research Officer
Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet
Ph: (08) 9370 6567

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