It’s NAIDOC Week, and if ever a major cultural event was in dire need of renaming, this is it.
Do you know what NAIDOC stands for? Without googling, I mean. No? Didn’t think so. I asked once, years ago in the 1980s when I worked at the ABC in Darwin. We had a dedicated aboriginal broadcaster by the name of Echo Cole. I asked him what it meant, and even HE didn’t know!
It stands for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’. The annual national celebration of our first peoples is named after a committee! It’s got a bit of a tangled bureaucratic history, as you can imagine, but surely we can do better than that.
It goes back to 1938, when aboriginal protestors marched through the streets of Sydney on Australia Day, which they then called the Day of Mourning. They held a congress, which sent a deputation to Prime Minister Joseph Lyons with a proposed national policy for Aboriginal people, which was rejected because the Government didn’t hold constitutional powers in relation to Aboriginal people.
But there was a growing movement for a regular event, and from 1940 until 1955 the Day of Mourning became known as Aborigines Day. In 1955 this 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.
Then a committee was set up and it became National Aborigines Day: a good, simple name. They should have left it at that.
So how to fix this clumsy acronym? First thing is to drop the ‘OC’. Why point to the bureaucratic underpinning? So you would have NAID Week. Hmm. Then you’ve still got the ‘D’ for ‘Day’, and the day now being a week, it’s also surplus to requirements. So ….. how about NAI Week? Nah… nobody would know whether to pronounce it ‘nay’ or ‘nye’.
AI Week is out, because it would be confused with Artificial Intelligence.
Remember ATSIC? The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Commission? If you expanded the Islanders in NAIDOC to Torres Strait Islanders, and dropped the DOC, we could have NATSI Week: National Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Week.
Objection! ‘NATSI’ sounds like ‘Nazi’, and could lead to nasty trolling.
So leave out the ‘National’, and you’ve got ATSI: Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. ATSI Week. Can’t be buggered around with.